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Wakapee: Juja MP who became cancer fighter

Francis Waititu

Juja MP Francis Waititu who died on Monday. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Juja MP Francis Waititu who died on Monday nearly revolutionised the loans market by moving a Bill to shield guarantors from automatic seizure of their assets when principals default on repayments.
  • The Law of Contracts Amendment Bill, 2019, sailed through Parliament and got unanimous support from Kenyans when it went for public participation.
  • Co-operative societies and lenders cried foul, saying it would make it difficult to disburse loans as guarantors would have no role to play in the credit market.

Juja MP Francis Waititu who died on Monday nearly revolutionised the loans market by moving a Bill to shield guarantors from automatic seizure of their assets when principals default on repayments.

The Law of Contracts Amendment Bill, 2019, sailed through Parliament and got unanimous support from Kenyans when it went for public participation.

Co-operative societies and lenders cried foul, saying it would make it difficult to disburse loans as guarantors would have no role to play in the credit market.

But President Uhuru Kenyatta rejected the Bill last March.

When he died, President Kenyatta eulogised the two-time MP as a progressive leader with a “heart”, hailing Mr Waititu’s, aka Wakapee, lone campaign to declare cancer a national disaster.

“Throughout his fight with cancer, (Hon) Waititu led efforts to overcome the disease through awareness creation and support for initiatives aimed at lowering the cost of treatment in the country,” the President said.

While revealing his own fight with cancer, Mr Waititu asked the government to declare cancer a national disaster, saying while in India for treatment, he found hundreds of Kenyans seeking treatment.

In October 2018, Mr Waititu claimed at least 63 members of the National Assembly and the Senate were suffering from cancer but his cry for support went unheard.

“I met hundreds of cancer patients from Kenya alone. Among them were nine of my fellow MPs and four Senators. The cancer scourge is enormous and we can no longer afford to bury our heads in the sand. We must get out and talk about it,” he said.

The lawmaker who succumbed to brain cancer also made national headlines for fight against loan sharks, especially auctioneers who went for guarantors’ assets every time a loanee defaulted.

“Under the current law, creditors are free to pursue either of the parties in a bid to recover the money but if changes are effected, lenders shall exhaust all avenues of recovering money from principal creditors before going for guarantor assets,” he said.

According to President Kenyatta, the changes, if effected, would have negated the law of contracts as it is known.

“Lenders are likely to suffer prejudice since the new Bill would make the debt-recovery process longer and more expensive as well as afford guarantors an opportunity to conceal or dispose [of] their assets to avoid realisation of the security when debts are unpaid,” said the President.

The piece of legislation also failed to garner the required two thirds majority to veto the President’s rejection as only 28 MPs were in the House as opposed to the required minimum of 233 votes to pass the Bill.

New CBK data shows that the value of loans defaulted hit Sh423 billion or 14.1 percent of the total Sh3 trillion loan book — a sharp rise from Sh351.73 billion that was in default by end of March 2020.

Mr Waititu, a career farm manager who rose from being an assistant farm manager at Kiambu’s Nyakinyua to becoming a group farm manager heading five farms owned by the Kenyatta family, served in the parliamentary select committee on agriculture where he articulated interests of the small coffee farmers.

While mourning the lawmaker, former Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Aden Duale pledged to reintroduce the Laws of Contract (Amendment) Bill, 2019, saying he moved the Bill on behalf of Mr Waititu through the Second and Third Readings when the MP fell ill and was in India for cancer treatment.

“I had a very special relationship with Honourable Wakapee, as he was commonly known. I moved the Laws of Contract (Amendment) Bill when Mr Waititu was unable to move it at the Second Reading after he delegated the responsibility to me. It is the only private member’s Bill I took through all stages as Leader of Majority,” Mr Duale said.

HONOURING COLLEAGUE

“Because of some strange reasons and in line with Article 115 of the Constitution, the President refused to assent to the Bill.

“Now that six months have lapsed since the Bill was rejected, I will be ready to bring back that Bill for us to consider the reservation of the President and accommodate what the President wanted. This will be in honour of our late colleague,” Mr Duale said.

MPs Gitonga Murugara (Tharaka) and Jude Njomo (Kiambu) supported Mr Duale and asked MPs to breathe a new life into the Bill in honour of the fallen member of Parliament.