Scandals and political intrigue Published: 01/29/2006 on Nation Newspaper, Kenya. By: MUTUMA MATHIU

So I will tell you a story. Maitu Wanjiku is dead. Wanjiku was one of those strong African women you see around Nairobi with a huge load of Sukuma Wiki, onions, potatoes and lots of other food, which they sell from place to place.

You could call her a hawker, I prefer Wanjiku. Wanjiku had been saving to buy one of those mobile telephone booths because she was tired of pounding the roads an average 50 km a day.

She had saved Sh7,999. She only had a shilling to go. A day before her “accident” she passed by the duka to buy salt. She didn’t know it, but in the price of salt was the tax of a shilling.

The following day, as she walked across the Kenya Railways yard to her favourite butchery in Nairobi South ‘B’, where she would eat a huge lunch every day, she walked right into her nightmare. She was accosted by two City Council askaris.

She tried to run away, but she wasn’t built for speed. Besides, they were young men, much younger than her. They ran her down and broke her leg. They also took all her money and her goods.

With a heavy heart, and aching leg, Wanjiku went into her savings and put them back in the business. She had to choose between spending the money on a doctor, or on the business to feed her children.

So armed with courage and pain killers, she went about her business, most of the time on the edge of delirium from the pain in her leg. She could have gone to a public hospital, I suppose, but she wanted to raise enough to get “proper” treatment from a private doctor.

She collapsed on the street. At the Kenyatta National Hospital, the surgeon opened up her leg, sewed it up again and prescribed a heavy dose of sedatives. Wanjiku’s injury had eaten her on the inside and poisoned her blood.

The doctor sensed that the woman who had single-handedly brought up a family on the strength of her back had lost the will to live. A compassionate, hard-working doctor, he knew when the battle was lost. Besides, he had a queue of patients who had at least a fighting chance. Wanjiku died the same night.

In a village pub, a mosquito perched on Joe Wenjerr’s parched tooth and sucked a mixture of blood and other unwholesome things from the MP’s receding, swollen gum. Parched because when drunk, the MP would sit at the bar for hours and hours, his face split in a stupid, wolfish grin that would dry up his teeth.

He drew some form of relief by exposing his putrefying gums to the breeze. He had sat at the spot when he was the head of a parastatal. Then he was a different man. He would arrive with a briefcase stuffed with Sh200,000 and the night would degenerate into a farce as the bar staff and customers robbed him.

He had no respect for money and never seemed to notice when the bar girls, all whom he had attempted to make love to, charged him Sh10,000 for a couple of bottle of beer or sneaked wads of notes from his bag.

His bar bill, his wife’s plastic surgery boob job and his own little touch-up that he never spoke of had cost the parastatal Sh49 million.

Now he was key opposition MP and spokesman on political reforms and governance. In his more lucid moments, he would ask himself: “Na hii reform tunaimba, ni nini?” And he would conclude that he just wanted things to go back to how they used to be. He was poised to be part of a future government.

Steve Mbosnia came to government to save the country from the endemic, grinding poverty caused by high-level corruption and the torture of the innocent by a dictatorial regime. He was smart, young, a lawyer to boot, with a fantastic family that brought him a lot of joy. That was before he came face to face with the “realities of being government”.

A piece of paper was placed in front of him: By appending his signature, he would sort out his family and political career forever. He would have money to campaign in the next three elections, send his children to the UK, build a home in a funky neighbourhood and buy a small place on the beach in South Africa.

He would be liberating himself to be a better politician, a better patriot, he told himself. One deal and he would never touch corruption again. He signed the contract for a fictitious supply of eavesdropping equipment for the police at a price equal to one tenth of the budget.

Ragnath Pai has two secrets (he never counted the fact that he has never paid tax in his life a secret). Though he passed himself off as an international businessman with “expertise in international trade” he had never made money from business, unless you counted the peanuts his family had made for 50 years selling sufurias. He made his fortune from his “deals”. He had sunk billions into international investments which “needed time to mature”.

Second secret is that he loved his chiropractor like a brother. The man had introduced him to a parastatal buffoon with swollen gums 15 years ago, opening a door to unimaginable, easy wealth. He had given the man Sh1 million during his daughter’s wedding.

Right now he was sending Sh1 billion to his bank in Switzerland. He wanted to buy a college in Bangalore to train young girls in knitting. Of course, he would finally recover his money, somehow. Truth be told, he didn’t know why knitting. But he had always had this thing about looms and cotton. At the top of the pile of money he was pushing abroad was Wanjiku’s shining shilling.

Allow me to provoke your thoughts.

Robbery with violence in Kenya is punishable by capital punishment or life imprisonment. That does not deter hard core criminals because most of them have given up on life, and they would not mind dying vis-a-vis the prospect of quick riches. But the capital punishment too ensures that more hard core criminals are put away, and those who are released through back doors are gunned down by police, what we call extra judicial killings. There are many innocent victims of circumstances along the way, but still the country becomes safer than if all those Matheri Wanugus, shimoli, etal were on our streets.

How should the corrupt be treated?

Now consider this, corruption kills more people than robbery with violence. Some civil servant said that he had a sick patient, and he lives in Kitale. Since he is covered by “free NHIF medical scheme”, he went to the NHIF designated hospital only to be told he was assigned to a hospital in Kisumu, a town he’s never set foot. For purposes of seeking treatment he borrowed fare and took his patient to Kisumu. On arrival, the “Kangaroo hospital” told him his name is not on the list of covered civil servant in that hospital so he had to pay for any services. To cut the long story short, the dude lost the patient. Very sad story replicated from Lodwar to Kajiado, from Homabay to Malindi. Imagine a container in Embu is allocated 4million by NHIF while Mbagathi District hospital gets 200k? Imagine a Clinix mobile hospitals getting 200million while Kenyatta Nationa and referal Hospital KNH gets a million! And when they cannot treat the patient, they refer him to KNH.

People die from fake or lack of drugs in our public hospitals (That’s how my friend’s father died of Malaria of all things deep in the Nyayo era). People die from road accidents when drivers are trying to avoid a porthole (I lost a friend like that who had gone to Nakuru to watch rugby Ten-a-side last month). People die from unroadworthy public vehicles allowed on the road by rogue traffic policemen, people die from consuming toxic maize imported and dumped in our market, people die of poverty after retrenchment from public institution and parastatals that have collapsed; hitherto without any pension, golden handshake or parachute money (I am a victim), generations are lost and become destitute because they cannot afford decent education because of corruption (Our law states that anybody with C+ should access public university at normal fee rates, but because of “lack of funding”, they have to be more creative and look for ways out, and those who make to university are content with doing obsolete or substandard courses.

And my Friend,, what happens when a corrupt government official is caught with pants down? He is told to negotiate repayment with the government with no punishment (Read Pattni and Grand Regency, Read Katana Ngala with Mayors house …. and many more). Is this the law we want? Can’t we kill the living corrupt, as we produce more corrupt. At least that way, we will be balancing them instead of now where we’re just increasing their numbers.

And as we race to the general elections, MPs, Permanent Secretaries, Ministers, senior government managers, e.t.c will be heads over heals competing on who will loot more, so that the next government can find the state coffers empty.

And what will the next government do to finance budget deficits? It will sell the Kengens, Safaricoms, Telkoms, of this world. And the cycle continues.
And that is the inheritance we pass to our children