KAMPALA: President Museveni yesterday telephoned the widow of renowned boxer Isaac Zebra Ssenyange who was shot dead early yesterday in Bwaise, a Kampala suburb.
Museveni telephoned the widow after learning that Zebra, an ardent supporter of NRM was scheduled to meet with him the day before his brutal murder.
In the telephone conversation that is said to have lasted for about 15 minutes, the President condoled with the family and undertook to dispatch a team to investigate the killing of Ssenyage, 40.
“Yes, President promised to [help with the investigations] … but I have been told to stop discussing that,” Ms Mercy Mukankusi, the widow, said yesterday.
According to Ashburg Kato an NRM mobilizer who met the deceased on the previous day, the blogger had been instructed by the president few days ago to mobilize the boxing members to meet him.
“Yesterday I led a team of ‘bondyas’ (amateur & professional boxers) to New Mulago Specialized Hospital and I made sure they go through a proper Covid19 test before meeting you. As we were still waiting for the results, in the wee hours of today some unknown assailants shot and murdered coach Zebra ‘Mando’ Ssenyange few metres from his Bwaise home”. Kato says.
How Zebra was gunned
Accordingto the family and witnesses, masked gunmen struck the family home in St Francis Zone in Bwaise in the dead of the night, and banged the door and window, calling out Ssenyange by his nickname Zebra.
Sensing danger, the boxer fled through the back door and sprinted over a filthy drainage canal into what turned out to be a dead end.
He then made a U-turn and was gunned by other waiting assailants as the original pursuers stormed into his house after kicking the door open.
Witnesses, among them the village chairperson, Mr Abdullatif Ssekirime, said the deceased was first disabled by a bullet that shattered his leg.
“As he pleaded ‘spare me, I’m still an (ruling) NRM (party) supporter’, they finished him with bullets that crushed his jaw,” Mr Ssekirima said.
Ssenyange’s body was found soaked in blood, with the brain matter splattered on the ground, about 100 metres away from his home.
Detectives yesterday swarmed the place to interview witnesses and reconstruct the scene of crime.
The investigators retrieved cartridges and cut open a pipe from which they recovered a lodged bullet to help ballistic experts ascertain the type of gun used in the midnight attack.
Police, however, did not tape off the scene of crime and unrestrained access by curious onlookers meant vital investigative clues and evidence could have been tampered with.
Ms Maureen Mulangira, a boxing administrator, who was knowledgeable about the President’s telephone call, last evening said Mr Museveni picked interest in the matter because the deceased was an influential supporter of the NRM party, particularly in the ghetto communities in the city’s Kawempe Division.
“Zebra was an NRM supporter and a peace lover,” Ms Mulangira said.
Kampala Metropolitan Deputy police spokesperson Luke Owoyesigire noted in a statement issued yesterday morning that the area police were treating Ssenyange’s killing as a “murder” case.
He provided no additional information, including what possible clue investigators are following.
We could not independently verify claims that the suspected killers, who reportedly drove away in a numberless white van (popularly called drones), arrested another boxer identified as Robert Soldier Boy.
There was drama in St Francis, according to some witnesses, who prevented police from taking away the body of Ssenyange until the deceased’s brother Twaib Mayanja persuaded the agitated youth, many of who Ssenyange trained as boxers.
His widow recounted that when the assailants broke into the family house, they arrested their elder son, Ssenyange Jr.
“But I pleaded with them until they left him,” Ms Mukankusi said.
A neighbour, identified as Mama Ddamba, said she heard the gunshots and hid in her bedroom. Some of the bullets tore into the steel poles and the wall of her house.
Another witness in a nearby salon heard the gunshots, and only moments later found Ssenyange’s body in a pool of blood.
Police took about 45 minutes to arrive at the scene of the shooting, according to Mr Ssekirime, who said he knew no enemies of Ssenyange.
“But you never know he had enemies,” said John Nakabale, a freind of Ssenyange since 1993. “I knew him as law-abiding and his death is still a mystery.”
Ssenyange will be buried today in Masuulita, Wakiso District.
Ssenyange began his boxing career in the 1990s while at Dynamic SS, rose through the ranks until being the national captain.
He had stint in the United Kingdom in the early 2000s, where he was detained on rape charges but was never convicted.
He returned home and reunited with the national team, and was Uganda’s oldest boxer at the 2011 All-Africa Games. Ssenyange trained hundreds of ghetto youth in boxing through Lukanga Boxing Club and Zebra Boxing Club near his home in Bwaise.
He joined professional ranks in 2012. Until his death, Ssenyange was the manager in charge of general duties at the Uganda Boxing Federation and the boxer’s representative on the Uganda Professional Boxing Commission. He is survived by a son and two daughters.
His last message
“Yeah, Zebra Boxing Club, Baker, that’s very good to keep friends updated…that’s the purpose of such groups. Guys let’s stay home, safe…We don’t want to have any cases of those who will not vote, or those who will go to jail before the New Year…thanks for that info….Baker, I have heard bullets outside but it’s okay…that’s the purpose of such groups’’