COMING OUT: In the wake of coming out to announce he is living with HIV, the life of celebrity Edwin Katamba, better known by his alias, MC Kats, has been on a rollercoaster. He opens up to EDGAR R. BATTE about why he is using his status to cause change for youngsters, his plans to re-invent his television career as well as drug abuse in the entertainment industry.
You recently came out and confessed that you are HIV positive. What impact has this had on you and your career?
I was tired of hearing and seeing people pointing fingers at me that I have HIV/Aids. So what? Why were they making it a big deal? It was frustrating. I would enter a bar and hear people backbiting me. What matters is I am alive. I have a problem, God talks to me too much and I am a clever chap, so whatever I want to do from this point on, I need to have a good plan. First, I need to calm down; I plan to start up a boutique, so I take time off to visit different local markets to shop for clothes.
I have just returned from one of the markets here in Kiwatule where I have bought dresses worth Shs500,000. There are many opportunities to earn money in Uganda. The other development is I have contacted United Nations (UN) and they are taking care of my treatment for the entire January. I wanted to work with NGOs but I was frustrated by the attitude of some receptionists who would rather pay attention to their phones than attend to me.
What is coming out of your relationship with UN?
I am going to run awareness campaigns ranging from HIV, early pregnancies, use of condoms, and abuse of drugs among youth. I like it because it is God’s calling. He said you start it, I will see you through. I am going to enjoy it but I am worried it is a lot of work. Imagine touring every ghetto in Kampala and every district in the country, coordinating more than 10 artistes and events companies. My dream is to do it on an African level. Some people have made HIV/Aids seem like one is in hell, while some have called it witchcraft. Others think that if you have HIV/Aids, it is the end of the world. HIV/Aids is not even a disease. It is not cancer or diabetes. It is something you can control.
You continuously refer to God in your conversations, what connection do you have with Him?
One thing I would like people to know is that I grew up in a rich family. I came to the ghettos because I was tired of having things on a silver plate. When I was leaving home, I told my dad that I would not return until I am richer than him. I did not talk to my dad for close to nine years, so I am not looking for money. My dad, Sulah Lwanga, was the first Ugandan to bring a convertible car in Uganda. Go ask Sudhir Ruparelia or Karim Hirji. That is why I bought a convertible. All 16 of us went to good schools; Mwiri, Nabisunsa, St. Lawrence. He wanted to educate us since he never went to school. When I started doing music, he was not happy. I left home when I was 16 years old and I have been working since. I am now 36 years old. Where do you think I have put all that money? Eaten it all or you think school fees takes all of it? You have come to my home, it is empty. People do not understand me. I would rather be alone and talk to God. I posted on Instagram that I am the richest boy in Africa. Nobody can understand but I am going to be the wealthiest boy in Africa with no money on my back accounts. It is my vision this year, doing what I love. Forget WizKid.
You have quite a following on social media but who are those people in your close circle?
You are important to me. You have been in my life for 13 years. Harouna Naire of Red Pepper, Bebe Cool, Douglas Lwanga — I saw him when he was working at Record Television and told him he had a bright future. I have people who are important to me. They are my friends. I talk of 15 years of knowing Jose Chameleone. I know when he is pissed and doesn’t want to talk to anyone. That man has the most beautiful heart but the world doesn’t know, and the people managing him are blundering. Chameleone should be like Wizkid because he can. He can speak and sing in English, Swahili and Luganda which allows him cross borders. He is loved in Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda. He just needs a marketing team that can expand him outside East Africa. He is 10 times bigger than Diamond Platnumz.
You are on record for saying close to 90 per cent of artistes use and abuse drugs, is there more to this allegation?
You people are fooling yourselves that rehabs work. They do not work. Batte, if you have a job that gives you Shs500,000 a month, and you are given leave because you have a drug problem and you return after six months, you think you will not buy those drugs again? Rehab can reduce and clean you up but if you backtrack, you become worse. There are people who will quit and start throwing up blood. Their bodies will shake. When they get back to drugs, they will be ‘normal’. About 90 to 95 per cent of Ugandan artistes use drugs. They have a lot on their tables that they cannot handle. They do not have managers or personal assistants to help them. Imagine it is you who sings, talks to fans, shops for clothes, so it becomes too much so they want to relax their brains. The government should know how these drugs get here. If they know the taxes on a shirt you wear, they should know how drugs get to Uganda because we do not manufacture them.
Discovering my status
I learnt I had HIV/Aids nine years ago. I have six children from six different women and the children are not sick. I can look after them. I am not looking for help. I have worked for 15 years, I have invested my money; I have bought land and invested in artistes who will sing for the rest of their lives and I earn upto Shs1m from each of their gigs.
This interview was done before MC Kats checked into Butabika Hospital late last week.