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Cobbler for 30 years and still going strong

By Vision Reporter

Added 24th October 2004 03:00 AM

The bright orange sun is slipping over distant hills. Most people are retiring from the day’s work but Mzee Kajungu is still at his workplace doing final touches to his last pair of shoes.

By Catherine Baguma
The bright orange sun is slipping over distant hills. Most people are retiring from the day’s work but Mzee Kajungu is still at his workplace doing final touches to his last pair of shoes.
“Karibu (come in),” he says smiling.
He offers me a bench to sit on and continues with his work.
Kajungu has been making new and mending old shoes for the last 30 years. He is determined to see his dream come true — the dream of educating all his children.
He was first employed by a son of a then prominent Muganda, Silus Mugwanya, in 1966 as a houseboy. He later worked as a night watchman before he thought of doing something that would give him more money.
He entered the print industry. Unfortunately, the Indians who were training him in printing were expelled by Idi Amin.
“The world closed in on me and life was one bit of a hell,” he says sadly.
He entered the shoe industry in 1972. He acquired some skills from Tanzanians, which helped him operate his own business.
After realising his worth, the Tanzanians wanted to retain him but he had already made up his mind to start his own business. “I was fed up of working as a mupakasi (servant) and wanted to be independent.
With the money he had earned, he bought some tools and materials to start his new business.
By then there was no tannery in the country and most of the materials like leather were imported from Kenya.
Kajungu, however, says by then, the economy was okay. “With only 50 cents, one could buy charcoal, a bunch of matooke, fish, milk and other necessities. I could even afford butter, jam and bread for my family,” he says.
Today, Kajungu runs his business in Mukono near Uganda Christian University. “I came here because the population was increasing. With a university in place, I knew I would get more customers.”
He still makes new shoes and mends old ones. He makes ladies’ and men’s sandals. On an average day, he saves about sh10,000.
With his earning, Kajungu has built a permanent house and is paying fees for his children, including one at Makerere University.
He is also planning to put up a hostel to target university students. “I do not earn a lot but I plan for the little I have and the investments I made over the past years supplement,” he explains.
“What keeps me going is the passion for the industry I joined. I have had an opportunity to venture in other businesses but as they say, old habits are hard to drop,” he says.
Kajungu attributes his good health to good feeding for which he has had to work hard.
“I don’t believe in feeding badly just because I have little money. I buy good food for my family, balanced diet,” he explains.
He thanks President Museveni for the efforts he has directed to poverty eradication and the prevailing peace in most parts of the country.
“My worry now is the problem of mivumba (second-hand shoes) and the plastic ones which are very cheap in town.” He says those two issues affect his profits and business generally.
“You know, Ugandans are funny. They want cheap things, which do not even last. The youth are in love with heavy jungle boots because they want to look like film stars,” he says with a chuckle.
The result of this, he says, is unemployment, because the youth don’t want to go into this business where there are no profits. He says in the past when second-hand shoes were not on the market, people used to come to him learn the job but these days no one comes.
He appeals to the Government to fund small-scale entrepreneurs.
Kajungu was born in 1952. His parents came from Rwanda and settled in Kyasa Busiro, Wakiso district. His father died when he was only 14 years old and his mother could not give them formal education.
“My dream is to give all my children quality education and as long as there is peace in this country, nothing will stop me,” he says.
Kajungu’s friends describe him as a hardworking man, who values education. “You can confuse him on something else, not education,” says Sseremba who works with him. One his customers describes him as a kind man, who has mastered his skills.

Cobbler for 30 years and still going strong

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