Papyrus closure: a story of incompetence and influence peddling

I woke up on Friday morning to a horrible headline in The New Times. I found out that Papyrus, a popular nightspot, faced closure.

According to the media report, “In a letter dated October 8, 2012 addressed to Serge Nsanawe Ndekwe, the owner of the popular hang-out, Papyrus Restaurant and copied to the Minister of Local Government and the Mayor Gasabo District, City Mayor, Fidele Ndayisaba pointed out limited parking, noise generated by the clientele and loud music as the key issues that need urgent attention.”

Full disclosure: I’m a huge fan of the establishment. So when I heard the news, I resolved not to let this slight, and it IS a slight to younger Rwandans, go without riposte. So, I called Serge and sought an interview, a request that he was only too eager to agree to. What I discovered from the hour-long interview was a web of influence peddling, by certain high-ranking military officials, bullying, incompetence on the part of RDB, PSF and the Hotelier Association, and desperation on the part of Serge.

First of all, I must reiterate the Papyrus WILL NOT be closed. Rather, what has been closed with IMMEDIATE effect is its downstairs nightclub. Below, is the letter that City Council sent to Serge:

KCC letter to Papyrus, closing down the nightclub

The letter, however, leaves us with more questions than answers. KCC asks him to do something about the parking, but the fact of the matter is, the outdoor parking can hold only about 30 cars. Customers have no choice but to park on the roadside, which in itself isn’t a big deal. KCC is acting like Papyrus is the only establishment where people park on the roadside. It’s not. We have K-Club, Sundowner, Downtown, Manor Hotel, Le Must and almost every single establishment. I believe that KCC is picking and choosing places to shut down. If they are going to close nightspots because of their lack of adequate parking, then they must so across the board.

Plus, perhaps the Mayor can answer this, “is there a law dictating where people are allowed and NOT allowed to park”? Because I thought that people had a right to park where they wished, as long as the parking spot wasn’t in a ‘No Parking Area’.

Lets talk about the nightclub, which according to Serge, provides about 40% of his total revenue. It is completely soundproof and equipped with firefighting and security equipment. Plus, no one is complaining about the music from the nightclub, so why shut it down?

The initiative to close Papyrus has been in the pipeline for quite a while now. In fact, only two weeks after its August 22nd opening, Serge received a phone call from the Mayor, warning him about his establishment’s imminent closure. The Mayor told him that certain neighbors were complaining about the noise and the fact that their privacy was invaded by the three-story building.

So, who was the ‘neighbor’ who got Town Hall involved? None other than Gen. Fred Ibingira.

Lets be honest here, if the neighbor was an unknown ‘Tom Mupende’ (a name I’ve just invented) would he had the juice to call the Mayor of Kigali City to complain that his nights sleep was being interrupted? Methinks not.  He would have had to talk to the Executive Secretary of the Akagari and then slowly go up the levels. Obviously, the war hero was using his position (and probable friendship with Mayor Ndayisaba) to get his way, and bulldoze the dreams of an unknown young Rwandan.  The worst part of the entire thing is that the General doesn’t even LIVE THERE. He is trying to rent out the property and (perhaps even sell it). So, he probably wants to increase the rental value of the property.

I’m sure that KCC is telling everyone that the only thing that was closed was the nightclub, but remember, they are closing down something that they themselves approved (see below)

KCC letter granting Serge permission to occupy the building

According to the original plan that Serge submitted to KCC, and which they approved on 3, November 2011, the nightclub area was supposed to be a sauna and gym. This obviously changed, but the new modifications were approved by KCC experts. Something that the Mayor is evidently ignoring. So, if the plans were unapproved, then why was Serge given authorization to occupy the building? Something fishy is going on.

Honestly, the thing that bothers me so much is, how can KCC be so crude as to bankrupt a young Rwandan trying to get ahead? The

Serge Nsanawe Ndekwe

man sunk 450 million francs of his own money into the project. Not forgetting the 410 million franc loan that he received from the Rwandan Development Bank.

He is servicing a 7.5 million franc loan while employing 52 Rwandans (who are earning salaries from between 40,000 to 500,000 francs per month). As of today, 15 people who worked in the nightclub have lost their livelihoods. Just at the snap of the Mayor’s fingers. By closing the nightclub, Serge has lost 40% of his total earnings.

But it’s not only Serge who is losing money. How much money is being denied to the government coffers because of this stupidity?

The entire thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. How can we call ourselves investor-friendly when people can lose money just like THAT? Heads must roll.



26 thoughts on “Papyrus closure: a story of incompetence and influence peddling

  1. Blue says:

    I hope you will keep us updated with this story. Can Papyrus carry on if it loses 40% of its income I wonder? Seems that “who you know” is still crucial in Rwanda. If so how can a meritocracy be created? Time maybe for the high level reader of your last column to have a look at this matter?

  2. M. Murego says:

    This is a good piece Sunny, it has also been interesting to follow all the Twitter activity on this issue today. Needless to say, everyone was expressing disappointment in the move to shutdown a local business.

    It is truly a concern that the first move on the part of KCC, after the complaints you listed, is to threaten to shutdown the place. Papyrus has been in operation for just a few months!

    With all due respect to the Mayor, I understand that there must be a reaction if residents of the neighbourhood are complianing but, solutions for these issues should have been sought first. People in the Mayor’s office should have got out of their offices, visited this local business and tried to help the owner find solutions to these challenges. Surely shutting down a 450mill francs investment in our beautiful city should be the LAST resort.

