Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua’s ambitions of playing a major role in the 2022 succession politics got a boost yesterday when his August 8 poll victory was upheld by a Machakos court.
In a decision seen as a major blow to political rival and NASA leader Kalonzo Musyoka, High Court Judge Aggrey Muchelule dismissed a petition lodged by Wavinya Ndeti.
Kalonzo and his Wiper Democratic Movement (WDM) party had hoped Mutua would fall. He has been a thorn in the flesh of regional political order which has seen every elected leader, other than him, support Kalonzo.
In the countdown to last year’s General Election, Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana dumped his Muungano party and ran on a Wiper ticket to support Kalonzo.
Kitui Governor and Narc leader Charity Ngilu also cast her lot with Kalonzo but retained her party. Mutua, however, defied the Wiper wave and was re-elected on Maendeleo Chap Chap ticket.
“I have considered all the evidence placed before me and the submissions by counsel. I have come to the conclusion that this petition lacks merit. And I find that the Machakos gubernatorial election was conducted in a free, fair and credible manner,” said Justice Muchelule amid cheers by Mutua’s supporters.
To rub salt in the injury, the Judge ordered Wavinya to pay Sh10 million as costs of the suit. She has unsuccessfully battled Mutua since 2013.
Justice Muchelule trashed all the pleadings filed by Wavinya in her affidavits that the contested election was marred with irregularities.
“It was not shown any voter was turned away from polling station, nor was it shown that any non-registered voter voted. There was no evidence that any election official influenced any voter to vote in a particular manner,” said Muchelule.
The judge said that where there is alleged commission of an election offence, the standard must be above reasonable doubt.
In her affidavits, Wavinya had claimed Mutua used county government resources to campaign, bribed voters and picked some county staff to work as polling agents in the election.
She had also alleged that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) officials denied some of her polling agents access to the election tallying centre.
However, Muchelule struck out claims of bribery of voters by Mutua citing the petitioner’s failure to produce witnesses to testify over the alleged offense.
In the courtroom, Mutua wore a confident face, sandwiched by his deputy, Francis Maliti and Mwala MP Vincent Musyoka. In the adjacent row, Wavinya sat pensively in the company of his running mate, a former East African Legislative Assembly MP Peter Mathuki.
IEBC declared Mutua the winner of the Machakos gubernatorial election after he garnered 249,603 votes against Wavinya’s 209,144. She had vied on a Wiper party ticket.
After the ruling, the governor addressed supporters outside the court saying the verdict was victory for the people of Machakos, and marks the beginning of his bid for the 2022 presidency.
“My great people of Machakos, I thank you most sincerely for your support. This victory is an endorsement for my 2022 presidency and I invite all Kenyans to board the train for 2022,” he said.
And in a tweet, Wavinya said: “To our friends and the people of Machakos, I thank you for your support. Your vote didn’t count and that is why I urge you all to join us in not recognising the irresponsible, arrogant and disrespectful leadership of electoral thieves.”
Mutua’s deputy in his first term Bernard Kiala blamed Wiper for the loss. Mr Kiala had hoped to the fly Wiper ticket but lost in the nominations to Wavinya.
“Though I feel for my friends in Wiper, I must say the party is to blame. Notwithstanding, time is the best healer. Wiper had a chance to get it right; it’s the end of the road now. Pick a lesson and move on as I did,” he said, congratulating his former boss.