BIG BROTHER MADE HIM: The ninth season of the Big Brother Africa reality series was supposed to begin this Sunday, but fire gutted the house in Johannesburg, South Africa leading to postponment of the show. Gaetano Juuko Kaggwa was Uganda’s first representative and he has remained the most popular housemate. Big Brother opened doors for him, making him a continental media personality. Edgar R. Batte spoke to him.
It has been a while since you granted any interviews, what are you up to?
I have been quite busy. I have been away for the last four years and I was only coming back to Uganda for holidays or to see my family.
What has been keeping you busy?
I have been re-establishing myself back home and hitting the ground running. I went back to Capital Radio and I am doing the Drive Show with Lucky, every Monday to Friday, from 3pm to 6pm.
And I have just signed up to be a cast member of a new series which is being produced by Nana Kagga. It is called Beneath The Lies. We are going to start shooting very soon. I have also just signed up to do a breakfast show on Urban Television. Then I have also restarted doing emceeing at gigs and for corporate companies. I also have Zone 7 where me and my brothers are running the establishment, so all these have kept me busy.
Taking you a little back, what were you doing in Kenya?
I was working as a radio presenter. When I first went there, I was working with Capital FM Kenya which is not affiliated to Capital FM here. I was doing the breakfast show. I did that for a year then I moved to Radio Africa Group, which owns Capital FM Uganda. At the group I joined Kiss TV.
What were you doing at Kiss TV?
I was a producer, a director and a voice-over artiste.
Were you the director of the television station?
No, I would produce and direct shows on the television station and I was the voice of Kiss TV. I still do it from here. They send me scripts, I voice them and I send them back.
Kenya is largely a Kiswahili speaking country, can you speak the language?
My Swahili is not that good to be honest but Kenyans speak English too but of course if you can say Tusker baridi, habari gani, lala salama…that is how I was communicating with them.
Away from the work, how was your social life like in Kenya?
There is a small Ugandan community there and we would try to be together. We had a forum and we would be updated on the events and get together. I also had my sister out there with her husband and we would spend some time together. I had my clique too. We would hang at a Ugandan’s house one night and another’s on another night. We would watch football or have a get together or go to Mombasa. Yes, away from work, it was vibrant, and of course my wife was there too.
Tell us about your wife…
She is a Ugandan, called Keishamaza Kaggwa. We’ve been married for over five years now. We celebrated our anniversary in July.
How did you meet her?
It is an interesting way we met. We actually met in Kenya. She is a Ugandan yes but when I got very sick a few years ago, I was airlifted to Nairobi Hospital and when I was being operated on, people came and donated blood and she was one of the donors. She is a very good friend to my brother Tendo and so he brought her to the hospital to donate blood. That is how I first met her, at my hospital bed as I tried to recover.
So you “benched” her while on your hospital bed?
Hahaha, yeah I was “benching” but anyway nothing serious happened. She just came to give blood and left.
You were left smitten. What did you like about her?
She was calm, beautiful and very easy and she is still all that. When I came back from Kenya after I got better, one evening I went home after work, and Tendo and her were about to go out so I asked to join them. We went out, three of us. At some point Tendo got tired and went home and left me there with her, so it was me and her and that is how it started.
Didn’t you feel like Tendo was setting you up with his friend?
Yeah, in a way it felt like I was set up but I think it was pure chance, and we clicked. You know when you click with a woman and you are talking and laughing. It felt really good. In fact whenever I would fly to South Africa to do M-net’s Studio 53 show, on my way back, I would stop in Kenya to see her and spend a bit of time and go have lunch or dinner, so I got to know her better.
Beautiful connection there, any fruits of the union yet?
No kids yet but we are working on it.
Five years is a long time…
Yes, five years is a long time but by the Grace of God sometime, hopefully next year, we will be blessed with a child. I am keeping my fingers crossed.
Are you saying she is already preggaz?
Hahaha … I am not saying she is pregnant. We shall just see. We will put more effort basically. Hopefully next year we will bear fruit.
If you will let me take you back, you had a thing for fellow Big Brother housemate Abby from South Africa, what became of your relationship?
My relationship with Abby started in the Big Brother house and in there, things are magnified because everybody is watching you. Of course I had a small relationship. We dated for one year after the show. I would visit her in South Africa or we would meet in different countries with Big Brother housemates because it was still very fresh. I think the long distance relationship after a year got strained and was very difficult to maintain. Eventually we went our different ways but we have remained good friends. She is in Tanzania and we still communicate.
Apart from Abby, who else have you kept in touch with?
I have kept in touch with Alex Holy from Kenya because I spent time in Kenya. Once in a while I used to see him. I have stayed in touch with Stephan from Namibia. I used to be in touch with Sammy B from Ghana, Zain from Malawi and Tapua initially.
