By PETER KIMANI
Without that funny wig he likes to adorn, there was a funny feel to House Speaker Kenneth Marende's face. Even the timbre of his voice appeared somewhat different, its usual strain - like a flute blown from the bottom - giving way to a surprisingly richer tone.
Perhaps it was the relief of having to speak the unspeakable, the admission that he and his ilk have been left holding the short end of the stick.
And Marende, once hailed as the reincarnation of King Solomon, he of hundreds of concubines’ fame, trammelled impatiently about one more broken promise.
The crux of the matter? Marende appears to have taken rather seriously the contents of some note sent to his competent office at Bunge, bearing the seals of approval from even more competent offices like the Treasury, the Office of the President and the Kenya Revenue Authority, all put together. The note promised tax exemption for MPs.
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I think I read somewhere that Tinga and Prezzo attended the meeting, but I’m not sure if Prezzo was in that foul mood when he calls everyone mavi ya kuku (chicken shit), or pumbavu (stupid). That, Marende says, is the last he heard from the two, before he saw Tinga posing for the cameras with a tax cheque in hand. Prezzo, ever the publicity-shy gentleman, decided to present his cheque quietly, same way he did that swearing-in thing.
Still, there is a comic feel to the faith with which Marende clings on to tax waiver letter. After all, the foundation of the coalition Government, and the many disputes that catapulted him to the national limelight, stemmed from the many violations of many "gentleman’s agreements" that went unheeded.
There was that animal called MoU, the one that gave Tinga so many sleepless nights until the frown on his face became a permanent scowl.
Now Tinga says he does not recall seeing any letter exempting anyone from paying tax, least of all Marende, who earns as much as the Veep, who gladly paid his cool Sh4m last week.
What to do? Marende can wear that funny wig and speak from the floor of the House, or even better, wear it to the courts as he is a fine lawyer, and argue his case.
The trouble is, there may be few places where post-MoU disputes can be heard without invoking the words, haki yetu! (our right).
And as Marende surely must know, it is the right of all Kenyans to pay tax. Alternatively, Marende might choose to stand up and be counted – lights, cameras, action – with a cheque in hand. That might not sound Solomonic, but it’s better than looking and sounding helpless. For if you can’t beat them, it’s commonsensical to join them.