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Was JJ a politician’s politician or a silent philanthropist?

By BONIFACE GIKANDI | Published Sun, December 14th 2014 at 00:00, Updated December 14th 2014 at 09:42 GMT +3
Joseph Kamotho. [PHOTO: FILE]

NAIROBI: Over the years, many associated the late politician John Joseph Kamotho with lots of riches, seeing that he often contributed hundreds of thousands of shillings during fundraisers every other weekend.

In his humble background, the son of Nyokabi as his age mates proudly referred to him, remained in touch with the local and national politics despite having been ousted from Parliament several times by his arch rival the late John Njoroge Michuki as Kangema political battles intensified.

Even after he was allegedly associated with the individuals who plotted the 1982 failed coup, Kamotho remained a darling of many who were opposed to Michuki.

To support his young family, Kamotho opened a kiosk along one of Nairobi streets and that place became his political office -- and he drove a Volkswagen Bettle.

His political friends never abandoned him as they continued sharing ideas and assisting him to scheme on how he would re-capture his parliamentary seat.

Even as he was in the political cold, his star did not dim and he was nominated to Parliament and subsequently appointed to the Cabinet.

His appointment gave his opponents sleepless nights and they continued looking for ways of bringing him down since he participated in many fundraisers to support educational institutions and churches.

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KEPT APPOINTMENTS

His close his associate and former driver Stanley Kinyanjui remembers Kamotho as a leader who never had a note book or a diary but never failed to keep his appointments.

“At no time did I spot him writing down anything down as he never carried a note book with him,” Kinyanjui says.

Kamotho helped found Upendo Children’s Home which ideally was established by his family. His four children mobilised friends and organised charity walks and bicycle races to raise fund for the destitute.

Even though he faced strong opposition in Mathioya because he was a staunch defender and supporter of Kanu, he worked towards the establishment Ngutu Secondary School in Gitugi Ward. The locals praised him for saving their children from travelling long distances to a day secondary school  in the area.

Unknown to many, Kamotho had green fingers and was among the tea farmers in Muthangari village in Mioro area and a shareholder of Gatunguru Tea Factory. He was always the first one to raise issues whenever the annual tea bonus was low.

Despite having his plate full, Kamotho, it seemed just loved to be in politics.

In the last General Elections, his family was not comfortable with his bid for the Senate but later supported his campaigns after he showed no signs of giving up.

 After the elections, his family started shielding him from political friends because they did not want them to engage him in political debates as that could interfere with his blood sugar level.

REAL ESTATE BUSINESS

During the campaigns for the Senate seat, he collapsed at General Ihura Stadium. His aides and well-wishers assisted him to his vehicle, and after having a soft drink, and probably after his sugar level rose, he recovered.

To many, that was a sign of his undying spirit when it came to politics.

After he lost the elections in 2007, Kamotho retreated to real estate and assisted his wife Eunice Wambui in commercial farming. They sold milk from their farm directly to hotels in Nairobi and its environs.

His son, Jimmy Kamotho said his father was concerned with farming and after  the elections, he ensured that his dairy cows were  well taken care of.

“He also went into piggery and poultry farming as he supervised his real estate business,” said Jimmy. Even Kamotho’s political rivals talk well of him because of his development record.

Murang’a assembly speaker Nduati Kariuki says Kamotho’s presence was felt across the country and not just in Murang’a because of his development programmes.

Nduati, who represented Makuyu constituency, described Kamotho as a dynamic person who remained focused and fulfilled his dreams even as he faced great opposition.

“We can see how he served Moi and Kanu and today he is being celebrated because he helped in different capacities,” Nduati said.

GUARDED SOFTER SIDE

Kinyanjui, his former driver said that during the 1988 campaigns, they could not afford a decent meal and they ate sweet bananas they bought at Kaharati market on their way to Kangema.

“But his life changed immediately he won the parliamentary seat and we could now afford meals at any of the hotels in Kangema and Murang’a towns, but he was a man who loved to eat with his family,” Kinyanjui said.

Jimmy, who accompanied his late father in campaign meetings described him as a unique person who participated a lot in charity work outside politics.

“The family founded Upendo Children’s Home in Murang’a and he frequently visited it and organised trips for the children,” Jimmy says, and adds that his social life, and softer side, was very guarded, and many people only knew Kamotho the politician.

Jimmy, who is Kamotho’s second child, said his father made sure that many children from various parts of the country attended school. “He used to pay their fees and he personally kept tabs on their performances on which he would be briefed by the head teachers.

“Since he was doing charity work, he did it silently, but at graduation of each of them, he asked a member of our family to accompany him to join the families of the beneficiaries in celebrations,” Jimmy says.

The politician will be remembered for having put a spirited fight that helped to carve Mathioya constituency despite low population from the vast Kangema constituency in 1997.

One of his memorable quotes during the campaigns for Mathioya parliamentary seat in 1997 was, kura siyo mayai ya kuweka nyumbani. Enda tupia kiongozi yoyote ule aliye simama na chama cha Kanu.

Joseph Kamotho, who has been invariably described as a politician’s politician, but was a quiet philanthropist, will be buried on Wednesday in his Muthangari home in Mathioya constituency, according to his family.

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