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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

Conquering TV screens

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Since their childhood, Anthony Njoroge always looked up to his big sister, renowned actress Nice Wanjeri for encouragement and direction. Popularly known for her former role as Shiro in a local TV programme.

Aunty Boss, her brother, a young gospel artiste, recalls Nice being the bold and daring one who thrived and shone in public eyes, while he was holed up in shyness always running away from the public attention. His mousy nature was so bad that when he ventured on the road to becoming a musician, the entire family was in shock, unable to reconsile his timid nature and the demands of the musical path he chose to venture into.

“In Sunday School, we would practise songs and dances, which would be performed on Sunday, but come the D-day, I would disappear,” he recalls.

Nice and her brother Anthony come from a family of three siblings and grew up in a humble background in Lari, Kiambu county. This taught them the value of sticking close to each other. Things became even worse when they lost their father in 2002 when Nice was 11 years. She had to assist her mum in selling charcoal and hawking tomatoes and shoes to make ends meet.

Anthony Njoroge and his sister, actress Nice Wanjeri.

The journey

In secondary school, she was the drama and music chairperson and won a lot of trophies. But her acting was sharpened at the Kenya National Theatre where for three years she acted in various roles for set books. It was not all rosy because at times she would be turned away and deemed ugly for a role.

The pay was also not good. Nice landed her first TV role in 2013 in a KBC programme called Merimela’s House, before later on in 2014 auditioning for a role in Aunty Boss. She acted as an inexperienced housemaid always doing the opposite of what her boss demanded of her, a role which polished her acting skills and turned her into a household name.

“The role changed her whole life from being a nobody in the acting world, to a star. She really researched to fit into the role and owned the character Shiro. She made that character come alive and I remember always tuning in to watch my sister perform. I was excited watching her on TV. She is always thankful of Lucy Mwangi and Eve Dsouza for that opportunity,” says Anthony.

However, in 2016, their mother died leaving them orphans. Nice, being the oldest had to step in and wear their parents’ shoe. But even as she

struggled to take care of his younger brothers, Nice still continued with her pursuit of acting.

But after three years, 15 seasons, with nearly 200 episodes, in 2018, she quit her role in Auntie Boss due to contractual differences and on the same year, she won the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA), her first international award as the best actress in comedy and TV series. “A fellow actress Catherine Kamau-Karanja informed her about it. She followed up and confirmed. Nice then spread the word to her fans for them to vote for her, as her nomination category was determined by votes. As a family, we supported her by spreading the news on social media and through the word of mouth to her fans and of course by voting. This saw her bring the award home,” he says.

The win saw her get more offers from corporates and other productions. “I’m proud of her because I have seen her grow from acting in drama clubs in school and church to acting on a national TV. I am her number one fan. While it feels good to be famous and all, having a support system means everything. We are close, so we support each other emotionally, spiritually and also mentally,” shares Anthony

Life during pandemic

For now, Covid-19, just like it has affected social, economic and almost all areas of life, has not spared her. However, she is creating online content for her fans and building her brand at the moment.

Nice is also a mother of one and being a public figure sometimes demands a lot of time out, especially when working on big projects. However, having a daughter grounds her and she ensures that she compensates for the time lost.

“Motherhood is beautiful and she always tells us that it has taught her to put her daughter first. My niece turned nine this month,” he says.

Her daughter too loves the camera and always expresses her wishes to one day sing and act just like her mother. However, Nice says she would let her chart her own path and will support her in the process. The former Auntie Boss actress is currently dating after breaking up with her baby daddy in 2018. However, neither Anthony nor Nice wanted to reveal details of her new relationship.

AT A GLANCE

• Born in Lari, Kiambu, Nice Wanjeri attended Kibagare Primary School in Lari constituency, Komothai Girls Secondary School in Githunguri, Kiambu.

• Her passion for acting started when she was young. She was a bold girl who participated in music and drama in church and school.

• Giving birth while still young and new in the industry was not easy. She had to carry her daughter who was still young to the theatre.

• Her brother, Antony Njoroge aka Addeh Prince who looks up to her is a budding gospel artiste. His first album is titled Journey, which he has been working on since 2017.

ANTHONY

“I have seen Nice grow from acting in drama clubs in school and church to taking roles in a national TV. I’m so proud of her

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Business

Why I switched to organic farming

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Sylvia Miloyo started faming as soon as she completed her undergraduate studies in community development.

This is because farming was her first love. But there was a problem.

Like many farmers, she used pesticides and fertilisers which were chemical-based and readily available in the market.

Four years into the venture, she had read so much about  the negative effects of the use of chemical-based farming inputs that she vowed to get a solution for it.

This prompted her into becoming an organic farmer.

She transformed her farm into an organic farming set-up using her savings.

“As of acquiring skills, I just practiced, did a lot of reading and attended short trainings at Real IPM in Thika,” said Sylvia who also holds a Diploma in Business Management.

In this type o farming, she had to include a variety of crops, mainly vegetables.

“In organic farming, you never really mono crop. I have never practiced mono cropping but prefer to grow at least 15 to 20 types of vegetables at every one point,” she said.

According to Ms Miloyo, organic food is healthy for humans and animals . She practices farming in her two farms in Limuru (five acres) and Mai Mahiu (10 acres).

Since adopting organic farming, she says she has attracted clients who she says “are about what they eat and want to only consume safe products.”

According to the White Paper Report on Pesticide use in Kenya, Pesticides are widely distributed in the environment (like air, soil, water and plants) and as a result, water and soil quality are decreasing and there is an increase in chronic health effects that are suggested to be related to pesticide exposure.

“Many pesticides are either acutely toxic, have long-term toxic effects, are endocrine disrupters (acting on the hormone system), are toxic to different wildlife species or are known to cause a high incidence of severe or irreversible adverse effects,” reads part of the survey.

Ms Miloyo sells her produce mainly through home delivery based on requests.

“Many of our clients are middle class working people and our pricing is very similar with conventional farming, so we basically sell to everyone.”

She noted that takes at least three to years to convert from conventional farming to organic farming.

This also comes with the challenge of battling with pests and diseases in the beginning before you create a micro climate and have a natural balance, where you no longer have too many pests to deal with.

“Market can be an issue for organic suppliers because the populace are not well educated on the benefits of organic farming.”

In order to meet the demands of all her clients, she has an outlet in Nairobi, from where she sells her produce.

She has established dams to collect rain water as well as a borehole for irrigation.

By Nation.co.ke

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Health

Former NMG journalist laid to rest

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Former Nation Media Group journalist Timothy Kipngetich Kemei was laid to rest on Tuesday.

During the burial event, Kimei was eulogised as a young hard working journalist and a role model to many.

Local leaders including Emurua Dikirr MP Johana Ngeno, Kericho County Assembly Speaker Dominic Rono, Leader of Majority Hezron Ngetich and Kapsoit MCA Paul Chirchir attended the ceremony in Tulwab Moi village.

Until his death, Kimei was Kericho County government’s chief public relations officer.

He died late last month while undergoing first aid at Siloam Hospital after an asthma attack.

He was rushed to hospital by his wife and a colleague at around midday, but passed away while doctors attempted to resuscitate him.

He got the first attack at 3 am on Sunday and was rushed to hospital where he was stabilised and discharged.

He developed a second attack at around midday and did not recover from it.

He is survived by his wife Mercy and a two-year-old son

By Nation.co.ke

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