When she was promised a well-paying job abroad, Lamula Nankumbi sold off her business and belongings. She went to Dubai, but returned after the company that had promised her a job failed to find her employment.
Without any source of livelihood, she is now living with her parents. She shared her story with Jeff Andrew Lule
My name is Lamula Nankumbi. I am from Luwero district. I am a 26-year-old single mother of a six-year-old daughter. I used to operate a salon in Nansana, Wakiso, after raising capital from work I did while in South Sudan
In 2013, I was robbed of some of my salon equipment. After that incident, I developed interest in going to Dubai for a better job to get more capital. My brother had been working there and used to send me money to bank for him.
One day, I saw an advert by Stema Group of Companies, a labour exporting company which takes people to Dubai for work.
The company is located at Hotel Equatoria parking in Kampala. In late March 2013, I visited Stema offices and a lady called Ruth at the reception, asked me to pay sh5,000 as consultation fee to find out about the jobs available.
For that fee, I expected to view a list of jobs, but surprisingly, Ruth just told me about the jobs.
She told me that the only jobs available were for waitresses and I was required to raise sh5m for travel and other expenses. She said I would earn sh2m per month. I also had to pay sh50,000 as registration fee, for which I was given a receipt.
Selling off my stuff
I got a friend to buy my salon at sh2m. The salon had been both office and home for me and my daughter, so after selling it off, I moved to my stepmother’s place in Kireka.
I still needed sh3m and my uncle agreed to give me the money.
He borrowed it from a bank and I was able to pay Stema. I paid the money to Doreen Mutibwa, the manager of the company, and I was given a receipt. I also found other girls at the company who had just paid. They promised to take us in July to start working, but we never heard from them.
When we went back to consult about our delayed travel, we were told that they had not yet received the employment visas. We were 13 girls. After several visits, some of our friends started demanding a refund.
Going for interviews
In October, Stecia Mayanja, the director of the company, told us that jobs were available and we were going for interviews in Dubai. She also made us sign agreements, saying there would be no refund if one failed the interviews. She promised to refund the money of those who passed the interview, but failed to get a job.
She asked us to raise sh50,000 for food in Dubai and sh20,000 for transport to Entebbe Airport. We paid all the money to Mayanja. She purchased rice, matooke, beans, groundnuts and divided the food among us.
On October 2, 2013, we were given our passports, visas and an invitation letter from Euro Asia Company. Surprisingly, our visas indicated that we were tourists, but we never bothered to ask why.
Travel to Dubai
We used RwandaAir, through Kigali to Dar-es-Salaam, where we boarded another plane to Dubai. We arrived in Dubai at around 6:00am on October 3. We found some Ugandans waiting for us at the airport. They took us to a house in a place called Shalja. After breakfast, we were taken for interviews by a gentleman called Muhauya.
We arrived at Euro Asia offices at around 10:00am and we were divided into three groups. They selected cleaners, security guards and waitresses without asking us what we preferred to do. I had applied for the waitress job, but I was included in the security guards group.
I accepted because I had no option. Then they told us that cleaners had already got work and an apartment where to stay. We went back to the house for lunch, then those who were selected as cleaners were taken away.
We were called back for an interview at the same offices where an Indian gentleman interviewed a group at a time. After general questions about our interests, experience and education, they measured our height.
We went back to the house without knowing our fate. We shared one room with only two beds. Four of us shared the two beds, while the other four girls shared a mattress on the floor.
After one week, Muhauya took us back to Euro Asia, where a white lady, apparently the overall director, interviewed us, one at a time. She only asked us what we could do. I told her I had knowledge in salon work. She promised to get me work and I was very hopeful.
After that interview, Mayanja told us to look for jobs or other opportunities on our own. Then another friend of hers came and took four of us for another interview.
The rest went out to look for jobs on their own. Only three of my friends passed and I failed because of my age. The interviewer said he needed girls below 20 years.
He promised employment for the three.
