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Drama as villagers kept at bay during Mastermind tycoon Wilfred Murungi’s burial

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In life, Mastermind Tobacco tycoon Wilfred M’iti Murungi was reclusive; he hardly mixed with villagers in his Magutuni village in Tharaka-Nithi County.

After he died, the villagers and his friends were asked to keep off his burial ceremony at Kiurani village, Maara constituency.

Only eight family members were allowed to witness his burial on Tuesday, a ceremony that lasted approximately one hour.

HEAVY SECURITY

Heavily armed police officers from Magutuni and Chogoria police stations were deployed to Mr Murungi’s palatial homestead.

They guarded the three gates leading to the home, making sure no villager sneaked in to see the body of the man referred to as ‘Master’ descend into the grave.

Two choppers, one carrying the casket and the other the tycoon’s family members and a clergy from Nairobi, touched down at Kiurani Primary School at around 11.10 am.

From there, a Mercedes-Benz hearse ferried the body to the home about a kilometer away.

The casket was hurriedly taken out of the chopper and loaded into the hearse by family members including Mr Murungi’s two sons and two daughters.

Curious members of the public were kept at a distance by police officers and local administrators, only seeing the casket that was wrapped with nylon papers through the school’s fence.

Businessman Wilfred Murungi

Wilfred Murungi, who founded the Mastermind Tobacco company. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

NO JOURNALISTS

Journalists who turned up in large numbers to cover the send-off were also barred from accessing the school and Mr Murungi’s home.

They were only able to take photos of the choppers and the hearse through the school’s fence.

At the home, locals hired to dig the grave were asked to leave and wait outside the gate only to be called back to fill it with soil.

One of the men, who sought anonymity, said that when they returned into the compound, they did not view the casket because the pit had already been half-filled by family members.

One of the police officers guarding the home said no photos were taken during the service and that there were no printed eulogies.

WIFE’S BURIAL

Though the locals were astonished and also angered due to being kept off, they acknowledged that Mr Murungi’s wife, Joyce Ithiru Murungi, who died back in 2012 was buried in the same manner.

Only 40 people were allowed to witness the ceremony and residents said Mr Murungi did not witness the burial.

“He landed at the same primary school in a chopper containing the body of his wife, handed it over to his children and the other family members and immediately went back to Nairobi in the chopper,” said Mr James Mutembei, a villager.

Another local said that during the burial of the wife, water was poured on the dusty road from the school to his home and that nothing was cooked.

DISAPPOINTMENT

Members of the Arua clan to which Mr Murungi belonged expressed disappointment after being denied a chance to bury one of their clansmen or to even contribute for the ceremony as traditions dictate.

A local administrator told the Nation that Mr Murungi’s eldest daughter directed that no one should get closer to the casket upon its arrival at the school grounds.

Only 20 people were to attend the burial, going by the number of seats at the venue, but things changed and only about eight people were allowed into the home.

In fact, some relatives, including one of the deceased’s nephews who had driven his mother, were turned away.

“The son has been asked to stay outside with the vehicle and wait for his mother,” said Mr Nicholus Mutegi, a villager.

Wilfred Murungi burial

Family members of the late Wilfred Murungi, who was Mastermind Tobacco’s chairman, offload the casket containing his remains from a chopper at Kiurani Primary School in Maara constituency ahead of the burial on June 11, 2019. PHOTO | ALEX NJERU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

UNFAMILIAR

Mr Murungi worked as an engineer at British American Tobacco (BAT) before quitting and setting up Mastermind Tobacco in the late 1980s – first in Nakuru and then, when the business flourished, in Nairobi.

He had to fight survival wars in the cut-throat tobacco industry, fighting the government, and the BAT, something that could have changed his lifestyle.

Young people in the village who are on their early 30s did not know him physically. They only heard of him and saw his two luxurious homes in Magutuni and Mwiria, both in Maara constituency.

These homes are highly guarded, with one having to pass through four gates before reaching the houses.

Villagers rarely visited the homes since Mr Murungi and his family lived in Nairobi.

The four children are also not known to the locals.

CHARITY

Despite the secrecy, the name Master was known even by the young people because of Mr Murungi’s charity work in the community.

He only used his representatives in the village to attend to social functions in the village.

The tycoon supported almost all the neighbouring schools in putting up infrastructure.

For Kiurani Secondary School , whose board he chaired for many years, Mr Murungi bought a bus and constructed a multipurpose hall that is named after him.

He also supported Igakiramba Secondary School in building a laboratory and paid fees for hundreds of children through his family foundation.

“He made sure all bright children from poor backgrounds continued with their education and employed them in his companies after they graduated,” said Ms Lucy Kaari, a resident.

The tycoon also offered a market for all tobacco grown in the region and always paid promptly.

Wilfred Murungi burial

Police officers guard a gate to the home of the late Mastermind Tobacco founder Wilfred Murungi during his burial at Kiurani village in Maara constituency on June 11, 2019. PHOTO | ALEX NJERU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

WORKERS

More than 200 people who have been working at Mr Murungi’s farm in the village do not know their fate following his death.

