Waiguru’s impeachment acquittal: Innocent or Teflon Effect? - Beaking Kenya News

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Saturday, 4 July 2020

Waiguru’s impeachment acquittal: Innocent or Teflon Effect?

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru talks during her impeachment hearing at the Senate on June 23, 2020

Teflon Don. This was the nickname given to John Joseph Gotti Jr, an American gangster, who at the age of 12 was working as an errand boy for an underground club run by the Gambino family — one of the top five largest organised crime families in New York.

He later became the leader of a gang called the Fulton-Rockaway boys, which engaged in frequent robberies and carjackings. This created the trajectory for him to become the Gambino’s family biggest earner, and later its head after he organised the murder of the Gambino boss.

With Gotti at the helm, he ran a multi-million dollar illegal operation that thrived on racketeering, drug trafficking, extortion, illegal gambling and loan sharking, making the Gambino family the most powerful crime syndicate. He also left a trail of dead bodies of those who dared to cross him.

Despite his criminal history, his ability to stave off the law earned him the nickname Teflon Don, after three high-profile trials all resulted in his acquittal. It was later revealed that to protect himself and his operations, Gotti had ordered all his underlings to refuse any plea bargains that compromised his crime network. He also foiled convictions through witness intimidation, jury tampering and high-level bribery.

Teflon is a brand name for polytetrafluoroethyene or simply PTFE. It’s a synthetic chemical made up of carbon and fluorine atoms. It provides a non-reactive, non-stick and almost frictionless surface. Its nonstick qualities make Teflon coated cookware convenient to use and easy to clean. Its melting point is 327 °C , making it highly heat-resistant.

In politico-speak, Teflon has since become a moniker synonymous with the concept of accusations of wrongdoing not sticking to a person.

On June 9, Kirinyaga MCAs passed a motion to impeach Governor Anne Waiguru-Kamotho. They recommended her removal from office citing abuse of office, conferring benefits to herself and gross violation of the law. Subsequently, an 11-member Senate Special Committee was set up to probe the impeachment motion against her.

After a two-day hearing, the Senate committee acquitted her on  grounds that the charges had not been substantiated. In their collective wisdom, they concluded that her impeachment was as a result of the MCAs' acrimonious, contemptuous and cold relationship with her.

KIonically, despite their finding, they made two recommendations: One, the prosecution of the county Supply Chain Management director and two, that the tender committee members step aside to allow for investigations.

Governor Waiguru is not new to high-profile graft accusations. In 2015, she was before another parliamentary committee testifying over the disappearance of about Sh1 billion from the National Youth Service, which was under her docket as the Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning at the time.

A year later, she was cleared by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission of all charges. This was despite an affidavit sworn by one of her alleged accomplices that claimed she masterminded the NYS money heist. The then EACC chairman, Philip Kinisu, also said there were errors in clearing her due to a breakdown of communication between government agencies.

It seems that no matter what accusations are levelled against Waiguru, nothing sticks. Begs the question, is she everyone’s favourite punching bag or is she Kenya’s Teflon Anne?

These two cases are not merely about Governor Waiguru. When examined more acutely, they weave a narrative of a deeper quandary propagated by the ruling political class. They reveal a systematic Teflon Effect where accusations do not stick to those wielding political power. Instead, prosecution is almost always proffered to their less powerful co-accused.

The influence of political power cuts both ways. On one hand, it can influence the take-up of new charges, particularly when an individual falls out of favour with the incumbent political power, and on the other hand, it can also wipe out existing charges, especially if the accused politician overtly or covertly enjoys political patronage from powerful politicians.

Does it then surprise you that just this week, the private offices of Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko in Upper Hill were raided, and court orders granted to investigate former Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri's accounts by the EACC and the Assets Recovery Agency, respectively? It is no secret that the two no longer enjoy political patronage, and have thus lost their Teflon Effect.

We have often wondered why someone accused of a lesser crime gets convicted with lightning speed. Do you recall the case of James Kima-  later reduced to one year on appeal - for selling cat meat in samosas, while cases such as that of the NYS Season I and II scandals are yet to be conclusively determined? Or even that public office holders are still walking free despite facing criminal charges?

Well, now you know.

Without political power, or the ability to procure some, one has no Teflon Effect. What you have instead is the Velcro Effect where everything you are accused of sticks like white on rice. And so you cannot stave off the law or stall the judicial process for as long as those with the Teflon Effect can.

I submit that the recent political coalitions are not about uniting the nation as some would have us believe. The readiness and fervour with which the various politicos have embraced being coalesced is in all likelihood motivated by the prospects of augmenting and entrenching their Teflon Effect, in the event that they may need to cash in on it either now, or in the near future.

Meanwhile, as the naïve electorate, rather than weave our rendition of the Teflon Effect for our collective benefit, we are blindly consumed in wrapping each other in Velcro, and throwing everything and anything at each other, whether truths or falsehoods, because we know that it will stick. When will we unlearn and relearn?

Finally, my unsolicited advice is to all supportive husbands out there: never make your money where you get your honey.

The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright. But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken – Psalms 37:14 

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