17 April 2018

Kenya: Kenneth Matiba's Brave Court Battle for Compensation

Photo: Daily Nation
The late Kenneth Matiba.

When Supreme Court judge Isaac Lenaola awarded politician Kenneth Stanley Njindo Matiba Sh1.5 billion last year for illegal detention, the judge described him as an avid sportsman and a fitness buff.

Justice Lenaola also agreed with Mr Matiba's lawyer John Mburu that the multiparty democracy hero was the founder, leader and power behind his flourishing business empire. His detention led to the collapse of the business chain and deterioration of his health, the judge observed.

A financial and investment analyst Lawrence Riungu, who testified in court, said Mr Matiba's businesses started collapsing soon after his detention.

An audit of the estate had revealed that the politician lost more than Sh2 billion in commercial real estate and a further Sh2 billion in privately held shares.

DEBTS

Five of his businesses were sold to settle accumulating debts. These were Alliance Developments Limited, Alliance Hotels Limited, NaroMoru River Lodge Limited, Hillcrest School Limited and Hillcrest Secondary School Limited which were put on receivership by Barclays Bank and eventually sold off to pay debts owed to the bank.

Mr Matiba was an active participant in the stock market and owned substantial shares in Carbacid Investment Ltd, East African Breweries Ltd, CMC Holdings Ltd, East African Portland Cement. He later sold the shares to offset liabilities arising from the poor performance of the hotel and school chains.

Mr Matiba, who unsuccessfully tried to unseat President Daniel arap Moi in 1992, also lost public trading shares worth Sh329 million and dividends amounting to Sh210 million.

In his judgement, Justice Lenaola concurred that Mr Matiba's poor health could be traced to his detention following his arrest in July 1990, for agitating for the return of multiparty politics.

STROKE

While in detention, Mr Matiba suffered stroke on May 26, 1991, but state officials did not get him medical attention, retaining him in that state for a week.

"It is therefore my finding that the petitioner's medical condition, triggered by the events in detention leading to his stroke, so greatly affected the business acumen, attention, focus, energy, guidance and leadership he was giving his companies that without him at the helm, they deteriorated and some eventually collapsed," the judge said.

Justice Isaac Lenaola awarded Mr Matiba 20 per cent of the Sh4, 726,332,042 that the politician had stated as the loss his business suffered as a result of his detention.

But through Mr Mburu, Mr Matiba went back to court arguing that the calculation was erroneous. The state, through Jackson Mutinda, did not oppose the application and the amount rose to Sh978 million.

This, plus interest accrued since 2014, when the claim was filed, amounts to about Sh1.5 billion.

SH504 MILLION

The former Kiharu MP, had earlier been awarded Sh504 million for his unlawful detention; Sh15 million in damages and Sh18.1 million for medical expenses.

Mr Mburu argued that the politician's arrest and detention violated his constitutions rights to have a political opinion, right to liberty and security, freedom of conscience, expression, assembly, association and movement.

He said Mr Matiba was merely exercising his constitutional rights by pushing for the re-introduction of multi-party democracy and the acts did not pose any danger to public security.

HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE

Mr Matiba's personal physician, Dr Dan Gikonyo, told the court that before his detention, the politician suffered mild high blood pressure for which he was receiving treatment and managed with a good diet and regular exercises. But upon his detention, he was denied proper medical care and his blood pressure escalated.

While awarding the former Kiharu MP the amount, Justice Lenaola said: "The State must now wake up to the reality that past conduct of its officials and agents will no longer remain unpunished."

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