The race for the Machakos governor’s seat may finally have shaken itself of legal complications and distractions, following a Court of Appeal verdict that cleared the way for Wiper candidate, Ms Wavinya Ndeti, to face off with Governor Alfred Mutua and two other rivals on August 8.
Ms Ndeti has been more visible in courtrooms than on the campaign trail, as she battled efforts to lock her out of the ballot in next month’s General Election, an eventuality that would have handed Dr Mutua an almost blank cheque in his quest for second term.
A committee of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) had on June 8 locked Ms Ndeti out of the race after “finding” that she was a member of two parties - Wiper Democratic Movement and Chama Cha Uzalendo (CCU) at the same time.
Machakos County Assembly Member Kyalo Peter Kyuli ignited the legal tussle against Ms Wavinya when he lodged the complaint before the IEBC committee.
But Ms Ndeti moved to the High Court a day after IEBC ruled in favour of the MCA’s petition and challenged the decision, arguing that it was erroneous.
She contended that the Registrar of Political Parties was aware that she was vying on a Wiper ticket and not CCU, following the signing of a consent before the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal.
High Court George Odunga, who heard the case, ruled in Ms Wavinya’s favour, allowing her to run.
COURT OF APPEAL
But the MCA and IEBC were not done with her yet.
They rushed to the Court of Appeal, where they challenged Judge Odunga’s verdict.
However on Friday, it was Ms Ndeti’s turn to smile after Appellate Judges Erastus Githinji, Hannah Okwengu and Jamila Mohamed upheld the Justice Odunga’s decision to quash IEBC’s decision to block her from running.
The judges threw out the appeal before them, described is as devoid of merit.
“We find the High Court judge’s reasoning as appropriate when determining this matter which means that this case lacks merit and is hereby dismissed,” they ruled.
With this win in her bag, Ms Ndeti is now expected to channel all her energies in the campaign, in her determined bid to unseat her fierce rival Dr Alfred Mutua.
And with the clout of her party leader Kalonzo Musyoka behind Ms Ndeti, the governor will undoubtedly be having sleepless nights as he seeks to ward off the challenge expected from Ms Ndeti’s corner.
Other candidates in the race for Machakos governor’s seat are erstwhile Deputy Governor Bernard Kiala (independent ) and Jubilee Party flagbearer Lemi Muia.
Dr Mutua captured the seat in 2013 on a Wiper party ticket but left to form his Maendeleo Chap Chap party.
To his credit, the party has managed to attract 911 contestants for the forthcoming elections as compared to the much older Wiper, which has settled for 632 candidates.
This makes Chap Chap the third largest party after Jubilee (1,801 contestants) and ODM (1,289), in terms of candidates in next month’s General Election.
Wiper is sixth behind Kanu and Amani National Congress (ANC) with 695 and 639 respectively.
But the taste of the pudding is in the eating and only the ballot will tell which of the two parties with roots in Ukambani will have the majority of elected leaders, besides the coveted Machakos Governor’s seat.
“This alone has caused panic among top honchos in Wiper who are now out to cut short Dr Mutua’s political career by ensuring he loses to Wavinya in the forthcoming polls,” an insider in the Maendeleo Chap Chap party disclosed to this writer.
The source further said this was the reason why Mr Musyoka has lately been frequenting Machakos to campaign for Wavinya at the expense of doing the same for the National Super Alliance (Nasa) outfit despite being the running mate of its presidential candidate Raila Odinga in next month’s polls.
Mr Musyoka has, in the past two months, joined Ms Ndeti on the campaign trail for at least four times, including the latest forays in Kangundo and Matungulu constituencies on Wednesday where he took along Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho to pitch for Ms Ndeti’s candidature.
During the launch of his manifesto last week at Machakos University, Dr Mutua told his supporters that he would be on the presidential ballot in 2022.
Naturally, such an announcement is viewed in Ukambani as an affront to Mr Musyoka’s presidential ambition as it also challenges his political supremacy in the region for over a decade.
It is against this background that the former vice president has taken it upon himself to do all he could to dim Dr Mutua’s political star and ensure he remains the de facto kingpin of Ukambani ahead of his presidential bid in 2022.
Ms Ndeti, who vied for the Machakos governor’s seat on the Chama Cha Uzalendo party ticket in 2013 and lost to Dr Mutua by over 150,000 votes, is this time enjoying the support of Wiper party and is expected to turn the tables on Dr Mutua, given that she is vying on the party that took Governor Mutua to power.
The court cases that subsequently ensued, challenging her membership however seem to have served to boost Ms Ndeti’s popularity, as she portrayed herself as a victim who was being fought by Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama, whom she views as working in cahoots with Governor Mutua.
Her frequent court appearances, elaborately covered by the media, guaranteed her sustained publicity than she could have otherwise amassed.
The linguistic mix-up spawned the “yaliyondwele sipite” phrase that slipped into her speech as she declared she would forget the past distractions by her political foes and forge ahead.
The phrase became the butt of jokes and trended for a while on social media, earning Ms Ndeti more fame.
Dr Mutua however distanced himself from Ms Ndeti’s court woes saying the cases had been filed by Wiper members and the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission.
Dr Mutua says the formation of the Maendeleo Chap chap party has given Wiper party sleepless nights given his development approach to issues as opposed to the ‘empty rhetoric’ from their competitors.
Governor Mutua boasts of having started numerous projects that include the sinking of 400 boreholes in the county, purchasing 80 ambulances enhancing security by purchasing police vehicles and installing over 600 cctv cameras, rehabilitating Kenyatta stadium to international standards, putting up the Machakos people’s park, providing free and clean sanitary facilities in numerous centres and constructing tarmac roads like the 33 kilometre Makutano/Kithimani road in a record three months, along with the Kakuyuni-Kathiani road.
While addressing residents at Mwala, accompanied by his partner Lilian Ng’ang’a Mutua, the governor accused his opponents of engaging in politics of hatred.
The governor has denied ever criticizing or talking ill of Mr Kalonzo but nonetheless labelled Ms Ndeti a “Kalonzo project whose political ambition was a pipedream”.
The governor, who launched his manifesto a week ago, is promising to transform the county from a third world county to a first world county.
“The manifesto is a roadmap that will completely change the face of Machakos as we have known it. In that blueprint I have committed to build - a first of its kind - The Bank of Machakos,” he said.
Adding: “We will also build an airport; Machakos International Airport to increase businesses between our county and foreign countries.”
On her part, Ms Ndeti has promised the people of Machakos a number of goodies.
“As the incoming government, we commit ourselves to service delivery, reduction of the cost of doing business, eradication of corruption and nepotism, equity, and job creation through transformational leadership for Machakos County people and at large Kenyans,” she said.
Ms Ndet accused Dr Mutua of spearheading unsustainable projects during his tenure leading to wastage of funds.
She dismissed some of the projects - mainly roads - as substandard, having been done hastily.
The former Kathiani MP won the Wiper party ticket with a landslide, garnering 227,947 votes against Deputy Governor Bernard Kiala's 4,508.