In fact, some of them started quitting after hearing of his demise though they had gone some months without pay.

Before he died last week, what troubled him most was the impending forced sale of his properties to settle a Sh2.9 billion tax claim demanded by the Kenya Revenue Authority.

Mr Murungi’s Mastermind Tobacco, the makers of the Supermatch brand, had been forced to file a consent in court indicating that the pioneer indigenous cigarette maker in Kenya was willing to dispose of 12 properties in order to raise Sh1.54 billion as partial payment of one of the biggest tax claims against a local entrepreneur. He would do anything to succeed.

It was also reported by his handlers that at the tail-end of his life, Mr Murungi was willing to offload 51 per cent of Mastermind shareholding to the global giant Phillip Morris, the makers of Marlboro, hoping to resuscitate his venture.

Although Phillip Morris is a global company, it has a limited African footprint – in South Africa and Senegal. Mr Murungi hoped that he needed such muscle to survive this callous market.

GOVERNMENT TENDERS

In 2018, a company associated with Mr Murungi was awarded a tender to tarmac the nearly 30km Keeria-Magutuni-Kathwana road at a cost of Sh1.3 billion.

However, the tender was terminated after Maara MP Kareke Mbiuki petitioned Kenya Rural Roads Authority (Kerra) complaining of laxity in the work.

According to Mr Mbiuki, a company associated with Mr Murungi was set to be given a tender for construction of the proposed Maara dam at Sh6.2 billion.

A company associated with him is also working on the Sh300 million Kirumi kiamujari irrigation project which is also in Maara constituency.

The project is halfway complete.

EULOGIES

President Uhuru Kenyatta eulogised Mr Murungi as an industrious and vibrant entrepreneur who made a significant contribution to the growth of the manufacturing sector in Kenya.

In his condolence message to family and friends, President Kenyatta said the country had lost one of its most prominent business leaders.

“I am deeply saddened by the death of Mr Murungi. He was a man of great insight and unique leadership qualities. His commitment and determination were his strongest assets,” he said.

“His death leaves a gap that will not be filled, certainly not by these few words of consolation, but we thank God for the time we shared with him, just as we are grateful for the full use he made of it.”

The President further said that Mr Murungi will be missed by many Kenyans, especially those whose lives he positively impacted.

SOURCE: Nation.co.ke

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First-time governors struggle to fulfill pre-election pledges

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By JUDITH GICOBI

Two years in office, many first-time governors in the North-Rift region are struggling to achieve their pre-election plans.

A finance audit report shows that there is a lot of wastage and loss of millions of tax payers’ money in stalled projects.

The electorate is criticizing the governors for failing to achieve their development and fight against corruption plans committed by the former leaderships.

Nandi’s County Governor Stephen Sang is struggling with the residents who term his tenure being characterized by stagnated development projects despite receiving a colossal amount of money by the Treasury to improve the local economy.

“We fail to understand why it has taken the governor too long to reorganize education, health, infrastructure, among other sectors, which have a negative effect on the delivery of goods and services to residents,” said Ms. Mary Too from Mosoriot.

According to residents, the shortage of drugs has affected about 150 out of the 196 health facilities while education and infrastructure departments are experiencing similar challenges faced by previous administration.

The last Auditor-General’s office blamed the devolve units for not using Kshs 2.5 billion when several projects stalling due to financial challenges.

In West Pokot County, Governor John Lonyangapuo, a first-time governor also, is battling graft in the awarding of tenders in the past regime, which led to a huge loss of public funds. He has sort help from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to investigate the inflated tenders, something that the residents say remains unresolved ever since the administrator took office.

Prof Lonyangapuo has suspended 23 projects started by former governor Mr Kachapin to enable scrutiny.

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Uhuru: We are returning river to its course

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State officers with a penchant for having one leg in public service and another in private practice will now have a choice to make between the two or risk being sacked over conflict of interest.

While addressing the country during the 55th Jamhuri Day celebrations on Thursday in Nairobi, President Uhuru Kenyatta said it is against the leadership and integrity for state and public officers to dabble in private practice whether gainful or not at the time their services is required for the nation.

Consequently, the President directed Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki to fast-track the submission to Cabinet for approval and transmittal to Parliament for consideration the Conflict of Interest Bill, which has been subject to stakeholders’ consultation.

And this could be the first proposal from the Building Bridges report that the President has sought to implement.

Under the chapter on corruption, the report proposes to address conflict of interest by reducing public officer involvement in business with the government.

Senior public officers who represent the government on the boards of private companies should clearly indicate any personal conflicts of interests in matters under deliberation.

“The position is simple; you either serve the public in the role you signed up for or you serve the republic as a private practitioner. It is a profound conflict of interest to do both,” President Kenyatta said.

