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Coast governor aspirants clash over county's bloated workforce

By Patrick Beja | August 3rd 2021
Chairman Gulf group of companies Suleiman Shahbal.[Omondi Onyango, Standard]

The issue of a bloated workforce at the Mombasa County has emerged again as the race to succeed Governor Hassan Joho gains momentum.

The issue almost disintegrated Joho’s first administration.

Aspirants for the seat, Suleiman Shahbal and Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir clashed over the issue, with the former blaming poor services in the county on lazy or compromised employees.

Mr Nassir supports calls for the county to get rid of workers allegedly sabotaging Joho’s administration by siding with private investors to erect illegal buildings in the county.

On the other hand, Shahbal says no employee will be laid off and has criticised Nassir for threatening the county workers with the sack.

Yesterday, Nassir said Shahbal was playing politics with the issue.

“It is cheap politics for anybody to claim that I will sack workers en masse when elected governor. I only reprimanded corrupt individuals who are not enforcing planning regulations,” said Nassir.

While speaking during the distribution of bursaries by Governor Joho at Makadara grounds, Nassir called on the county chief to sack those who were aiding owners of new buildings, especially in Old Town and Majengo to interfere with sewer lines, or he will have them laid off once he becomes governor. 

But speaking to over 700 youth at the floating island restaurant along the Nyali bridge at the weekend, Mr Shahbal opposed proposals to sack 4,500 county government workers. The politician, who was accompanied by former Kisauni MP Rashid Bedzimba, said no leader had the right to arbitrarily dismiss county employees. Instead, he said leaders should look for alternative ways to create more job opportunities for Mombasa residents.

“Some people have not yet been elected to office but are threatening to sack county workers once elected. Workers have the right to be in employment without political interference or intimidation,” Shahbal said.

Shahbal’s veiled attack seemed to be directed at Nassir, who yesterday said he only emphasised the need for efficiency among Mombasa county government workers.

The county government inherited a workforce of 4,500 from the defunct Mombasa Municipal Council who at inception of devolution caused Joho trouble following prolonged strikes over delayed pay and allowances.

The bloated workforce has also been common in Kwale, Kilifi, Taita Taveta, Tana River and Lamu counties, because they inherited the employees from the local government units.

At the same time, Shahbal who recently defected from Jubilee to ODM pledged to attract big investors to the coastal county in a bid to create jobs.

Bedzimba urged Shahbal to use his vast networks in business to ensure he creates jobs for the people of Mombasa. “I plead with you that if you take over office do not sack workers. Instead, create more jobs,” Bedzimba urged.

Shahbal is facing stiff competition in his race for the ODM ticket from Nassir and Deputy Governor William Kingi. Others who want to succeed Joho are former Mombasa senator Hassan Omar and Kisauni MP Ali Mbogo.

ODM party leader Raila Odinga has since declared that there will be an open race for the party ticket as he will not endorse anyone.

Shahbal said he will reach out to owners of big companies across the world to invest in Mombasa so as to create jobs. He also said he will ensure the county government invests in big projects such as housing development and train locals on starting businesses.

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