By Isma Aliga
The former head of Public Service and the Secretary to the Cabinet, John Mitala, who is expected to be accorded an official burial today, has been described as an encyclopedia of public service and a colossus of unimpeachable moral character and integrity.
Minister Mitala often served as the secretary to the Cabinet and said he was a timekeeper, humble and he had everything about public service at his fingertips.
The Minister of ICT and National Guidance, Dr. Chris Baryomunsi, said Mitala was an encyclopedia on matters of public service.
“Dr Mitala was a hardworking man, an encyclopedia on matters of public service, a humble servant who respected everyone. When I joined the Cabinet, he was the head of Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet. He was a big resource and guided us well as the Cabinet,” Dr. Baryomunsi said.
Mitala, who was also a senior presidential advisor, died at Masaka Referral Hospital last Friday. He has been suffering undisclosed ailments for months.
The Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Ms Judith Nabakooba, said Mitala was resourceful to young public servants yet he delivered everything in the most humble way.
“He was amiable, jolly, and ready to share and train the young people. I knew him since my service in the police. He was a down-to-earth person and a listener,” Ms. Nabakooba said.
“I recall when I was appointed minister of ICT, he brought books on communication and social media to me. They were very good books,” she added.
Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa yesterday described Mitala as a man who embodied integrity and a colossus of unimpeachable moral character.
“His truthfulness and strong moral principles form the foundation of true leadership. He was not corrupt and had mastered the art of public service. He behaved ethically and did the right things, even behind closed doors. As the head of Public Service and Secretary to Cabinet, he exhibited the highest qualities of a true civil servant,” Mr. Tayebwa said.
“He loved Uganda more and has used his 48 years in public service to mentor many people regardless of their political colour, tribe, or religion. Given the scope of his accomplishments and exemplary leadership, it’s fitting to remember Dr. Mitala as a colossus of unimpeachable moral character and integrity,” he added.
The Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Frank Tumwebaze, said he got his first induction when he was appointed minister from Mitala.
“He had a perfect institutional memory of all past and current Cabinet decisions. He inducted me on my first appointment to Cabinet as minister for Presidency. We had a great public management professional,” Mr. Tumwebaze said.
To the Minister of Local Government Raphael Magyezi, Mitala was an educationalist.
“As Secretary to Cabinet, he guided us well, always clear on legal and institutional provisions and mandates of individual ministries and government in general. We owe him a lot as a government and we shall miss him greatly,” Mr. Magyezi said.
The Minister of Gender, Labour, and Social Development, Ms. Betty Amongi, said she is blessed that Mitala groomed her because he imparted in her the best public service standards.
Mr. Wilfred Niwagaba, the shadow Attorney General, said Mitala’s impeccable integrity made everyone who worked with him, happy.
Mr. Sam Bagampadde, a brother of the deceased, said Mitala stuck to integrity even when it came to family issues.
“If you didn’t qualify for a particular position, then you could not present someone else before Dr. Mitala for possible approval. In this he possibly became a complicated man to those that wanted to corrupt his mind and test his integrity,” Mr. Bagampadde said.
Mr. Michael Ssewajje, a retired teacher, said even during the challenging times between 1977 and 1981, Mitala didn’t cut corners.
“Even when he knew that you would not be happy with the truth, he would politely tell facts as they were,” he said.
Mr. Gonzaga Ssewungu, the MP for Kalungu County, said Mitala didn’t use his post to accumulate ill-gotten wealth.
“At his rank, he had the capacity to amass ill-gotten wealth. He could point at any property to get it, but he chose the right way. Men of his caliber are rare in Uganda,” Mr Ssewungu said.
It is alleged that after he was removed as the head of Public Service, he didn’t have his own personal car, which embarrassed his former colleagues.
Mr. Yunus Kakande, the secretary of the Office of the President, allegedly had to propose that they buy him a car to use after civil service work.
His dislike for earthly things is said to have extended to property ownership. Mourners, who were close to the deceased yesterday, couldn’t point to any significant personal property he left on earth.
President Museveni directed Mitala to be accorded an official burial in Kalungu District.
John Mitala was born in 1948 at Kyagunda Village in Bukulula Sub-county, Kalungu District to Kezekia Kasule Muwumbya and Maria Nabuuma.
He went to Kako Boys Primary School between 1958 and 1960. Thereafter he joined Kako Boys Junior Secondary School where he studied between 1964 and 1969. He joined Lubiri Senior Secondary School and later Sir Samuel Baker Senior Secondary School.
In 1970, he proceeded to the University of Dar es Salam where he studied for a degree of arts in law management and administration. It was in Tanzania that he met Mr. Yoweri Museveni and their friendship flourished. When the National Resistance Movement took over power in 1986, Mitala’s mother became a leader in the National Resistance Council.
After university studies, Mitala returned to Uganda and joined public service as an industrial relations officer in the Ministry of Labour, a post he held for seven years.
He rose through ranks to Permanent Secretary of the Public Service Commission and Judicial Service Commission between 1994 and 1998.
In June 1998, he was appointed the deputy head of Public Service and Secretary for Administrative Reform under the Office of the President. He held that position for four years.
In June 2002, he has appointed the head of Public Service and Secretary to Cabinet, a post he held for 19 years.
In September 2021, President Museveni appointed him a senior presidential advisor on public service issues.