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:
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)
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
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.