By Prudence Minayo
Members of parliament in Kenya rank among the best paid in the world. This is evidenced by the high end car they drive, posh homes and enjoying a tipple at exclusive members only clubs. However, the late David Mwenje was a one of a kind legislator. He would often enjoy keg at ‘Hitler’ club with locals at what most rich men would consider dingy bars. He also drove an ordinary car and lived in Dandora. This made him a peoples’ favorite as he was seen as one of them.
Some say his home was always accessible to his people who didn’t need an appointment to see him. He was also involved in the fight for equitable distribution of land among squatters in his area during Moi’s reign. This easy go lucky attitude is said to have cultivated a cult-like following for the former Embakasi lawmaker.
Here is his story as told by WoK.
The simplicity of his life, however, is not a reflection of his political career. As a politician, he was known for being opinionated and going after what he wanted no matter the cost.
The vibrant politician began his career in banking before switching to politics. In the late 1970s, he represented Dandora as a councilor.
In 1988, he was elected MP for Embakasi after a vote recount. Mr. Muhuri Muchuri (the sitting MP at the time) defeated him in the queue voting by 2294 votes. He only had 1397. The elections were protested violently and repeated through a secret ballot. Mwenje won with 4,610 while Muchuri got 3, 850. He served Embakasi until 1991 when he lost to Henry Ruhiu of Ford Asili.
In 1997, he managed to win the seat on a Democratic Party Ticket. He lost the seat in 2007, coming forth after Melitus Were, John Ndirangu and Ferdinand Waititu.
In 2005 David Mwenje was appointed cooperatives assistant minister.
Most of the time, his suggestions/comments during parliamentary meetings were often received with humor. However, he did not initiate any known legislation in Parliament except in 1989 when he initiated a no confidence motion against the late Dr. Josephat Karanja. This would later force Dr. Karanja to resign as vice president in May 1989, making him the shortest serving vice president. Following this, he was appointed assistant minister for supplies and marketing.
Some described the former MP as a man willing to do whatever it took to retain power. He was involved in several altercations with a number of politicians and even a news anchor.
Kiambu woman representative Gathoni Wa Muchomba once narrated how the seasoned politician pulled a gun on her. During her time as a journalist, Gathoni was known for her critical comments on a number of politicians including former president Mwai Kibaki.
“He came to the studio carrying a gun. I made a comment on air about him being a form four drop out and that really got to him,” she recalled.
His most famous fight was perhaps with the late former Mbita MP Otieno Kajwang. The two were reportedly involved in a fight which led to Kajwang biting him. In a public meeting with his supporters and the media, it is said he removed his shirt and showed where the fellow politician had bit him. This resulted in a number of his supporters unsuccessfully hunting down Kajwang to teach him a lesson.
He lost his first wife Isabella Njeri in 1999. The couple had four children: Maureen Waithera, Mark Mureithi, Eric Kamau and June Watetu.
The firebrand politician was admitted to the Agha Khan Hospital in January 2008. David Mwenje went into a coma and was taken to the Intensive Care Unit where he passed away days later.