Some 36 out of 59 MCAs from Machakos have endorsed former Cabinet Minister Mutua Katuku for the county’s senate seat in a by-election slated for March 23.
Eleven out of the 36 ward reps supporting Mr Katuku are from Wiper, having broken ranks with their colleagues to campaign against their party’s nominee Agnes Kavindu Muthama — the estranged wife of former senator Johnstone Muthama.
According to Mua Ward MCA Francis Ngunga, the group also includes 13 MCAs from Maendeleo Chap Chap, four from Jubilee, three from Narc, two from Muungano and three independent members.
Wiper party enjoys a majority in the 59-member county assembly, with 28 elected and nominated MCAs, but the split in the party led by former vice-president Kalonzo Musyoka may dim the prospects of their candidate.
The group claims that it is backing Mr Katuku (Maendeleo Chap Chap) because he is best suited among the candidates seeking to replace Senator Boniface Kabaka who died in December last year.
Maendeleo Chap Chap is led by Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua.
As the aspirants prepare for clearance by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) next week, the former Water minister in the Mwai Kibaki administration has garnered support from almost two-thirds of the Machakos County Assembly.
“We have consulted across political parties and decided to campaign for the best candidate in terms of competencies, including academic qualifications, parliamentary experience and impressive track record required for the job” said Mr Ngunga.
The MCA, who served as minority leader before being ousted last year, said that unlike all the other aspirants, Mr Katuku has the necessary experience having served as MP for Mwala for 10 years and therefore understands how government, both executive and Parliament, works.
“The current Parliament expires in one year and a few months. We want a senator who will not waste time acquainting himself with parliamentary work,” Mr Ngunga said after a Sunday service at Matuu Catholic Church where the group had accompanied Mr Katuku.
Yatta MP Charles Kilonzo and former county assembly majority whip Tariq Mulatya also endorsed Mr Katuku, saying he initiated many water projects in Machakos County during his tenure at Maji House.
Mr Mulatya, the MCA for Masinga Central, said Ms Kavindu, the Wiper nominee, is an “outsider”, having vied for the Woman Rep position on a Jubilee ticket in the 2017 elections.
The Machakos by-election is shaping up into a three-horse race pitting Mr Katuku, Ms Kavindu and Urbanus Ngengele of United Democratic Alliance.
Other candidates include Simeon Kitheka (GNDP) and Lilian Nduku Mwanzia (CCU).
IEBC is set to clear the candidates on January 25 and 26.
At the same time, the Wiper leader revealed his party was keen on fielding Health Chief Administrative Secretary Mercy Mwangangi for the Machakos senate seat before settling on Ms Kavindu.
However, Dr Mwangangi, whose mother is the Speaker of Machakos County Assembly, declined the offer, which would have required her to resign from the job of deputising Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe.
Mr Musyoka, who was speaking at AIC Kasina Church in Mlolongo, said a section of Wiper leaders also dissuaded him from the idea of fielding Dr Mwangangi, arguing that she would be hard to sell.
The former VP was accompanied by several Wiper MPs including Charles Nguna (Mwingi West), Robert Mbui (Kathiani), Joyce Kamene (Machakos County), Ms Kavindu and former Kibwezi MP Kalembe Ndile.
Wiper appears keen to use the bitter divorce between Mr Muthama and Ms Kavindu to settle their own messy political falling-out with the former senator, which saw him break ranks with Mr Musyoka last year to team up with DP William Ruto.
This means the former senator will have to publicly crusade against his estranged wife as he pushes for the election of his UDA candidate, with their messy divorce likely to dominate political campaigns.
Her candidacy brings an interesting political twist to the Machakos contest because the two are still embroiled in court battles for Mr Muthama’s business fortune, where Ms Kavindu is demanding an equal share of matrimonial properties.