The Machakos County voters’ choice for the gubernatorial position will most likely remain unknown until after the August elections with recent public polling suggesting an extremely close race.
If ratings from the pollsters are anything to go by, the race to succeed Governor Alfred Mutua promises to deliver a blanket finish pitting three hopefuls with strong political bases in the county’s eight constituencies.
According to the pollsters, former State House Chief of Staff Nzioka Waita, former Chief Administrative Secretary Wavinya Ndeti, and former Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama are the front runners for the seat.
Both Muthama and Wavinya have served Machakos residents as legislators and one would argue they fully understand the Machakos County political terrain. However, Waita is the newcomer proving to be a worthy competitor. But, who are they?
Nzioka Waita, the son of the first Caltex Oil General Manager Raphael Mwangangi Waita, left his esteemed position as statehouse Chief of Staff to try his hand in politics.
He is a lawyer and has worked for among other companies, the prestigious Dally & Figgs Law Firm, from where he was headhunted by Safaricom to spearhead its Legal and Regulatory Affairs Department.
At Safaricom, Waita rose through the ranks to the position of Director of Strategy and advisor to then-Chief Executives Michael Joseph and the later Bob Collymore.
It was while he was implementing the third phase of the Safaricom renaissance that he was poached by President Uhuru Kenyatta to head the Presidential Delivery Unit (PDU). Waita has said his desire to join politics is borne out of the need to help his community rise above poverty.
Nzioka Waita during the Machakos County Gubernatorial Debate held at the Scotts Christian University. PHOTO: Jackson Mnyamwezi
Waita has the backing of Machakos Business Community and Education stakeholders who include teachers drawn from Mwala, Yatta, Masinga, and Machakos Town constituencies. He has also bagged the endorsement of a number of Machakos Women Groups.
He also appeals to the middle class residing in the cosmopolitan Syokimau and Mlolongo estates.
Waita has promised to offer solutions to issues such as water scarcity which has been perennial, strengthen the health care system and ensure Machakos landowners secure title deeds.
He is also pledging top-class Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) through the construction of additional classrooms, employment of ECDE teachers, and the introduction of a school feeding program if elected.
He is also promising to revive coffee farming, and ensure proper zoning (for agriculture) and planning in the County.
Waita admits that politics is not his specialty but noted that he was seeking political office purely to economically empower his people.
He is currently the Party leader of Chama Cha Uzalendo, a position previously held by one of his competitors – Wavinya Ndeti, who led the outfit before she decamped to Wiper.
Wavinya Ndeti is no stranger to politics and in particular Machakos County. She was elected MP for Kathiani Constituency twice, in 2002 and 2013.
Wavinya has also held numerous positions in government including; Assistant Minister for Youth and recently as Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) under President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government.
Unknown to many, it is Waita who lobbied for the appointment of Wavinya as CAS Transport. In Waita’s own admission, he did so so that the former Kathiani MP will assist his native Machakos County to lobby for projects from the national government.
But as fate would have it, the two now have to go head to head in the race to earn the right to be the next chief executive officer of Machakos County.
While at CCU, Wavinya was a fierce critic of Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka, and only softened her stance when she declared allegiance to the former VP.
Her loyalty earned her the direct nomination from Wiper, the party which is sponsoring her once again for the Machakos Gubernatorial seat.
She is a Computer Science and Business Administration graduate. Wavinya is promising progressive leadership by coming up with programs that will improve education, infrastructure, agriculture, and health care sectors.
Johnson Muthama is a politician well known outside Machakos. For many years, Muthama has been at the center of Kamba politics and is famous for being a community mobilizer since 1992 during the reign of then Masaku political kingpin Mulu Mutisya.
He once served as KANU Vice Chairman in then Machakos District. He actively campaigned for current President Uhuru Kenyatta under KANU when he first sought the country’s leaders in the 2002 general election.
In 2007, he rallied behind Kalonzo Musyoka’s bid for the country’s presidency and was himself elected the Member of Parliament for the Kangundo constituency. When the grand coalition government was formed after the divisive 2008 post-election violence, Muthama was appointed Government Chief Whip.
In 2013, the outspoken Muthama was instrumental in the formation of the opposition coalition – CORD. He represented Kalonzo as Wiper inked a political deal with Raila Odinga-led ODM.
He is the first elected Senator of Machakos County after the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution. Courtesy of his senior position in Kalonzo’s circle, Muthama became the first Senate Minority Whip in 2013.
In 2017, he parted ways with Kalonzo and is now the Chairman of Deputy President William Ruto-led United Democratic Alliance (UDA).
He declined to seek an elective post in 2017 but is now making a comeback with his eyes fixed on Machakos Governor’s seat.