Kampala- The Judicial Service Commission is investigating allegations that the Deputy Chief Justice Steven Kavuma has confined a 94-year-old woman at his home for three years in a bid to steal her land in Mutundwe, Mpigi District worth Shs2b.
The petition was filed on January 23 in the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) by family members of the old woman, Ms Margaret Nannozi Ddungu, who is also the foster mother of Justice Kavuma.
When contacted for a comment, the JSC chairman Justice Benjamin Kabito, referred this newspaper to Dr Rose Nassali, the secretary to the Commission, who on Thursday last week confirmed the petition and the investigations against Justice Kavuma.
The Judicial Service Commission is the body charged with overseeing conduct of judicial officers and receiving complaints about them from the public.
“I can confirm that we received the complaint, opened a file and the matter is now being investigated by our investigators whose findings we await before we can take action,” Dr Nassali told Sunday Monitor at her office in Kampala.
The JSC disciplinary committee, which sieves and inquires into complaints against suspected errant judicial officers, recommended to the panel of the whole Commission which met on February 23 and resolved to investigate the kidnap allegations against Justice Kavuma.
Sunday Monitor could not establish the composition of the investigation team or particulars of the petition as Ms Nassail declined to be drawn into further details of the matter.
“Mr Kavuma’s issue is one of the more than 700 cases we are investigating. Our investigators’ hands are full,” she said.
This is the first time the Commission, which has received a wide range of complaints against Mr Kavuma, has confirmed investigations into the judge’s alleged misconduct. In the past, the JSC has only confirmed receiving the complaints against Mr Kavuma but had not launched investigations into the alleged acts.
The issues at hand
Ms Nannozi is the foster mother of Justice Kavuma. Her family filed the petition against Justice Kavuma in the JSC on January 23.
“The complaint is about Kavuma’s wrongful actions which include abduction of our sister, restraining us plus other relatives from accessing her, suppressing our family gathering, confiscating documents of title relating to our sister’s estate, forcibly taking possession of our sister’s home and thereby (forcibly) evicting resident relatives of our sister from her home and these actions (are) tantamount to impropriety and abuse of office and using his office of deputy Chief Justice to advance his private interests in family matters,” reads the family petition addressed to the chairperson of the Judicial Service Commission, a copy of which Sunday Monitor has seen.
The family says Justice Kavuma was brought up by Nannozi who also cared for other vulnerable children who were unable to grow up with their parents. In the last few years, the woman, “developed serious signs of dementia (temporary memory loss) to the extent of failure to identity her own relatives in some circumstances.”
The family further states that Nannozi was admitted to Mengo Hospital in Kampala but as she recovered, “during a visit in the hospital, Kavuma decided to take her to his home in a bid to have her recover in comfort, a generous gesture that later turned into abduction of our sister.”
“The old woman currently lives in Justice Kavuma’s Nsambya home, she is cut off from the outside world with no phone, and relatives who go to see her are blocked by the police. When we checked with the Lands office, we found the land title in her name missing.
So this makes us believe the reason he is holding her is to ensure he grabs the land and meddles with its documentation since she can’t do much,” Mr Flugensio Musasizi, a brother of the elderly woman, told this newspaper in an interview in January.
Attempts to get Mr Kavuma’s side of the story were futile for the last three months. In January when this reporter first contacted him, his aide asked that the story be held so that he could organise a meeting with his boss after the annual Judges’ Conference. That meeting has never taken place and Mr Kavuma has since not responded to give us his side of the story.
Nannozi’s family alleges that three years ago, Justice Kavuma started expressing interest in their sister’s land in Kanaala Village in Mutundwe Division.
The family alleges that it was during one of his numerous visits that he “tricked our son Mr Ronald Ssebirumbi and obtained the title to the said land.”
Mr Ssebirumbi had been living with the elderly woman who entrusted him with custody of the land documents before she became ill.
The land is approximately 4.5 acres on plot 410, Kyandondo Block, Mpigi District and it is worth about Shs2b. The family now claims the judge has ordered Ssebirumbi off the land and taken over the property.
“He has since deployed private security personnel from Fountain Security Company to guard the premises with some guards destroying the crops in the last three years,” the family alleges in the petition.
The family further accuses Justice Kavuma of blocking them from taking Nannozi back to her home in December to hold a thanksgiving ceremony to celebrate her long life. They say when the family organised the function, Justice Kavuma objected to it.
On December 12, 2016, Justice Kavuma wrote to one Ndugga Mulwaza in a letter in Luganda, advising the family that that was not the right time to organise the thanksgiving ceremony at the home of the old woman whom he referred to as “our mother” in Luganda.
Justice Kavuma told them that he was renovating her residence and, therefore, holding such a function there was not possible.
The letter came after a November 12, 2016 face-to-face meeting with the recipient (Ndugga) during which Kavuma flatly objected to the function.
Mr Musasizi on December 6, 2016 asked the officer in-charge of Natete Police Station to give him security for the thanksgiving function which was slated for December 18 with an estimated 150 guests.
Musasizi says Mr Kavuma sent his security guards to disperse the congregation. This newspaper has seen photographs taken on the day of the flopped function depicting Mr Kavuma’s lead car, registration number (UP 5550) that was reportedly used to block the way to the function.