Lobbying starts for Taita Taveta Speaker post

The Taita Taveta Assembly during one of the sessions. Jostling for key positions in the Taita Taveta County Assembly has begun in earnest.

Photo credit: Lucy Mkanyika I Nation Media Group

Jostling for key positions in the Taita Taveta County Assembly has begun in earnest, with incumbents and candidates who lost in last week’s elections among those interested. 

As the posts of assembly Speaker and deputy Speaker are vacant, seven individuals have already shown interest in them.

Intense lobbying for the seats has begun, with those interested consulting with the 20 elected members of the county assembly (MCAs).

Speaker Meshack Maghanga has said he will defend his seat and has started lobbying MCAs.

He served in the position from 2013, when he was elected by the first county assembly. 

He is banking on his two-term experience to win back the seat.

But the last county assembly has been criticised, with some people saying ward reps had failed to hold the executive accountable, a weakness that saw a majority of MCAs lose their seats last week. 

Others who have also shown interest in the Speaker position are Prof Morris Mbondenyi, former Sagala MCA Godwin Kilele, lawyer Stephen Odiaga, Geoffrey Kimonge, lawyer Onesmus Mwinzi and former nominated MCA Christopher Mwambingu

All of these, except Mr Kimonge, vied for various seats in the county in this year’s elections but lost. 

Prof Mbondenyi and Mr Mwambingu raced for the Mwatate parliamentary seat. Mr Mwinzi vied for the governor’s seat, while Mr Kilele and Mr Odiaga ran for senator.

Before they joined politics, Mr Odiaga and Mr Mwinzi ran private law firms in Mombasa and Voi respectively.

Prof Mbondenyi worked in the office of Deputy President William Ruto as secretary for policy and coordination.

Speaking to Nation.Africa, Prof Mbondenyi confirmed that he was talking with MCAs to seek their support.

A lawyer by profession, he said he has all the qualifications for the position.

"I have been approached by many people, both within and out of the assembly, to offer my leadership and legal skills in serving our great county of Taita Taveta. I consider that a great honour as it is also a noble cause," he said.

As he lobbies for the position, he said, he is keen to know how he can help bring change and development in the county. 

"The Speaker is the third most powerful person in the county government. It is a huge responsibility that needs someone who can bring change and redeem the county," he said.

Mr Kimonge, another contender, worked in former governor John Mruttu's government as a political adviser from 2013-2017.

He said he has what it takes to head the House, adding that his experience in the first administration will enable him to make informed decisions.

"Having been in the first administration, I know the weakness of the assembly. The ability of the governor to deliver mainly depends on the assembly,” he said. 

“The position needs someone who can link the two arms of the county government. With my experience, I know what should be done."
All the contenders are busy meeting elected ward reps in secret locations in the county to try to win their support ahead of the elections.

Mr Kilele also confirmed that he will vie for the post but said he was first consulting with wards to seek their support. 

An MCA, who declined to be named for fear of being sidelined by his colleagues for speaking to the media, said they had already met four contenders.

But he said a majority of elected MCAs had vowed not to support candidates with integrity issues and those associated with the previous administrations. 

"That is the position of most of us. We will not elect anyone who will drag the county to where it was in the last two regimes. We want fresh blood," he said. 

For the deputy Speaker position, a preserve of sitting MCAs, incumbent Chrispus Tondoo is eyeing the slot.

The Bomeni ward MCA also served in the same position in the first and the second assemblies.

"I am yet to start lobbying, but definitely I will defend my position," he said.

Also up for grabs in the county assembly are the positions of majority and minority leaders, their deputies, chief whips and their deputies and committee chairpersons.

MCAs will take the oaths of office before they can proceed to elect House leaders.

"We are waiting for the IEBC to gazette our names, then we can take the oath of office," said Ngolia ward MCA Jones Mghanga. 

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