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In its latest issue, The Independent reports that ‘a municipal council in Eastern Uganda is considering levying a tax on owners of grass thatched houses in a bid to improve on the standard of living in the municipality. Mbale Municipal Council Town Clerk, Daniel Christopher Kawesi says this decision will expand the revenue base or compel owners to sell the plots to those who can afford to put up better structures’.

Thatched roofs of Mihingo Lodge (Lake Mburo NP) and Le Chateau Restaurant (Kampala)

Better structures? They don’t know what they are talking about. However, their view is shared by our friends from Kampala City Council. The latter, too, believe that grass thatched roofs are a thing of the past and a sign of underdevelopment and poverty. They don’t want to see them around town and special permissions need to be obtained (i.e. paid for).

The truth is, a high-quality grass thatched roof – built to the right angle and thickness and chemically treated to be non-flammable – is indeed a rather expensive affair. It is not at all a sign of poverty, but of entrepreneurial spirit: most foreigners love those roofs and prefer to wine and dine under one of them (while most Ugandans prefer to live under fake tiles). They are expensive – up to 90$ per square meter – and require regular maintenance but seem to pay off. Most upcountry lodges have them (e.g. Mihingo Lodge/Lake Mburo NP), and a few hotels and restaurants around town (e.g. Le Chateau Restaurant/Nsambya). I only have seen one private residence in Kampala – of course expat-owned.

To get back to Mbale, if I was the Municipal Council Town Clerk and thus in charge of a town that to the best of my knowledge hasn’t got a single decent hotel on offer: I’d pretty much suggest the opposite.

One Comment

    • bogaert pascal
    • Posted Friday, 16th May, 2014 at 8:38
    • Permalink

    Grass thatched roofs are fantastic!

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