The 79-year old former Uruguayan president Jose (pronounced Hosé) Mujica, who left office with a high approval rate, enjoyed huge public support during his reign, with his humble lifestyle and popular policies being the most memorable.
He insisted on living on his farm instead of the luxurious presidential mansions and he kept driving an outdated 1987 Volkswagen Beetle despite a $1 million offer from an Arab sheikh to buy the car.
Speaking of that car, the VW Beetle is deeply etched on our minds as one of those ‘old school’ classics devoid of appeal and performance, simply put, a car of the past.
The need for this kind of car, and its functional objectives, were initially formulated by Adolf Hitler, leader of Nazi Germany, wishing for a cheap, simple car to be mass-produced for the new road network of his country. Thus Porche was initially contracted to design this car, though VW later took over the mass production; the Beetle was built for sustained high speed (100km/hr) over long distances, all achievable with a powerful rear end engine an an enviable consumption of not more than 7 litres per 100 km.
The Beetle hasn’t remained in the past but has evolved over years to meet the growing automobile performance standards as well as safety features. Take for instance the VW Beetle TSi Sport 2013 model, with a sleek design, fascinating interior and performance that would make the 1987 model seem a child's toy in modern terms.
In a world consumed (Uganda inclusive) by over consumerism and the need to ‘’fit in’’,Mr Jose opted for a simple lifestyle, not because he was ‘broke’, but to put a point across, leadership is service, a point he drove home by donating about 90% of his monthly salary (12000$) to charity; no wonder his popularity with the countrymen skyrocketed over his tenure.
What a day it will be in Uganda when we get leaders as benevolent, or even more. As for His excellency Jose Mujica, we at carmek salute you.