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Ruto's democracy by exclamation and a brief housing history

Peter Kimani
 President William Ruto admires farm produce during the commissioning of the Mweru Umoja Irrigation Project in South Imenti Meru County. [PCS]

I noticed a significant bump on my salary this week — so debtors can call in their dues — and I was trying to figure out what wasn’t happening. Alright, alright, I’m trying to translate the street lingo, “what’s not happening,” and it’s turning into a mishmash.

Let me put it plainly:  I scrutinised the tiny strip of paper that some of us receive at the end of the month, baffled because it was healthier than it has been for a while. It took even longer for me to work out the puzzle: I had more cash in hand because I had been spared from the housing levy, which the Court of Appeal suspended recently.

The court ruled members of public like myself had not participated in the process, and we still haven’t, in such a crucial matter that affects our lives.

A furious Prezzo Bill Ruto, speaking in Meru in the aftermath of the judgement, promised even more forcefully kazi itaendelea — the work would go on, as he was determined to provide work for unemployed youth in our nation. And he posed the question: “Kazi iendelee isiendelee…”

The assembled crowd roared back, which Prezzo Ruto said was the unequivocal endorsement for the Housing project.

It’s called democracy by acclamation, which is an extension of what unfolds in Parliament; MPs need not read or even consult before they commit to a decision. The Speaker’s summary of a motion is enough before they assent with a simple acclamation of “ayeeeeeeeeeeee.”

That’s of course, assuming that there is adequate quorum in the House, even though they put in only 2.5 days of work weekly and earn more monthly than some of us ever will in a lifetime. And upon the expiry of their terms, those same individuals are guaranteed pensions till their last breath on earth.

But that’s not my problem. If Kenyans enacted a constitution that accords politicians the right to do wrong, you really can’t blame them. But I refuse the idea that the housing project is a scheme to loot Kenyans blind.

Well, I am not underrating our politicians’ capacity for rapacious greed, but I’ll cut Prezzo Ruto some slack and say he seems consumed by this idea of housing Kenyans, so there must be an inner motivation.

But that’s not to say he’s the first Prezzo to think about housing our people. Prezzo UK, freshly retired and recently seen teeing off somewhere, reached out to private individuals with some money to spare and encouraged them to put their money where their mouths were.

Results: some modestly priced housing units that were gobbled faster than they could make them. I understand some are even more competitively priced than those offered under the affordable housing projects.

His predecessor, the departed Prezzo Mwai Kibaki, the one who rarely opened his mouth to speak, unless he was dismissing the minions for being bure kabisa (very useless) and mavi ya kuku (chicken poop), did a more remarkable fete: he invested in brick-making machines in every county. They were/are leased out for free to Kenyans in need of shelter.

And the citizens could apply their minds and decide when and where to build their houses if they wanted to. For as long as Prezzo Kibaki was concerned if some folks decided to live on treetops, instead of building brick houses, that wasn’t his problem.

Now Prezzo Ruto aspires to have a kitty of unlimited funds that will be used to build houses for Kenyans to purchase at undefined rates, using their own sources, even though the seed capital has come from taxes from the very same Kenyans.

As for the question of ownership, where the land is owned by the State, or how Kenyans who pay tax but don’t need a house will be compensated, the response was so convoluted, it called to mind Prezzo Kibaki’s exhortation: bure kabisa.

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