"Go, get the doctors. I’m dying!”
Those were some of the last words Kiambu cobbler–turned media celebrity James Kamangu Ndimu told his wife hours before he died at the Kenyatta National Hospital on Wednesday morning.
Last year, the little known man from Gachie near Nairobi emerged to claim one of the country’s leading televangelists was his wife.
Mr Kamangu went on to claim the paternity of Bishop Margaret Wanjiru’s sons, Stephen Ndimu and Evans Kariuki, who together with the bishop, disowned him.
The bishop, now an assistant minister for Housing, was last year elected MP for Starehe. And, going by a poster on Mr Kamangu’s wall, he might still have had feelings for the bishop.
On Wednesday, Mr Kamangu’s common-law wife, Beatrice Mbaire, said the husband she lived with on-and-off since 1990 died less than 48 hours after he started vomiting blood at their Gachie home in Kiambu on Tuesday morning.
He had returned home the previous night at about 8pm and went straight to bed.
“He usually wouldn’t eat whenever he came home drunk. He would eat the following morning. So I didn’t find it unusual,” a sobbing Ms Mbaire told Nation.
On the wall of the small sitting room is this year’s calendar of Bishop Wanjiru’s campaign poster, complete with the ODM party symbol. It reads: “Vote Bishop Margaret Wanjiru for Starehe Constituency.”
“He’s the one who hung it (the poster) there last year,” Ms Mbaire said.
The poster is next to a rack on which are five ties. Ms Mbaire said the father of her children, Stephen Ndimu, 18, and 22-year-old step-daughter Alice Waithira, had been in good health all along.
“For the time I’ve known him, he’s never been seriously ill. He’s never been admitted to hospital,” she said.
“I had prepared rice and beans. But he went straight to bed, but woke up on Tuesday at 7am vomiting blood.”
Ms Mbaire said she walked him to Gachie Health Centre where he was referred, then admitted to Kiambu District Hospital.
“All this time he was vomiting blood. I bought him a pawpaw and milk, but he hardly ate. He was put on a drip and had a blood transfusion.”
Mr Kamangu was taken to Kenyatta National Hospital in an ambulance, and on arrival in Ward 3, Mrs Mbiare said, he “vomited blood heavily. He told me: ‘Mundu wakwa (My love), I’m dying. Go and get the doctors.’”
“After a chest X-ray, he confirmed to doctors he used to “drink heavy stuff”, but promised to stop drinking once he got well,” Ms Mbaire said.
“He said he wanted to visit the toilet, but was too weak, and relieved himself in a bucket. It was all blood.”
Only on Tuesday, Mr Kamangu had been telling his wife he would stop drinking.
“He told me he suspected the whole problem had been caused by alcohol,” Ms Mbaire said. She left hospital after midnight. “He wanted me to stay with him but the doctors asked me to go home.”
Last year, Mr Kamangu claimed he was Bishop Wanjiru’s husband through Kikuyu customary law and sought a refund of Sh3,000 bride-price in 1978.
His parents also said the bishop was indeed his wife as they had not divorced.
Mr Kamangu then produced birth certificates to support his claim, but the bishop and sons publicly denounced him.
In January, he told Sunday Nation he still hoped to reconcile with the bishop, and claimed they were in constant contact till 2003 “when things started changing”.
Mr Kamangu proceeded to court, a case that is still pending in the High Court.
During court visits, some transformation could be seen as the man started dressing more elegantly, and carried a briefcase. One day, he changed between court sessions. He turned into a celebrity, attracting large crowds.
According to lawyer Lawrence Kamau, following the death of his client, a case challenging the intended marriage of Bishop Wanjiru would now abate.
But he will consult the family and make a decision on a defamation case filed by Mr Kamangu against the bishop.
Mr Kamangu had taken the bishop to court seeking to stop her intended marriage with South African preacher Samuel Matjeke.
Since its filing, the main case was never heard as the bishop raised an objection, saying it should be taken to magistrate’s court and not the High Court.
This issue was argued by both parties in court and in the end high court judge Justice Benjamin Kubo ruled in favour of Kamangu, saying the case should proceed to full hearing.
The court said it had the right to hear the matter, contrary to Bishop Wanjiru’s protest.
Additional reporting by Oliver Mathenge and Jillo Kadida