The President said State and public officers are not above the law and that “our constitutional order is a jealous one”, which demands government officers serve no other master but the public.

Deputy President William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and his Senate colleague Ken Lusaka, Kalonzo Musyoka of Wiper, ANC’s Musalia Mudavadi and leader of majority in the National Assembly Aden Duale are among dignitaries who attended the celebrations as did former first lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta.

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley was the country’s special guest at the celebrations.

In a 52-minute speech delivered at the Nyayo National stadium, President Kenyatta said judges and magistrates must cease completely any legal practice while in office.

He said doctors, engineers, accountants and other professionals who take up state or public office, should give up private practice and devote their full time and energy to public duties.

This, according to the President, is important to rid any perception that they are using state or public office as a platform to advance other interests.

The President’s pronouncement is a big blow to lawyers who are actively engaged in private practice yet they are elected people’s representatives in Parliament and county assemblies.

It also targets individuals who are gazetted as teachers yet they serve as MPs or members of the county assemblies (MCAs).

The President’s message comes as two senators, Mutula Kilonzo Junior (Makueni) and Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet), and Makueni MP Dan Maanzo appeared for Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, who was arraigned on Monday over misuse of public funds.

Curiously, the same senators are charged with the responsibility of supervising the expenditure of public resources at the counties, prompting the President to pose whether it is fair and right for legislators who have control over funds and exercise oversight over the Judiciary to appear in courts as counsels.

“Is it fair on the judicial officer hearing the case or the other parties that one party in the case is represented by persons who can literally change the law applicable to the dispute, control the career progression of the judge or magistrate, or are able to speak with the voice of an entire arm of government?” he posed.

But even as the senators appeared for the embattled governor, the President reminded them that no magistrate, judge, or any other state or public officer who has abused public trust should be allowed to hide behind the veil of autonomy and independence.

In 2017, Siaya Senator James Orengo led a team of lawyers serving as MPs — Tom Kajwang’ (Ruaraka) and Peter Kaluma (Homabay Town), among others — in the petition challenging the election of President Kenyatta at the Supreme Court.

Interestingly, in 2013, then-Makueni senator, as Senior Counsel, the late Mutula Kilonzo, a renowned stickler for the rule of law and due process, bolted out of a team of lawyers representing Mr Raila Odinga in the petition he filed against President Kenyatta because of the risk of conflict of interest.

Mr Kilonzo Senior, however, played behind the scenes as a consultant during the case. The current Makueni senator is the son of the late politician.

Things are also not looking up for MPs Omboko Milemba (Emuhaya) and Wilson Sossion (nominated).

Despite being teachers with leadership positions their unions — Kenya Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) and Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) respectively — they are also MPs.

The President’s move, therefore, is a win for the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) boss Nancy Macharia, who has had her previous decision to deregister Mr Sossion as a teacher swiftly overturned by the courts.

Speaker Justin Muturi hailed the President’s remarks, saying the issue of conflict of interest is against the leadership and integrity act under Chapter Six of the Constitution.

“We will deal with the bill when the time comes. But it is wrong to engage in private work when knowing that you are a government officer,” Mr Muturi said.

by Nation.

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Photos of Grace Msalame’s dad the legendary Tony Msalame who marks birthday during Kenya’s Jamhuri day

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Today would have been the birthday of Grace Msalame’s dad. The veteran Kenya broadcaster Tony Msalame died aged 57 after a sudden illness.

Tony passed away after suddenly collapsing at his Sheki Studios in Mombasa after he complained of chest pains.

Grace took to her social media to celebrate her dad as Kenyans celebrate the 56th Jamhuri day celebrations.

‘9years on… Today would have been your bday so I celebrate My number one Hero today & always Papa♥️ Happy Jamhuri Day 🇰🇪 #TheBestToEverDoIt #Papa #ShekiLegi

Tony Msalame.
The late Tony Msalame,father to Grace Msalame
The late Tony Msalame,father to Grace Msalame
The late Tony Msalame,father to Grace Msalame
The late Tony Msalame,father to Grace Msalame

Below are some reactions from People who knew him back in the day when he was a host on Radio.

namelesskenya:Yoooo… Was your dad’s major fan from days of Tushauriane!!!!!💯. May he continue resting in peace as we celebrate his legacy on his bday!

kalekyemumo: What an amazing man, he contributed so much and gave us you… an amazing soul. Happy birthday to his greatness ❤️❤️❤️.

yamusau:A man who inspired us to the direction we eventually took, and a namesake. In high skool as entertainment captain, I went by his full names…I honor him today, I bless his soul, forever! May God watch over u Grace, and your offsprings, and his offsprings. Forever.

nyambura8387: Sheki legi was the in thing back then, truly missed… Continue resting in peace Tony Msalame.

cathythuo75: I loved his sheki leggi. Gave me morale when I was spring cleaning on Saturdays. He is missed🙏.

missnthigab:We got to know about Kenyan based series cz of him amazing 🙌 respect mad respect rip

By Mpasho 

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