Tea board defends decision to postpone directors polls to 2024

Patrick Ngunjiri company secretary for East of Rift Valley tea zone with Kamau Ngatia the chairperson for Iriaini tea factory in Nyeri. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

The Tea Board of Kenya (TBK) has deferred the elections for factory directors to 2024.

The postponement is likely to widen the rift between the directors and those who were edged out after Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya’s reforms.

TBK representative for East of Rift Valley, a region that covers Mt Kenya counties,  Mwangi Kirigwi, said the move will give directors time to implement reforms initiated by former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration.

According to the law, a third of directors are required to retire annually with an option of seeking reelection for second and final three-year term.

The delay means that some directors will serve for six years uninterrupted since the memorandum of association for tea factories does not envisage a situation where all directors are subjected to election.

But TBK clarified that those who will not have been subjected to elections will not seek an additional term.

“We consulted the office of the Attorney General and the proposal was included as part of the agenda in the annual general meetings in all factories to be approved by farmers,” said Mr Kirigwi during the annual general meeting of the Iriaini Tea Factory in Nyeri. “By facilitating for deferment of elections, we were adhering to President William Ruto’s directive.”

A section of farmers and former directors have protested the move. “The elections that saw them occupying the offices were done against a court order. They have now gone ahead to postpone the election without involving members of the public through public participation,” said former zone two director, Francis Macharia.

John Kamau, a farmer, said the amendment was only brought forward during the AGM and there was no room to approve or reject it.

But, the company secretary of the East of Rift Valley tea growing zones Patrick Ngunjiri said the time was not ripe to disorient the term of directors who have had a myriad  challenges in implementing the tea Act that came into force last year.

Speaking at the meeting, Mr Ngunjiri said factories under his jurisdiction had sought for the revision of the management contracts with the KTDA Management Services to give factories more say.

“The revised contracts are before TBK, who are expected to revise them before overseeing the signing,” he said.

Mr Kirigwi announced that TBK will give licenses to tea packers and distributors to give room for value addition.