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Embu granny, 100, jailed after failing to raise a fine of Sh100,000 imposed for contempt of court

By Joseph Muchiri | March 19th 2015
Margaret Ngima, 100, who is serving a jail term at Embu Prison, being assisted by a welfare officer Wednesday. [Photo: JOSEPH MUCHIRI/STANDARD]

EMBU: A 100-year-old woman serving a jail term at the Embu Women Prison has entered into the institution’s books of history as the oldest inmate ever.

For Margaret Ngima, being sent to the correctional facility was a shocker considering that during her energetic days, she had neither been imprisoned nor imagined it would happen in her sunset years.

When we visited her at the facility Wednesday, Ngima appeared out of place and even the warders and fellow inmates seemed at loss on how to handle the elderly mother of four.

She said she missed home where noise from her great grandchildren would keep her busy and when bored she could visit her age-mates and neighbours.

At the prison, another elderly inmate after her is a 70-year-old woman who incidentally calls her “mum”.

Yet, she is not pestering warders with demands to go home as she has resigned to double-barreled fate to either complete the jail term or stay until her two free but jobless sons raise a Sh100,000 fine.

Ngima was sentenced to three months imprisonment by the Embu High Court for contempt of court together with her sons Peter Njue, 72, and Angelo Gichovi, 52, on March 10.

They are accused of ignoring a court order to allocate a two-acre parcel to Justa Wawira who has since 1997 been demanding a share of the family’s five-acre land at Nthambo in Embu County.

Wawira’s father, who is not related to Ngima’s family, had rented part of the land and is said to have claimed a share before he died.

They were found guilty of contempt of court for failing to obey orders to revert the family land, which had been subdivided into eight parcels, to its original state so Wawira could be allocated a share.

Lady Justice Florence Muchemi ordered Ngima to pay a fine of Sh100,000 or spend three months in prison.

Njue and Gichovi were each sentenced to six months in jail without the option of a fine.

Ngima, who never attended school and cannot read, says she had dutifully obeyed all court orders as informed by her sons and their lawyer and it was a shock when she was jailed.

At the prison, Ngima has privileges including being assisted by welfare officers who ensure she is bathed, her clothes washed, gets the right food and her sleeping place is in order.

A welfare officer at the prison, Chepkoech Maiyu, said the other inmates are empathetic of Ngima’s predicament and volunteer to wash her clothes. She walks aided by her walking stick and has to be seated most of the times while the prison has provided her with two blankets to keep her warm.


Her prison labour involves simple sweeping or sorting out of beans for prisoner meals when her frail body allows.

Fortunately for her, the prison that has 111 inmates with 14 confined together with their children provides balanced diet food that can be consumed by people of any age.

Maiyu spoke of the few times when the elderly inmate asked for a cup of tea or chapati even when they are not readily available, sending them to frantically get the same.

But when everyone else is busy, Ngima said loneliness creeps in and she longs for her family members to visit.

The prison deputy officer in charge Sarah Mulatia said the woman’s misery and loneliness is compounded by the fact that, in her advanced age, they cannot put her in any training course.

Ngima’s son Patrick Mbogo described the sentence as unfair taking into account the granny’s old age.

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