The nomination of Zachariah Mwangi Njeru as Cabinet Secretary for Lands is not only a personal achievement but one that is being celebrated by millions in Nakuru County.
Popularly known as Zack Njeru, the nominee hails from Bondeni slums of Nakuru.
The informal settlement has now produced a man who has broken the jinx of Nakuru County missing out on ministerial appointments since 1966 when the late Achieng’ Oneko quit the government.
“I am honoured to be the first person from Nakuru to make it to the Cabinet since President Jomo Kenyatta’s era. This is not just a personal achievement but for Nakuru,” said Njeru, 56. His nomination to the Cabinet was announced by President William Ruto on Tuesday afternoon alongside others who, if approved by Parliament, will help steer the Kenya Kwanza government.
“I have personal experience on land issues having been born in a slum that mirrors what the country is facing, I believe am up to the task and ready to serve Kenyans,” he said.
Njeru was born at the Bondeni Maternity in April 1966 and attended Bondeni Primary School after which he enrolled at Nakuru Day Secondary and later Nyandarua High School.
He graduated from Moi University with an undergraduate degree in Information Science in 1993 and enrolled for a Master of Arts in Public Administration and Management at Mt Kenya University.
During and after his various levels of education, Njeru held various managerial positions in public and private sectors where he honed his skills in leadership and policy development.
“With my education, professional experience and family background, I have faith that I will discharge my duties diligently and effectively as bestowed on me by the president,” he said.
Before his nomination to succeed Farida Karoney, Njeru was the Nakuru East Sub-County administrator. Between 2008 and 2013, Njeru was a nominated councillor in the Municipal Council of Nakuru and served as chair of Finance and general purpose committee. In 2010, he was elected chairman of the Public Health and AIDS committee of the council.
“My nomination to the Cabinet was a shocker. I was on my way to Nakuru while listening to the President unveil his Cabinet. When my name came up, I was dumbfounded,” said Njeru.
In a video recorded by a friend who was driving the car, Njeru is seen momentarily speechless before breaking into prayer. During an interview, Njeru said the task ahead is not easy but admitted that his predecessors had done much from where he will pick up.
“A lot has been done to streamline things at the Lands ministry, especially the digitalisation programme. I am for it to ensure no Kenyan seeking services will be told that a physical file is missing,” he said.
He said under his leadership, land cartels will not have space to unfairly deny ordinary Kenyans their rights to own property.
“There are many cartels out there but they don’t exist in our Constitution. If everyone does their job, we shall weed them out,” said Njeru.
The CS in-waiting exuded confidence that the affordable housing project will succeed under Ruto’s tenure, noting that every Kenyan has a right to a dignified way of living.
“Already we have ongoing housing projects in Nakuru and other parts of the country. I commit to seeing that we achieve the targeted number of cheap but quality housing units in the earmarked areas,” he said.
Local politicians from the Kenya Kwanza Alliance and the Azimio had placed the appointment of persons from the county as one of their demands for supporting either of the political formations.
Governor Susan Kihika and her predecessor Lee Kinyanjui had used the position as a bargaining chip as they campaigned for Ruto and Raila Odinga as presidential candidates.
Governor Kihika congratulated Njeru through a post on social media. “Congratulations Zacharia Mwangi Njeru on your appointment as the Cabinet Secretary for Lands, Housing and Urban Development.”
“This is a huge win for Nakuru which has never had a full minister since independence,” she said in her Facebook post on Monday.
Nakuru East MP David Gikaria also welcomed the appointment. “Nakuru is key in the country’s politics. Any serious government in power should tap into its political potential,” Gikaria said in a telephone interview.
The highest ranking politicians from the county have been assistant ministers among them Koigi Wamwere, Lee Kinyanjui, the late Mirugi Kariuki, and the late Mark Mwithaga, Alice Chelaite and recently Lawrence Karanja who served as the Industrialisation Cabinet Administration Secretary.
There was also Nelson Gaichuhie who also served as the administrative secretary in the Treasury.