Matiba gets Sh504m for illegal detention

Veteran politician Kenneth Matiba. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Veteran politician Kenneth Matiba. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Veteran politician Kenneth Matiba on Wednesday won his more than a decade-long battle with the State over his unlawful detention during the fight for multi-party democracy in the early 1990s after the court awarded him Sh504 million for damages suffered.

Although the 85-year-old former Kiharu MP, who suffered a stroke in jail, will not get back his health, Justice Isaac Lenaola said the half-a-billion shillings awarded to him should act as a reminder of the dark days of the Nyayo era.

Mr Matiba had argued in court that he suffered a stroke while in detention and his handlers were not bothered and did not accord him the much needed medical attention.

Justice Lenaola, now a judge of the Supreme Court, found that Mr Matiba suffered the stroke on May 26, 1991, but remained in detention without medication for one week.

While in detention, his business empire started crumbling. The politician had sought Sh4,726,332,042 for the loss of business but the Judge ruled that the State should pay 20 percent of the amount. 

Justice Lenaola stated that real justice can be expensive and although nothing in terms of compensation can restore Mr Matiba’s fitness as he was before detention, it should serve as a lesson that such injustices should never be visited upon anyone.

He, however, declined to grant Mr Matiba’s quest to have the State refurbish one of his hotels, saying he had stretched the claims too far.

Mr Matiba had argued that the detention and stroke affected his attention and the focus he had in his businesses, leading to the near collapse of his commercial empire. 

“The business needed his attention, focus, energy, guidance and leadership, which he was giving his companies before. Without him at the helm, the businesses deteriorated and some of them collapsed,” Mr Matiba had argued in court papers. 

The court awarded him Sh15 million in damages and for violations suffered, another Sh18,146,631 for medical expenses and Sh471,664,258, for financial losses incurred.

Mr Matiba had argued that he lost investments worth Sh5 billion following his detention in 1990. 

One of the witnesses in the case -- a financial and investment analyst Lawrence Murigi, said Mr Matiba had before detention had an illustrious career in politics and a flourishing business empire and that his 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.  

Mr Matiba also lost public trading shares worth Sh329 million and dividends amounting to Sh210 million. Some of his companies were sold to offset loans, among them the prestigious Hillcrest Group of Schools.

The school was sold as part of a settlement his family had made with Barclays Bank to recover a debt.

Mr Matiba, who unsuccessfully tried to unseat President Moi in 1992, also lost control of carbon dioxide manufacturer, Carbacid, where he sold his shares to a private firm.