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Kensalt Limited and Patel Coffee Estate boss Perry Mansukh. [File, Standard]
The owner of the Solai dam that killed 48 people has said he was a victim of the tragedy.

Perry Mansukh, the general manager of Kensalt Limited, termed the collapse of the dam a 'natural phenomenon' and attributed it to massive deforestation caused by farming on the hills that overlooked the dam.

Mr Mansukh, who is facing manslaughter charges, yesterday told a Senate committee that he had obtained the necessary permits for the construction of the dam.

"I have the licence issued by the Ministry of Water in early 2000 which was then under the Directorate of Water Services. I'm not so sure about the dates but I undertake that we shall provide the committee with the necessary documents," said Mr Mansukh.

Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni), the committee chairman, asked: "Do you want us to believe that you cannot remember the year or the date a dam was constructed but you can remember when you started planting tea on the farm?"

Last year

According to the director, the Water Resources Authority renewed the permit of the construction of the dam last year and it was due to expire in December.

The sitting was interrupted by lawyer Evans Monari, representing Mansukh, who engaged the committee in a debate over the decision to summon the farm owner.

Mr Monari told the committee most of the queries raised in the letter of invitation touched on both criminal and civil cases in various courts.

"We have several suits, both civil and criminal, in court. What this committee is trying to do is to establish liability. The forum for liability is the Judiciary. We should have been happy to answer all questions to the committee with the burden of the suits," Monari told the committee.

He accused the committee of using House privileges to prejudice Mansukh's cases in court and objected to the order of the committee compelling his client to give testimony on the matter of the licence.

"We are prepared to cooperate with the committee to ensure justice for the victims. But we are worried about the investigations by the Senate, which look unfair. Our client is a victim of tragedy as well," he said.

Nominated Senator Sylvia Kassanga asked Mansukh to say whether he had visited the victims of the tragedy and what he had done to mitigate their suffering.

She also asked him to explain whether he had made any attempts to confirm the authenticity of the list submitted to him as a true reflection of the victims of the tragedy.

"Have you visited the victims of the tragedy and offered your sympathy to them personally? In what ways have you shown that you sympathise with them? What sort of compensation have you offered?" asked Ms Kassanga.

Mansukh denied claims that he had compensated the affected families, saying that being part of the Solai community, he had offered a token of goodwill to help the families restore their immediate requirements.

"I have not offered any compensation. What we offered was a token of goodwill and to help the families meet their immediate needs. It was not a compensation. But because this matter is in court, I cannot anything further," he said.

Three generations

He said his family had been part of the Solai community for close to three generations and had helped build six secondary and three primary schools and provided clean water to the residents.

Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja asked Mansukh to produce proof that the commercial activities he carried out on his farm were approved through the necessary licensing agencies.

On Tuesday, the committee pressed Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko to re-draft the rejected recommendations of an environmental restorative order by the National Environment Management Authority.

The committee argued the report was defective.

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