One of the most interesting articles that I read about in this paper, last week, was about the demolition of a semi-completed hotel in Nyarutarama by the local government administration in the Gasabo District.
The demolition, of an unauthorised extension of the hotel, which ended up destroying up to Rwf 50million worth of property, sparked quite a debate amongst us, journalists; and, I’d bet, many people who either read about it or watched it on television.
The Mayor of Gasabo brought in the bulldozers because of one simple thing; the ‘investors’ had not been authorised to add the extension that the mayor then razed.
I wouldn’t have added my two cents, except for one thing; I believe that the mayor’s actions were either misunderstood or misinterpreted by some people. I personally totally understand, and support her actions.
According to Gasabo officials, “the extension demolished was not indicating how the sewage system would be catered for”.
This act of lawful, I must add, destruction caused outrage in some parts of the New Times newsroom. Various journalists were shocked that Gasabo could have the ill-manners to ‘frustrate’ an investor.
“Well,” I argued in the demolition’s defence, “why are you not putting the investor to task for not adhering to the law of the land”?
I mean, I read a statement that came from the Rwanda Development Board (under whose remit investment falls under) that read in part, “no one questions that the letter of the law was violated…”
So, here are the facts as I see them. First of all, Rwanda is a nation that is based on the “RULE OF LAW”.
Secondly, we are a nation that is attempting to be the ‘go-to’ nation, where investment is concerned, especially where foreign direct investment is concerned.
Thirdly, a hotel was being built by investors that would have increased the number of premium hotel rooms in this country. Well, if the proprietors of the hotel had remembered my first point, I’d have never heard about that hotel-more especially with the profusion of hotels going up all the time.
But they obviously didn’t, and that’s why I’m writing this piece. I don’t know whether the investor had not understood our municipal laws nor ignored them intentionally, all I know is this- one of the first things that the law dons at the national university taught us was that ‘ignorance of the law wasn’t a defence’.
So, I don’t know why some people ended up hot and bothered about the entire affair. The poor fellows didn’t, as they were legally obliged to, ask for written authorisation.
Because they didn’t, as anyone who’s read the law should know, they suffered the loss of some of their investment. It should have been clear cut. I mean, if someone breaks the law, even in ignorance, they are punished with a fine or jail time.
But some people have reminded me of a passage in the immortal book, Animal Farm, when Napoleon, the head honcho, wrote that “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.
In similar vein, they’d have me believe that while all buildings were to be treated the same by the municipal authority, some buildings/builders were more equal than others.
Shall we have a situation where, just because someone has an Investors Certificate from RBD, they are allowed to follow the law at their own pace? I think that sets a dangerous precedent and sends the wrong message to the larger public.
I mean, if, as many people advocated, the mayor had allowed the extension to go un-razed just because it was owned by the biggest British investor in Rwanda, as I was reminded incessantly, wouldn’t there be a few questions asked, by the general public, as to why he was treated with unnecessarily soft gloves?
In fact, this brings me to my next gripe. I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth; but I feel that we, Africans, are putting ourselves into an uncomfortable position where these ‘investors’ are concerned.
Those investors, that we fall over ourselves to get, are in the profit making business and the only reason they come is because they think they can make a killing.
So, let us not be overawed by these guys; they should adhere to our laws and if they can’t, we shouldn’t bend over backwards just because they have a bit of money.