Cornered over tax evasion and criticised for having discovered democracy after the fall of Kanu, Mutula Kilonzo now devotes time to feeding his pet lions in a land where people starve
Education Minister and outgoing Mbooni MP, Mutula Kilonzo, has redefined public service. He worked for eight straight years without pay—after he was exposed for having evaded paying tax for years. Rather than risk jail time, he negotiated with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) for time to service his tax bill. To that end, the MP’s pay is attached.
Mutula found himself in KRA’s crosshairs after his godfather and mentor, Daniel arap Moi, retired in 2002. The incoming Narc Government realised that the high-flying lawyer, who had represented Kanu and its president for years, had not been servicing his tax account.
In an unguarded moment in February 2010, Mutula intimated to a reporter: “I’m actually paying my taxes and my salary has been attached. I would even expect you to donate something to me now that you know I haven’t earned a single cent from Parliament for the past eight years.”
Pressed to specify how much tax arrears he owed the State, he declined to give the figure but denied it was Sh350 million. “If I’m liable for tax of Sh350 million, how much income do you think I made?” he asked. “Would I be in politics if I earned so much money?”
It raises eyebrows that a tax evader weaved his way through politics, was elected to Parliament and even appointed a minister to manage resources derived from the taxes he had dodged.
At one point, a section of MPs were unhappy with Mutula’s past and wanted to censure him in Parliament. As usual, politics prevailed and Mutula survived. Former Siakago MP Justin Muturi recalled: “There were recommendations made as early as 2003 which touched on the minister’s integrity with regard to tax issues. If these were to be considered then he should never have risen to the position of minister in the first place.”
Having previously dedicated his time to protecting Kanu’s autocracy, Mutula would be nominated to Parliament by Kanu. He was appointed Nairobi Metropolitan Development Minister after his election as Mbooni MP. Thereafter, he was elevated to the Justice docket following the resignation of Martha Karua.
Mutula’s promotion was perceived by some as a cruel joke. Lands Minister James Orengo at one time dismissed the outspoken lawyer as a man who had only discovered democracy after the fall of Kanu.
Ironically, when he was appointed to the Justice ministry, Mutula happily took over although, earlier in 2003, while serving as a nominated Kanu MP, he had chided the Kibaki administration for creating the post. At the time, he viewed the ministry as working against the principle of separation of powers and termed it “the beginning of the erosion of justice.” Later that year, Mutula accepted the post of Shadow Justice Minister.
He would later praise his ministry, arguing that both Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, who have been charged at The International Criminal Court at The Hague, should not contest elective office as this was politically wrong. Intriguingly, the flamboyant lawyer has created a cage—called “The Hague”—in his 1,500-acre Kwa Kyelu ranch, which boasts a game sanctuary.
In the ranch, the politician is rearing three lions and has named the dominant one after himself (Mutula). The lion is housed in Sh2 million cage. All three lions are fed on beef and goat meat from his livestock, which are reared at the expansive ranch.
Even at the time when Mutula was ousted from Justice and transferred to the Ministry of Education, controversy still stalked him. Last year, he was the subject of sneers after he proposed that secondary school girls be allowed to wear miniskirts. The minister outraged the clergy, more so the Catholic Church, when he declared that schools had no business dressing young girls “like nuns.”
He went as far as conceiving of an ideal skirt after Rwathia Girls Secondary School went on strike, apparently after they were denied the chance to shorten the hemlines of their skirts.
Mutula also made history last year by delaying the national examination for both secondary and primary schools, after he failed to resolve a teachers’ strike over unpaid salaries. When announcing the 2012 results, the minister, notwithstanding the chaos that had greeted the exam, declared that all schoolchildren would be ranked equally.
Now that Mutula has bagged the Wiper Democratic Party ticket, it remains to be seen whether he will triumph over the self-proclaimed boss of the Party of Independent Candidates (PICK), Harun Mwau.