Disappointed, I contacted my younger brother who was working in Abu Dhabi. He came and visited me. I explained everything to him and he promised to find me a job.
My brother managed to find me a job, but at the same time Muhauya, Mayanja’s friend who took us for the first two interviews, told us that we had job offers from Aminco Security Services, through Euro Asia. He told us that they needed us to sign the offers urgently. By this time Mayanja had already left for Uganda.
After signing, Muhauya told us that we could not get employment visas with an invitation letter. The Euro Asia director told us that we needed to first return to Uganda, and they would send the employment visas to us.
A few days later, Mayanja called from Uganda asking us to leave our luggage in Dubai. She explained to us that there were some Ugandans who wanted to send some merchandise home and those who helped would be rewarded sh300,000 each.
We would carry the merchandise using the free 40kg baggage allowance. Instead, the money which was promised was used to buy jewellery and some suitcases for Mayanja. We carried them as our own items — tax free.
On arrival at Entebbe Airport, we found Mayanja, Julie Angume and Leila Kalanzi waiting for us at the airport. Mayanja welcomed us and told us that they had organised a dinner for us at a hotel in Entebbe.
I cannot recall the hotel because it was already dark. Apparently, it was a birthday party for Mayanja’s friend. After eating, we parted ways and she promised to call us after a week when the employment visas would be ready.
Fake employment letters
But we never heard from her. After two weeks, we decided to go back to consult on the visas. Mayanja told us that we had signed fake employment letters.
She organised another interview through another employment agency, but still, I was not recommended. They said I was not fit for the waitress job because of my size.
The director of the company asked Mayanja to pay travel expenses of about sh2.5m for each of the successful interviewees, but she declined.
When we went to demand our money, she again promised that there would be another interview in January 2014. Some were convinced but some of us rejected the offer.
I have been demanding my money, but she has refused to refund it, saying I can still do another interview. I no longer want her interviews because we went through a lot. We even left behind our luggage because of her own interests. They only used us to raise capital for their shopping and to import goods tax free.
I sold all my property and remained with nothing. I just need money to start afresh. Now I am in Luwero at my father’s home since I have nowhere to begin from.
Local artiste Stecia Mayanja owns the company that had promised Nankumbi a job
What stecia mayanja says...
Stecia Mayanja, the director of Stema Group of Companies, says their organisation is a registered and licensed agency which cannot defraud its clients. “We also deal with other companies in Dubai which help us get employment opportunities,” she says.
“For the case of Lamula Nankumbi and others who failed to get jobs, it was not our intention. We also regret the incident because it has never happened before.
They were 13 girls. We took them for interviews in Dubai and our contractor, Amico, made them sign employment offers.
They promised to send work visas for them in 10 days, so we returned to Uganda since we had entered Dubai as visitors and our visas were about to expire,” Mayanja explains.
She adds that they were advised by the contractors that the girls had to leave Dubai and return with the employment visas to avoid any disturbance.
“We returned to Uganda and waited for the visas in vain. When I did not get anything after 10 days, I contacted the person who was working on the visas. I was informed that he was critically ill. When the girls approached me, I told them to wait until the guy recovers to process the visas.
“I also promised to get them another contract because I had got some new offers for security guards. Other girls accepted to do the interviews, but Nankumbi refused,” Mayanja says. In fact, she notes, those who did the recent interviews for guards are to set off anytime to different destinations.
“I am ready to get Nankumbi a job without demanding any more money. But I was surprised when I got a letter from a lawyer indicating that she wanted me to refund her money, which is unfair,” she says.
“I have no problem refunding her money. Let her come to my office and we count the expenses since I still have the receipts. I will give her the balance. Imagine I booked tickets for one week at $650 (about sh1.6m) for each, and I was forced to rebook for another week due to unavoidable circumstances,” Stecia explains.
The issue of leaving their luggage in Dubai, she adds, was not her plan but their own proposal since they expected to go back in 10 days. “I have even ordered for the return of the luggage since they are going on a new contract to different destinations,” she says.
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