    The Mayor’s office should be able to think things through before acting. I see no problem with one of our high ranking officials calling the Mayor, if I could I would to, I’d call the Mayor and complain about my neighbours making too much noise. The Mayor should have the ability to analyse the situation and make a sound decision, say no, I can’t shutdown a business that is thriving in our city without very good reasons. We speak everyday of our Agaciro, what better way to practise Agaciro than to invest in our country, create employment opportunities and everything else that comes with it? People need to think of the bigger picture, always.

    It would be a pernicious act to shutdown a local business, that has all permits, that might even discourage other investors.

  3. shamila says:

    It really is sad seeing an honest person being pushed around like that.other,than people being jelous, is this really the right time to tell him their grievances? His been building for a while & everyone knew what he was going to do with the come thy dint stop him before he he invested all the money? Its a fricking developing country!! Let people work for the love of GOD!!

  4. Ben says:

    This most stupid article I haven’t seen for while, if the noise level make the residents uncofortable that itself is enough to shut it down
    (Noise pollution)
    Is not the sustomer who meant to complain, the residents has to sisnce is their rights to exercise. Not to forget a lack of privacy of from people who live near by, whether he own money to the bank or employs whole country that’s no the point
    The point is who ever wrote this article need to use brain, don’t make him look like a victim, he knew all along what risks are is business man
    If he didn’t then obviously says lot about his judgements

    • Kim says:

      In response to Ben’s: If residents want perfect privacy and peace/quiet, they should not be living in a densely populated capital city, and especially not in an area which is zoned for both residences and businesses. The new Papyrus was only opened in this location after receiving the permits and authorization to do so. Besides, residents aren’t complaining — it’s apparently only one person with political connections who doesn’t even live there. And if the claim was valid, then why haven’t Sundowners and Ogopogo been issued similar warnings?! Put yourself in the owners’ shoes and think what you would do: after all, he needs to make a living and should not be discouraged from following his dreams.

  5. Papy says:

    Sunny, after reading this peace I can say Whaou! it is such a luck to have voices like you that stand up and fight against injustice by just a pen, and,God!, I have no doubt this is an effective method to oppose cases like these, thank you.

  6. rwanyonga says:

    talk about the investment friendly, this is just a the tip of the iceberg…talk to ur local owner of a boutique the hustle they go through on daily basis on the hand of KCC….ask the moto taxi owners how much they lost due to this investment friendly KCC constantly changing rules….. and i am not talking about those ladies who tries to sell fruits and vegetables to raise their families, but have to keep playing cat and mouses games with the police …..i really don’t get it when they say that we are investment friendly, i think we are more like a boarding school, a religious boarding school run buy priests or nuns, complete with a headmaster and discipline enforcer with a stick in their hands

  7. Robeer says:

    Thus did a handful of rapacious citizens come to control all that was worth controlling in Rwanda. Thus was the savage and stupid and entirely inappropriate and unnecessary and humorless
    Rwandan class system created. Honest, industrious, peaceful citizens were classed as bloodsuckers, if they asked to be paid a living wage. And they saw that praise was reserved henceforth for those who devised means of getting paid enormously for committing crimes against which no laws had been passed. Thus the our dream turned belly up,bobbed to the scummy surface of cupidity unlimited. Poverty wants much; but avarice, everything!

  8. Albert says:

    I think that is bullshit! We know that when you don’t share your business you get ruined! Do you think Papyrus is the only loud bar or without parking in Kigali? Fuck the system in Rwanda!

  9. Kwitonda says:

    aha those all argumments, guys its really sad story…on my way saw that someone is behind it…so that mean kcc have to look and dont let all those money waste like that. Rwanda needs to grow up and needs the man like serge, so Rwanda help serge to make his dreams come true. thnx

  10. LBolt says:

    maybe there is an injustice, but we can’t be sure jugging by this article, the journalist who wrote it is cleary taking sides here, that takes away all his credit and therefore he can’t be trust.

  11. rwanyonga says:

    u made a valid point, i ve heard this so many stories that if u are business and u dont want to share, u r done …. i dont know who you have to share ur business with though…..i think Sunny should dig into this more, seriously this sharing thing which scare people away….. u talk to people abroad who wanted to come back and invest but they are scared that by the time you set up a business in the country and it is succesfull some occult power will want to bring in their cash and will want to have some control and if u refuse u r ruined……. we need courageous journalist to talk about these issues , see the problem in Rwanda is that people who want to write, they talk about non-issues ….either they praise the system or they raise the ethnicity card…….. nobody is talking about real thing that involve putting food on the table things that matters the most …..Sunny dig into this business sharing, get to the bottom , find out who want to control all the business in Rwanda and expose him or them and if u get jailed at least u did a good services to ur country economy ….back in the days people even faced worse like going to war for their country

  12. tox says:

    mwiriwe,dushize mu gaciro,(agaciro??),ntabwo ibikorwa by’amajyambere rusange nkibi,by’injiriza igihugu amafaranga atari make mu misoro n’ibindi,ibikorwa bigerageza guteza imbere abantu barenga 50 and still expanding byahagarikwa kubera ko umuntu umwe cg babiri bavuze.RasClaat!!!,who are you?this aint 1619,the people need entertainment and papyrus offers one of the best we have in town,,nuff said,enough crap taken this time we are going to fight in every way for the voices of the people to be heard,sign those petitions,doesn’t democracy mean we have a say???

  13. Makonda says:

    Abajeunes nimwe mwahindura iyi mikorere igayitse! Serge is a hard worker and thus an inspiring example for youth not only in business but even in…sport!

  14. Assoumpta Manishimwe says:

    namwe nti mu gakabye.gusenga si ugusakuriza abandi. musenze gahoro nta wababuza gusakuza. ubu yobozi bwacu buragahora Ku isonga.

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