Taaita Taveta County Governor John Mruttu participates in the 4km race during the 11th edition of the Madoka Half Marathon championship at Ngerenyi Farm in Wundanyi within Taita Taveta County. [PHOTO BY GIDEON MAUNDU/STANDARD].
Six aspirants have declared interest in the Taita Taveta gubernatorial race as they seek to unseat Governor John Mruttu.
The region has been experiencing a hive of political activity and road shows even as ODM candidates make a final rush ahead of party nominations this month.
Former Central Bank of Kenya Deputy Governor Jacinta Mwatela is the latest candidate to join the gubernatorial race dominated by male politicians. She will vie for the top seat on an ANC party ticket.
Other candidates include Senator Dan Mwazo (Jubilee Party), immediate former Coast Water Services Board chairman Granton Samboja (Wiper Democratic Movement), Wundanyi MP Thomas Mwadeghu (ODM), former Permanent Secretary Emmanuel Kisombe and a Mombasa businessman Erastus Katani, all from the larger Taita community.
Mr Mruttu of ODM is from the minority Taveta community. The governor will battle it out with Mr Mwadeghu, the parliamentary Minority Whip in the ODM primaries on April 17.
Mr Mwazo, Samboja, Mrs Mwatela have no rivals in the party primaries.
The candidates have a huge task ahead, namely explaining to the electorate how they would resolve pertinent issues affecting the local community like the unresolved thorny squatter issue, persistent human-wildlife conflict, water shortages and the unresolved boundary disputes with the neighbouring counties of Kwale, Makueni and Kajiado.
Others include the poor rural access roads, high poverty and unemployment levels, drug abuse, gender-based violence (GBV) and food insecurity.
The incumbent, Mruttu, says he will ride on his achievements in the health, agriculture and education sectors.
“We have made great strides in economic development despite financial constraints. Key sectors of the economy like education, health, roads, water, mining and agriculture have been revamped to spur economic growth in the once-marginalised county,” said the governor.
On education, Mr Mruttu said the county administration had so far recruited 645 pre-primary teachers and constructed 188 classrooms and rehabilitated several others.
The county had also given full sponsorship to about 20 secondary school students who had scored 400 marks and above in KCPE from 2014 to 2016. He said the sponsorship programme would continue with rewards for KCPE top performers this year.
The governor said his government introduced a school feeding programme in nursery schools and for the KCPE and KCSE candidates.
“My government has also rolled out mobile library services in rural areas to help improve the standards of education,” said Mruttu.
On health services, the governor disclosed that several new health facilities had been constructed and the existing ones rehabilitated, fully equipped and staffed.
To improve food production, the governor said his administration purchased five tractors and supplied subsidised fertilisers to improve food security.
Samboja, the only youthful aspirant, has been instrumental in laying the foundation for multi-billion-shilling water projects in the county, among them the Sh42 billion Mzima II pipeline which he successfully negotiated when he was the chairperson of the Coast Water Services Board.
He has been involved in community projects like sponsoring hundreds of bright students from poor families across the county.
Several boreholes, water pans and other water projects have been implemented during his tenure as the chair of the water board.
He recently commissioned the Sh75 million phase one of a water project funded by the World Bank that will supply more than 3.2 million litres of water per day to Taveta town.
Samboja, a prominent businessman and media practitioner, has also been sponsoring youth sports activities, supporting youths and women groups in business.
Those who have interacted with him say the aspirant is generous, courageous, outgoing and a go-getter.
Mwazo, who recently defected to Jubilee, said he had joined the winning team in the run-up to the August election to ensure that the local community is in government.
The senator said before joining the Jubilee Party, he met President Uhuru Kenyatta who promised to address pertinent issues affecting the local community.
Mwazo is credited for establishing several learning institutions while he was Voi MP between 2007 and 2013.
Mwadeghu, through CDF, has sponsored several poor students to further their education, besides implementing development projects geared towards uplifting the living standards of the residents.
Mrs Mwatela is the only female politician among six male politicians vying for the top seat. She narrowly lost to Mruttu in the 2013 gubernatorial race.
Asked if she was scared of facing several male politicians, the banker-cum-politician said it was not a big deal.
“I was born in a family of many men. I was the only senior woman manager in the CBK and competing with male politicians does not worry me. I have worked among men,” the aspirant told The Standard in a telephone interview from Nairobi.
The politician is a brother to the former outspoken Wundanyi MP Mashengu Wa Mwachofi who also served as Shirikisho Party of Kenya national chairman.
Jacinta believes her experience as a manager and public servant makes her the best manager to run the county.
She says she should be elected on a platform of reforms and spirited fight against corruption and impunity.
She is credited with exposing mega scandals while at the CBK.
Governor Joho in another run-in with police