Business

Sebuliba Vs Mohan Kiwanuka: Patience Triumphs over Greed

• Tycoon once again leaves son with bloody-nose in court;
• Court to Ssebuliba mother: You weren’t part of the suit, go away!
• Court to Sebuliba: you shall meet all the costs!

By Nasser Kasozi

  • Tycoon once again leaves son with bloody-nose in court;
  • Court to Ssebuliba mother: You weren’t part of the suit, go away!
  • Court to Sebuliba: you shall meet all the costs!

Tuesday November 26, 2019 could be etched into the annals of Uganda’s legal history. It was the day that dawned with the nation on tenterhooks, while awaiting judgement in a case in which a son did the abominable by suing his father, and surprisingly, over property owned by the father.

God must have been looking over Mr. Mohan Kiwanuka. Court ensured that the son left empty handed, with costs of the suit to settle, shamed and pondering which way next.

It was the well-publicized case in which city lawyer, Jordan Sebuliba, sued his father, and Ugandan real-estate and industry magnate, Mr. Mohan Musisi Kiwanuka. The court suit, HCCS No. 535 of 2019; Jordan Ssebuliba Kiwanuka & Lowerhill Management Limited vs Visa Investments Limited and Mohan Musisi Kiwanuka, was instituted by Sebuliba. The legal action arose after Visa Investments Limited, the company owned by his father, asked Sebuliba to vacate its properties located in the exclusive upscale Kampala suburbs of Nakasero and Kololo.

The suit properties, located at Plot 10A and 10B Akii Bua Road and Plot 21-29 Golf Course Road Kololo, are owned by Visa Investments Ltd. Mohan Kiwanuka was dragged into the matter inappropriately, yet, tried as he could to extricate himself from the civil suit, he failed, and only managed to disentangle from the accusations on judgement day.

How justice Namundi ruled

When Justice Godfrey Namundi stepped into the courtroom at the High Court, Family Division, it could have been business as usual on his part. But to the family of the beleaguered Mr. Mohan Musisi Kiwanuka, it was a day that will stick in the core of its collective memory.

The amiable Justice Namundi was ruthless, yet calm, in dispensing justice. The Honorable Justice ruled that Jordan Sebuliba was illegally in occupation of his father’s company’s properties. He further pursued in the ruling, that the plaintiffs, led by Sebuliba, must account for the 10 years they were in occupancy of the two suit properties, as had been counter-claimed by counsel for the defendants, Mr. Faisal Mukasa, of Fides Legal Advocates, a Kampala-based law firm.

Sebuliba and the other plaintiffs were also ordered to pay for the costs of the suit. This, according to sources close to the high profile case, will certainly tally into billions of shillings.

With the above ruling, it meant that poor Sebuliba’s prayer that court should compel his father to pay him and the other plaintiffs, Ush 1 billion, towards compensation for the developments he had made on the suit properties remained, but a pipe dream.  

Justice Namundi wasn’t done with the self-entangled Sebuliba, though. He threw out the attempt by Sebuliba and his lawyers to smuggle into the case, the mother of the plaintiff, Ms Beatrice Luyiga Kavuma. And it was justifiable on many grounds. First, she wasn’t part of the original application to court, and secondly, it was an outright falsehood that Mr. Mohan Kiwanuka had attempted to evict her from her home located at Plot 22A, Kawalya Kaggwa Close, located in the most exclusive part of Kampala.

Court also threw out reference to alleged mental infirmity by the plaintiffs, arguing that the claim had been found to have no merit and had earlier been ably disposed of by Justice Musa Ssekaana of the High Court under Miscellaneous Application 249 of 2019.

Decoupling Ms Beatrice Kavuma claim from the court suit

Ms Beatrice Kavuma, was the wild card in the court case. She emerged onto the case through court papers, after Sebuliba’s lawyers filed amendments to the plaint. But she didn’t leave it to chance.

In a widely publicized rant, she vented her angst and spoke about a vendetta against her and her adult children, all in gainful employment, aimed at dispossessing them of property. She spoke of attempts at throwing her out of her ‘marital home,’ but at the same time revealed she had parted ways with Mr. Mohan Kiwanuka way back in 1989, after the latter packed his bags and left.

She expressed alarm, without giving any evidence, that she was being evicted from her marital home. To a substantive number of people, the rant served to complicate the family feud beyond the visible legal matters. The ruling of Justice Namundi helped clear the air.

And with it, went another attempt to heap together four properties that were ostensibly described as ‘marital properties’ in the plaint. The plaintiffs were hopeful that with the presence of Ms Beatrice Kavuma in the suit, court could rule in their favour, on the grounds of marriage to Mr. Mohan Kiwanuka. With the ruling in the negative, the hope vanished into thin air.

But where did it all begin?

Sometime in March or April 2019, tension emerged between Mr. Mohan Kiwanuka and his son, Jordan Sebuliba. This followed a number of developments including reported deleterious decisions by Sebuliba that led to his father’s flagship company, Oscar Industries Limited to go through financial troubles.

Shortly afterwards, Sebuliba was sacked from his job as company Secretary to more than 30 companies belonging to Mr. Mohan Kiwanuka.

Around the same time, Mr. Mohan Kiwanuka decided to liquidate some of his properties in order to re-align his entrepreneurial direction and give fresh impetus to his investments and businesses.

But to Sebuliba, his father acted irrationally, on the account of being mentally infirmed and therefore unable to take decisions of a business nature. A number of accusations

Mischievous mother and son?

When Sebuliba decided to drag his father to court over the suit properties, it was all about his attempt to keep what did not belong to him, with the hope that court would sanitise the slippery transaction. However, the matter quickly morphed into a family feud. The plaint was amended to bring in his mother, Ms Beatrice Luyiga Kavuma as a plaintiff, together with Lowerhill management Limited, the company in which some of her children hold interests.

In the plaint, Sebuliba and the other plaintiffs had averred that the suit properties were verbally donated to them by Mr. Mohan Kiwanuka. They contended that, in fact, court should recognise their ‘equitable interest’ in the suit properties, that also included the residence of Ms Beatrice Kavuma.

A tantalizing premonition by an insider

The testimony of Mr. Kenneth Tendo Mdoe an Independent Finance and Management Expert, in the Miscellaneous Application 249 of 2019 could have been a premonition of how the case before Justice Namundi would be concluded. Mdoe, who works with KTM Consulting Limited contracted by UNIGROUP Limited to provide a Finance Director to M/s Oscar Industries Limited and other associated companies of Mr. Mohan Kiwanuka, in a written testimony stated that he had spoken Sebuliba and asked him why he was taking such steps that would antagonize the business and family of his father. Sebuliba, according to Mdoe answered: “we have to do anything we can, otherwise we shall get nothing”.

Mdoe concluded: “This application is brought in bad faith, only aimed at helping the applicant (Ssebuliba) get assets he seeks in HCCS No. 535 of 2019.” Sebuliba, again, left court empty handed. Like he did after the High Court ruling in the matter of mental infirmity, Sebuliba threatened he would appeal the judgement in the Court of Appeals.

Indeed, at the end of Justice Namundi’s long-awaited judgement, it proved to be a befitting JUDGEMENT DAY: a sigh of relief to “Mr. Gentleman,” as Mr. Mohan Kiwanuka is fondly referred to by some; a lesson to the combative and impatient members of his family. However, it was much to the chagrin of his shamed son, and city lawyer, Jordan Ssebuliba, who has sued his father twice, and lost as many times.

It was a case of “dying in one’s movie”, like the urban youth are wont to describing situations where one sets about to harm others, but instead, the schemer is visited with negative consequences. 

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