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Best kept secret: How chauffeur earned the trust of five bishops

Alfred Waburi Gatubu, a driver who earned the trust of five different ACK Mt Kenya Central from 1990 to 2021. [Ndungu Gachane, Standard]

When Alfred Gatubu resigned from Kanyenya-ini Tea Factory in 1990 to work at St James Cathedral, he never imagined he would be tasked with driving the bishop.

In his previous job he drove a truck, ferrying tea from farms to the tea factory in Kangema.

After a successful interview, he was employed by the church with his job description being transporting church workers and running other errands. His employer, the Mt Kenya Central Anglican Diocese, then covered the whole of Murang’a County and parts of Nyeri County.

One day in 1992, Bishop John Mahiani asked Gatubu to stand in for his chauffeur.

Mahiani loved Gatubu’s work so much that when his official chauffeur returned, he was reallocated other duties and he retained Gatubu.

Bishop Mahiani retired a year later and Bishop Julius Gatambo was elected.

Gatubu was almost sure that he would be deployed since word had it that Gatambo was fond of disrupting the status quo.

He recalled how Gatambo in his acceptance speech promised to fire everyone and establish new blood in the church. The bishop was feared and revered at the same time.

“Nobody in the church administration wanted him. I didn’t know him well, but I had noted a silent campaign against him before he was elected. I joined those who were silently praying that he does not get elected,” Gatubu recalled.

Before the elections, Gatubu revealed, the church had sponsored Gatambo to pursue further education in the US so that he does not campaign to succeed Mahiani.

“They had hoped that when he came back, he would have lost the grassroots links and desire to lead. But he came back energised.

After ascending to office, the driver disclosed that Bishop Gatambo made good his threat to fire workers. When he found you on the wrong, Gatubu said, Gatambo had all the facts and there was no room to argue.

“He would table evidence and read out your charges. If you started flip-flopping, you were shown the door but he ensured you got your dues. But when you admitted your mistakes he would retain you but with a warning.

“He hated sin. He is the most forthright man of God I have ever worked with,” Gatubu said.

Gatubu earned the trust of five different bishops [Ndungu Gachane, Standard]

At some time, as they were heading to Murang’a from Nairobi, the bishop told the driver to be prepared to face the sack. He said those who employed me erred by appointing me on permanent terms against the church regulations.

He started preparing for his exit. He went to the Sacco and borrowed money to cushion him during the time he would be out of a job.

A week later as they were heading to another function, the bishop asked Gatubu whether he was preparing to leave. He posed the same question after two weeks.

“I pleaded with the bishop that it is those who employed me who erred and not me, but he insisted in restoring order,” he remembered.

One Sunday morning, Gatubu was directed by the bishop to carry some equipment to Kangari while another driver was instructed to pick some priests and then the bishop. The other driver ignored the directive and decided to start by picking the bishop at his home. His actions angered Gatambo who reprimanded him and ordered him to go and pick the priests first. Unfortunately, on his way back, there was an accident.

“That is how the bishop changed his mind and informed me that he had now officially hired me. We became close friends and he would consult me from time to time. He would visit my home where we would pray together,” recalled Gatubu.

He drove the bishop for 11 years and remembers him as a no-nonsense man, confrontational and brave compared to the former bishop whom he described as soft.

By the time Gatambo was retiring in 2005, he had added his driver another responsibility of being his chaplain -a role he conducted with honour.

After Gatambo’s retirement, came Isaac Ng’ang’a. Gatubu started preparing to leave since the church allows every bishop to have a driver, administrative secretary and Bishop Secretary of his choice.

But before Ng’ang’a could find a new driver, it was Gatubu who had the honour of driving him again, they fitted in well and the bishop had no need of replacing him.

He remembers Ng’ang’a as a conciliatory leader who unified the church.

Ng’ang’a retired in 2015 and Bishop Alan Waithaka took over. Again Waithaka continued with the driver until 2017 when he was succeeded by Timothy Gichere who Gatubu drove until he retired last year.

The father of three told The Standard that he knew so much that was happening in the church, but he kept it to himself.

“At one point, I overheard one of the bishops vowing to fire a priest who was my close friend. I could not share the information with him or even plead on his behalf since I had to stay on my lane as a driver,” said Gatubu.

He became friends with all the bishops he served, and is proud that they all would from time to time seek his guidance and counsel.

“One time a bishop was threatened that if he failed to replace a priest, the members would kill him. He directed me to drive him to the police station, but before we reached I differed with him and advised him that it was not the best decision. He listened to my advice,” he said.

According to Gatubu, he never caused an accident throughout his career. He advised drivers working for influential people to concentrate and not betray their bosses. “I know a lot about the church from boardroom politics to operations but I will die with the secrets. Drivers should learn their bosses’ moods, and their likes and dislikes,” he advised drivers.

Today, you are likely to find Gatubu relaxing at home in Maragua with his wife. Their three children are all grown up. One is an engineer, the other two an accountant and a secretary to the bishop.

The current bishop, Dr Timothy Gichere, described Gatubu as a trustworthy, humble, diligent and punctual driver. Retired Bishop Isaac Nganga praised Gatubu as a someone with a clean heart and respectful.