In the August 2022 General Election, Zaheer Jhanda broke the deep-rooted clan politics in Kisii to win an elective seat. Ten months after his election, Zaheer is portraying a different style of politics in the region where nearly all elected leaders win their seats based on clan numbers.
Recently, Zaheer hosted President William Ruto for an interdenominational church service at Nyaturago Stadium.
The President assured Zaheer of his support to deliver key National Government Constituency Development Fund (NGCDF) and National government projects in the constituency.
“I am a teacher in the political field, other than working with him, I will mentor Zaheer for future assignments. I have walked with him all along,” Ruto said.
Nyaribari is split into two; Chache and Masaba. For years, politics here has revolved around the majority clan. Their politics is christened “Kamba Nane ‘’ which reflects the eight clans in the large Nyaribari.
Dr Daniel Manduku, another first-time MP, represents Nyaribari Masaba.
He invited more than 100 youths to his Kisii townhome
A day before the President toured Kisii, Zaheer invited more than 100 youths to his Kisii townhome, and to the surprise of the attendees, he walked out of his house and issued employment letters to five of the youths.
- President Ruto flags off 20,000 Oxygen cylinders across counties
- President Ruto commissions cyberknife treatment for cancer patients
- Community health workers boost counties universal healthcare bid
- Inside UON's digital health facility
He said he had collected data from among the youth and he had all the details on his constituents’ academic background. “The five were not aware of my plans to get them permanent and pensionable jobs,” he said.
Kitutu Chache North counterpart Japheth Nyakundi admits that Zaheer’s style is always unpredictable.
“I do visit various offices in Nairobi but in most cases, Zaheer walks in ahead of me. His mind is always on the bow to get employment letters from government offices.”
According to Zaheer, his desire to go for an elective seat was inspired by a vision to change the long-held narrative that one must belong to a certain clan to win an election.
“Unfortunately, some leaders openly discuss their clan inclination. Clans that have never had one of their own ascend to power have always been left behind in terms of development.”
Zaheer explains that Nyaribari Chache is his clan.
“I have been here for years but sometimes I don’t even get to know the names of some clans. All I know is that we have wards, locations, and sub-locations where I allocate resources without prejudice.”
He says he has set the stage for a new era of leadership in the area that is driven by empathy and innovation. “I don’t have a clan that I represent in my constituency, every opportunity I get, be it either employment or development, I give it to the constituents.”
He says; “I recognize that the power to effect change lies not only in the hands of the elected representative, but in the collective efforts of the entire community. I have fostered an environment where every voice is heard and every opinion matters.”
Nyaribari Chache is largely cosmopolitan with more than 88,000 registered voters consisting largely of the Abagusii community and those of Luo, Agikuyu, Somali, Luo, and Kamba communities.
In the 2022 general election, Zaheer, a Kenyan of Asian origin, was making a third attempt at capturing the parliamentary seat. He won the seat after garnering 31,684 votes against the then incumbent Richard Tong’i of Jubilee who had managed to get 10,039 votes. Tong’i was defending his seat for a third term.
The businessman cum politician joined politics in 2012 and vied for the parliamentary seat on a URP ticket losing to Chris Bichage, who later lost the seat after a successful petition by Tong’i.
Zaheer was a friend of Raila Odinga’s late son Fidel Odinga. “We used to borrow money from Raila to do business.”
Still, Zaheer has been a friend of President Ruto for 17 years now.
“He has the qualities to steer the country to the next level. He is a man who stays true to his words,” he says.
A father of three, Zaheer says; “Kisii is my home. I was born here and my wife, Alice Moraa comes from here. Hence, my choice to run for the Nyaribari Chache seat.”