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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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Lifestyle

Tweeting Chief Kariuki laid to rest in emotional sendoff

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Emotions ran high in Nakuru’s Umoja Primary School as hundreds of mourners turned up for the funeral ceremony of popular Chief Francis Kariuki of Lanet Umoja.

Kariuki, who died last Wednesday aged 55, shot to the limelight in 2011 after he joined the provincial administration from his teaching profession and utilised Twitter as a main tool for his new job.

Among the awards under his name for his use of technology in administration included a Giraffe Heroes Kenya Award 2014.

His burial was conducted at his home in Githioro, Bahati, where dozens of administrators thronged to pay their last respect to their chairman under the National Chiefs Caucus.

The funeral which was conducted under strict adherence to Covid-19 regulations was attended by Governor Lee Kinyanjui, County Commissioner Erastus Mbui and Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri.

Praises

Kinyanjui eulogised the administrator as an example in leadership and community policing who had a keen interest in development and service to humanity.

“Chief Kariuki is a household name in the county. He was a good leader and we used to consult on development issues including water provision to residents and security,” said Kinyanjui.

While calling on other administrators to be creative and efficient in their jobs, Kinyanjui said that there were many opportunities for them to explore in combating crime and propelling them to greater heights.

“Through the Twitter platform, he transformed information dissemination that led to improved security in Lanet. His use of social media was inspiring and earned him recognition locally and internationally. We appreciate his contribution that made the society better,” said Kinyanjui.

It is his use of social media that earned him the title “Tweeting Chief” which later presented for him a stage to travel across the globe sensitising administrators on the security tool in their line of duty.

Mbui described the fallen administrator as a selfless person whose influence was felt beyond his location where his administrative jurisdiction was limited to.

“We have lost a dedicated, innovative and dynamic civil servant. He tirelessly worked for his people and his death has left behind a huge gap to easily fill. It is his good deeds that made for him a name beyond Nakuru and Kenya,” said Mbui.

The deceased’s wife Peris Kariuki described her late husband as a humble and servant leader who was all round in his job and as a family man.

“I have been robbed a great friend and husband who was always there for his people and his family. He was an ambitious and hardworking man. You had big dreams. I will miss you, my husband. Let your soul rest in the hands of our God,” Peris said.

The residents condoled with the family describing Chief Kariuki as instrumental in resolving their societal issues.

“His office was always open. He had a listening ear without discrimination. We have lost a great leader and civil servant. His humility was beyond expectations compared to his name,” said Jane Karanja, a resident.

According to the family, Chief Kariuki died at the Nakuru Level Five Hospital where he had been rushed after complaining of difficulties in breathing. He had also for a long time battled with diabetes.

The mourners in disbelief braved heavy rains at his Githioro home as he was finally laid to rest.

Chief Kariuki worked as a teacher in different schools for 21 years before he enrolled for a Bachelor’s degree course in Counselling and Psychology at Mount Kenya University.

By Standardmedia.co.ke

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Education PS revealed number of learners, teachers who tested positive for COVID-19

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BY KEVIN KOECH

Education PS Belio Kipsang on Wednesday reported that 17 learners and 33 teachers have been infected with Covid-19 since schools re-opened.

Dr Kipsang stated that the cases had been recorded in 35 schools countrywide

He, however, clarified that the numbers are not worrying to the ministry and as such there are no plans to close the schools.

“We are not about to close schools unless advised by the Ministry of Health, but we are putting our heads together to work our modalities of reopening other classes,” the PS stated.

The PS further blamed the cases on parents, citing recent political campaigns as the breeding ground for the virus.

“Our challenge is our parents attending political rallies and other social gatherings without masks, let’s not blame our children, why tell us to achieve social distance in schools if parents are attending rallies without observing measures?” he posed.

Dr Kipsang was giving a report to the National Assembly Education Committee.

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Ole Sereni hotel win big in road reserve land case

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BY KEVIN KOECH

The Kenya National Highways Authority has lost a case over a parcel of land on which the 5 Star Ole Sereni hotel was built.

According to court documents, the National Land Commission (NLC) awarded the hotel a notice to vacate the land on which a road to the Internal Container Depot in Nairobi is being built.

Justice Bernard Eboso, however, reversed NLC decision explaining that the owners of the hotel had not been granted a proper hearing.

He also observed that the commission had produced conflicting dates when the directors were offered a chance for a hearing.

In a gazette notice, the commission had claimed that it invited the directors between January 30, 2017 and February 2, 2017.

NLC’s verdict before the revocation, however, indicated that the directors had been invited on March 27, 2017.

In its defense, Ole Sereni argued that it had purchased the land in question from a company identified as Swan Carriers Limited in 2007.

“Upon acquiring the two properties, the applicant obtained relevant development approvals and established the hotel thereon.

“The development took about three years. Ole Sereni Hotel is a reputable facility in the hospitality industry,” the hotel’s representatives told the court.

In July 2017, the state revoked titles for 136 parcels of land it intended to acquire for the construction of the Southern Bypass.

The bypass connects Mombasa Road and the Nairobi-Nakuru Highway.

At the time, the state explained that it had ruled the parcels as belonging to the public after listening to several parties in the matter.

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