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.