Looking back what would you say are your fond memories of Big Brother?
First, being the first Ugandan to enter the house and being chosen to go to Big Brother UK. That was fantastic.
What was fascinating about Big Brother UK?
They were not as exciting as my group but having said that, they had a really nice house. It was nice seeing a different house from ours. Our house was very loud; we used to argue and fight, and those guys were calm. They were too organised for me and I liked the madness of our house.
Another thing I liked was meeting the late Lucky Dube when he came into the house, so that was very nice. Then I also held the Premiership trophy. They brought it into the house and coming back to Uganda and seeing that crowd at the airport and on Entebbe Road and thereafter meeting the President. All those are big highlights.
Are you still in touch with the President?
No. I have not kept in touch. He is not on my speed dial…those things of Sevo, ki kati…hahaha but when I came back I was appointed as Unaids ambassador and as such I used to go to events where the President was to talk about HIV/Aids. But because I went to Kenya I have not seen him in a long time. I only see him on TV and in newspapers, but also flying in his helicopter from Soroti was a highlight.
Well, all this was thanks to BBA. What more doors did BBA open for you?
Big Brother opened all my doors. It was the pedestal for doors to open. I hosted M-net’s Studio 53, got a Capital FM gig, which also opened more doors. This was of course coupled with my hard work and luck.
Hard work comes with money, how much were you cashing in with these opportunities?
I don’t want to go into details of dimes but I will tell you that every venture I have gone into, I have put in my heart, my soul and all my energy. I don’t go into things half-hearted. I give 100 per cent. Some deals fall through and on others you get screwed and I have learned from them.
What achievements have you made out of these openings?
I have grown as a person. People will say that Gae you are a brand and it is good to be associated with being a big brand because it helps open doors. Places like Zone 7 would not have been done if I had not gone to BBA. I have worked with my brothers to make it happen. It has made me appreciate hard work.
Have you done some more visible achievements like building a house?
I am slowly building and I am taking my time because I am in no rush. I am also in talks with a few people in the media industry for new ventures.
What enterprise have you pursued in the media?
I learnt how to produce and direct while on Studio 53 and now I am planning to start my own production house eventually, but right now given the different things I am doing, it is difficult.
At the time you went into Big Brother you were a law student, did you finish your law degree?
I never completed my law degree and many people are upset with me asking why I didn’t go back to school but I say banange, when opportunity knocks, you have to grab it with both hands because it will not come again. I never finished my degree in law but I have a degree in political science, which I got in the US, at the University of Lacrosse.
Tell me, what are your thoughts about the other representatives that Uganda has sent to BBA over the years?
A mixture of happiness and sadness.
Who are you happy with and who are you sad with?
I was happy with Denzel, I was also happy with LK4 and we have just fallen short. Is it Ugandans who are not voting? No. I think Ugandans vote for our people. I think we are outplayed and outnumbered by other countries. I think they just play the game better than we do. May be in a year or two we could do better. I really want someone from Uganda to win but it is not easy.
What needs to be done better?
On the selecting panel, there needs to be a media person to be able to advise… like “this guy is not serious and he is just faking and pretending.” I just wish we had a say as countries on who we want to represent us but I guess they don’t want that because it is their show and you cannot tell them what to do.
We know the professional Gae, who is he away from work and public life?
I am a very quiet guy even when I am with people. I can stay at my house a whole weekend by myself and be comfortable. I like my down time. I like my solitude to relax the mind. Of late I like series and I am into them a lot. Right now I am watching Oranges- The New Black. I have just finished watching House of Cards and I have just gotten the latest season of Game of Thrones. I also like riding my bike. I ride it on weekends or when the traffic is heavy.
What values do you cherish?
Honesty and integrity. If you are honest, the rest will fall in place. I value friendship. Even if you have family you need friends.
On the Big Brother HOUSE BURNING
“Its very unfortunatethat the house burnt down. The ripple effect is very huge for all those who are involved in the Big Brother Africa production. I’m glad that nobody was injured and hopefully the investigation will shed light onto what caused the fire. I don’t know how far this has set back the start of the show but I hope they will be back on track soon. When I was in the house back in 2003, not once did I ever feel unsafe, we were well looked after and all measures were taken to ensure our wellbeing and safety.”
OTHER FORMER HOUSEMATES
Uganda has been represented by several other housemates in the subsequent seasons of the Big Brother Africa reality show. Maureen Namatovu is now married to Dr Garett Taylor and the pair have a son called Kevin. Morris Mugisha the third representative is a model and a photographer. Phil and Hannington Kuteesa are no longer in the limelight. Sharon O now runs her Blue Ice bar, Kyle Duncan Kushaba is on Urban TV while Denzel Mwiyeretsi works on XFM. Isaac Luggude a.k.a. LK4 is playing basketball in South Africa with the Limpopo Pride.