BY Mwakera Mwajefa
This year’s Kwale County 2022 missed a crucial cog of the ever-smiling diminutive figure of Simeon Mwero Mkalla whose previous two of post-2010 Constitution political runs were a gem to watch and see but his disappearance during the electioneering period raised eyebrows until his death on September 18, 2022.
The sudden death announcement was not only a ‘shocker’ but also a big blow’ to the family, to Kinango fraternity, to Kwale and the Coast region at large leaving all those who knew him with fond memories of his hardworking, humble and mentoring nature to upcoming politicians.
A Kwale ODM official and businessman Nicholas Zani sees the late Kinango MP of 8th Parliament as an epitome of youth empowerment especially for many Kwaleans while working as the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA)’s managing director in the 1990s.
“Immediately you mention Mkalla, what comes to mind for Kwaleans is that is the person who made our presence felt at KPA in the 90s,” he says on an online query.
He was the ‘engine’ of about 40 management trainees who later ascended to senior positions within the authority apart from for facilitating ‘loads’ of casuals from his home district then, Kinango and other parts of the Coastal region.
As if following his father’s footprints, Stanley Mkalla Mwero, threw his hat for the Bamburi Ward MCA seat on Pamoja African Alliance (PAA) but lost to Patrick Mwavula Mbelle of ODM.
Describing his father’s death as ‘sudden and unexpected’, Stanley says it has thrown the family into disarray and confusion as he was still the ‘head and authority’ although physically ailing from old age health issues.
His burial, according to Islamic rites after converting from his Catholic faith to marry his Muslim love on September 19 at Matumbi mudzi (homestead), brought together friends and foes in the social and political fronts.
Those in attendance, eulogised the deceased’s good mentorship in leadership and governance, especially to Kwale politicians, Duruma community and the Coast region at large.
Among those who attended the burial were Kwale Sen Issa Juma who conveyed Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya leader Raila Odinga and immediate former MP Benjamin Tayari who conveyed President William Ruto’s condolence messages.
Other mourners were former Kwale governor and currently cabinet secretary nominee Salim Mvurya, former agricualture principal secretary Prof Hamadi Boga, governorship aspirant Lung’anzi C. Mangale, local county administrator Samson C. Joho, PAA party national chairman Ibrahim Babaginda and former KPA managing director James Mulewa.
Aged 74, the late Mkalla served as Kinago MP from 1997 to 2002 where he became one of the powerful Moi era politicians locally and nationally while also serving as the Chama ya Baba na Mama (KANU)’s chief whip during the 8th Parliament.
Before this, the MP served as KPA managing director in July 1994 and sacked under ‘unclear circumstances, in January 1996 but later arraigned in courts over Sh7 million scandal for sancting the payment of two old and defective buses in 1995.
This case, later came to haunt him as Kinango sitting MP in 2000 when the Parliamentary Public Investments Committee’s recommended for his prosecution over that loss after the authority had tendered for new buses.
The ‘witchhunt’ sparked Coastal parliamentarians’ anger seeing the move as a conspiracy to intimidate their colleague with Lamu West MP Fahim Twaha dismissing the PIC recommendations saying the deceased had been ‘tried and acquitted in a circus trial in 1995-96’ where he had also being accused of stealing 2,000 cars.
At the height of the car theft, detectives working on tip-offs raided the sacked managing director’s Nyali residence and his Matumbi village homestead in search of the ‘stolen’ vehicles in vain.
Since KPA’s establishment through an Act of Parliament in January 1978, the Port of Mombasa has been the ‘killing field’ of many a career with the late Mkalla being one of among the 13 managing directors slaughtered at the altar since the first MD John Gituma from November 1979 to February 1980.
The only woman to grace the coveted position of the 7,000-employee strong workforce is the daughter of a former MD Jonathan Mturi, Ms Catherine Mturi-Wairi who served for the shortest duration before being replaced by Dr Daniel Manduku who was also showed the door over port scandals!
World Bank 2010 Report notes that narrow vested interests had undermined investments and reforms at the Port of Mombasa with private investments to create new local jobs, greater port efficiency and positive growth being thwarted to maintain the status quo.
A source (name withheld) expresses concern the ‘hire-and-fire’ of MDs at the port happen so acrimoniously that there’s no time for proper handover, thus inconveniencing the government agency’s ‘potential of increasing its port billion-plus business if handled by professional hands’.
Family sourced told the mourners the deceased had been in and out of hospitals fighting diabetic complication for the last two years that explains his conspicuous absence in this year’s Kwale politics.
His death brought to an end an illustrious political career that twice saw him in 2013 and 2017 tried unsuccessfully to vie for the Kwale gubernatorial as candidate and runningmate respectively.
Despite being in different political camps at different election calendars, Mkalla always took exulted a ‘healthy competition’ and never took politics to heart against his archrivals at whichever elective seat of contestation.
After exiting parliament, Mkalla, who leaves behind a widow and six children, had a stint at the Kenya Sugar Researh Board as chairperson.