The story of a Lebanese telecom, Africell, firing 59 employees in top management and hiring a social media analyst, Simon Kaheru, to invalidate their arguments has left Ugandans wondering whether Kaheru, once an attacker of racism, has now turned its defender.
A social media Twitter debate is still raging (since Wednesday) about Kaheru’s role in the Africell alleged racist attack on Ugandan employees.
A tweep pointed out that “Kaheru who at one point admirably unearthed the racists in “Shell & Bolton Co” is now a PR practitioner for the purported racists in Africell”.
This came about after an email leaked showing how Kaheru was advising Africell bosses on how to use social media to “silence the grievances” presented by the sacked 59 employees who were never paid terminal and NSSF benefits.
Kaheru diligently attacked racism exhibited by Shell and Bolton Company
In his article titled: “keep calm: it is actually YOU who is racist” and published on October 24, 2014, on his personal blog (https://skaheru.wordpress.com/2014/10/24/keep-calm-it-is-actually-you-who-is-racist/), Kaheru directed that the “article should be read by only locals, especially blacks of Ugandan origin” so that those who are not locals would understand how bad it feels to segregate others.
He was responding to an advert by Shell and Bolton International, a foreign construction company, placed in The New Vision seeking for an administrative assistant of “Indian, Philipino or white origin”.
“But I can’t ignore it, and I am on standby to applaud any newspaper that cares enough to run a serious story about this,” wrote Kaheru.
“On our part,” he added “let’s agree that whereas these Shell and Bolton International guys have officially exhibited both stupidity and racism (thanks @spartakussug, for that one) by way of the below advertisement, we can’t just sit about and either moan or mourn (it’s an inside joke that only Ugandans will get – I warned you about such things in the very first sentence).”
“This is stupidity paid-for and placed in Uganda’s leading news daily,” he wrote describing the advert.
“This is where we begin to hope that Uganda’s Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control will come into play and rein in Messrs. ‘Shell and Bolton International Ltd.’ for trying to fill simple jobs with foreigners.”
He said the reason Shell and Bolton mentioned that the applicant “Must be a foreigner” is because they knew it would make their con more genuine.
“Seriously, point me to the “expatriate” closest to you and give me thirty minutes to present you with a Ugandan who could do the very same job they are doing. Show me one company in Uganda whose performance is globally acclaimed because of an expatriate rather than a Ugandan with equivalent education, skills, knowledge and capabilities, so that I concede. Which expatriate employee in any of these Ugandan towns is such a treasure that without him the company would have been enjoying only ‘low-calised’ success?”
Thanks to Kaheru, Immigration summoned the company, grilled them and managed to get them apologise as well as review their earlier discriminative employment policy.
The same Kaheru is now “defending” alleged racism and firing, replacing of Ugandans with foreigners?
When the matter came to his attention, Kaheru made it clear to tweeps that he “won’t be engaging in childish arguments over this Africell story by the way. So some tweets will just go by.”
He said the company restructuring was not being well received by a group of people raising the question of the “credibility of allegations” in the story.
He told the Ugandan BBC presenter, Alan Kasujja, in a tweet thus: “I have many pals there (at Africell) and haven’t been sent the racist emails. Do I defend racism? No. Is it the issue? No.”
“Let’s consider this: was the so-called racism okay until people were terminated?” he queried.
In any case, he continued, the fired 59 workers were not replaced by Lebanese but “some jobs were dropped, others outsourced”.
“No. My understanding is that they were notified on the day and paid in lieu of notice.”
Better still, he argued, there are 300+ Ugandans currently employed there wondering whether Ugandans were asking Africell to shut down.
But when asked to verify this claim, Kaheru said: “I hadn’t thought of that. Let’s go over to the office and count them.”
Other tweeps suggested that by engaging Kaheru on this story would “validate his pay check. He will show a report that he indeed put out the fires”.
Others pointed out that Kaheru had not caused the firing of workers and that “even criminals have a right to a lawyer” and even so, “the Kaherus will keep the job. If they are fired, another marketing agency to do the same work will be hired!”
The Insider is still pursuing an official communication from Africell for their side of the story.
Simon Kaheru has worked as Director – Member of the Board at Uganda Broadcasting Corporation
Uganda Telecommunications, ICT Association of Uganda, British American Tobacco and is a known Media Analyst.
He has nine years’ experience in mainstream media field and desk operations, with two years as a Senior media manager with a busy English newspaper.
He is the Director of SMS Media from 2003 – 2008 (5 years), was a Press Secretary to the Vice President of Uganda (May 2003 – June 2005 (2 years 2 months) and worked as Deputy Editor, Sunday Vision, The New Vision Printing & Publishing Corporation (November 2000 – May 2003 (2 years 7 months).
He went to King’s College Budo (1987 – 1993) and Makerere University where he did a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication, Communication, Journalism, and Related Programs (1993 – 1996).