When politicians walk barefoot, wear rags and dig graves of strangers
Politics is a dirty game. But now it seems that you have to also literally make your hands dirty to remain in the game. Joining jigs during social gatherings, which used to be sufficient back in the day, is now old school.
You must soil hands and build mud-walled houses in villages. Sitting in the VIP tent after landing ceremoniously with a sack of maize and an envelope stuffed with several thousand-shilling notes used to do the magic, but not anymore. You have to roll up your sleeves and help mourners fill the graves of people you have never met in your life.
knows this only too well.
“We are still seeking answers to this rather unusual character of the MP. When the other VIPs leave the venue, Mr Chepkut joins locals at the grave side and does not leave until he fills the grave with soil. Is it an act of humility or a cheap publicity stunt?” wondered Philip Kimetto, a Uasin Gishu resident.
He said the legislator had been urged to avoid such but he vehemently dismissed anyone ‘lecturing’ him on how to conduct himself while serving his constituents.
Chepkut told The Nairobian he doesn’t understand what the fuss is all about.
“When you have been elected to serve, you become a servant of the people. Burying my constituents is a demonstration of service, not seeking political millage as many try to put it,” he said. The lawmaker says his work in the community is not just about grave digging.
“I have joined villagers in digging up trenches and road construction. I have even carried water pipes on my back on many occasions. There is nothing peculiar about this,” he said.
He said he wants to demystify the myth that once someone is elected, they become “Bwana Mkubwa” who cannot interact with wananchi at the grassroots.
His Kimilili counterpart Didmus Baraza is a master of the game. He has addressed a gathering barefoot, worn a pair of tattered shorts and played football with primary school girls in a viral video.
He has also been photographed constructing ‘semi-permanent’ houses for impoverished families in his constituency.
“What I am doing is part of my campaign manifesto. I had promised the Kimilili people that upon my election, I would eliminate all grass-thatched houses. I laugh when my critics see this as a PR gimmick but it comforts me when I see a family smile inside a decent house,” he noted.
He added: “So far I have built more than 5,000 houses across Kimilili constituency and I feel that I have left an indelible mark. Let those dismissing my philanthropy go on because I am not about to stop.”
Baraza said he visits the homes to supervise construction and ensure there is value for money, not for publicity.
But Uasin Gishu political pundit Benjamin Leting dismisses such actions as mere PR antics meant to hoodwink the masses.
“I get dismayed when I see leaders kneeling before fellow mortals for votes yet God is the only one we should bow down to. They should serve in silence, not shout all over the place,” he said.
Leting admitted that while politicians do a lot of things to uplift wananchi, the bottom line is aimed at boosting their political mileage.
“The leaders have clear job descriptions which include but are not limited to legislation and oversight over use of public resources. But many politicians ignore this and would rather invest in activities that enable them to pose for pictures for mainstream and social media,” he said.