• Shahbal became the ‘official opposition’ in Mombasa until 2017 when he unsuccessfully contested Joho’s seat again.
• Now they are sharing ideas on how to shield Mombasa residents from the coronavirus.
The coronavirus pandemic may have disrupted social life and the country’s political scene, but it has brought two former political adversaries closer than ever before.
Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and businessman and politician Suleiman Shahbal have become inseparable partners in the fight against the coronavirus.
The two have regularly been sharing ideas on how to shield Mombasa residents from the coronavirus as the country at large grapples with the pandemic.
Their messages have been the same.
Shahbal’s social media accounts have been almost like a microphone, amplifying messages put across by Joho.
A common theme has emerged in them.
“I have just called the governor and we have discussed ...”Shahbals has been saying in almost all the messages he puts across, and this has usually come after the governor announces a new directive or advises residents.
This has been the trend, implying constant communication between the two.
“We need to be united to defeat this pandemic,” Joho said on Saturday at the Likoni crossing channel.
Mombasa has recorded two confirmed cases of the virus.
Both Joho and Shahbal have said it is important to keep the number low as they read from the same script for the first time since 2013 when they first ran for the governor's seat.
Shahbal became the ‘official opposition’ in Mombasa until 2017 when he unsuccessfully contested Joho’s seat again.
Their latest idea is to bring in disinfectant containers at the Likoni crossing channel and other public places.
The containers have been rolled out in Turkey and China to reduce transmission of the virus.
“I spoke to Joho to discuss this idea with him and to request him to use these at Likoni ferry and other public places. I was pleasantly surprised when he told me Governor, for leading at the front at this difficult time,” Shahbal said on Friday.
Last Thursday, Joho announced a food subsidy programme to cushion at least 227,000 households from hunger in the eventuality of a complete lockdown.
He said the programme, which will entail buying food for the families to last at least a month, will cost Sh700 million. The county has set aside Sh200 million.
The extra Sh500 million will have to come from the private sector and the national government, Joho said.
Immediately, Shahbal called Joho and congratulated him on the idea. He then said his Gulf Bank empire will contribute. He urged the private sector to follow suit.
Two weeks ago, Joho hosted Shahbal in his office as they discussed ways to ensure the coronavirus pandemic does not hit Mombasa hard, amid other topics.
The two then had a leg shake to send a message of the seriousness of the virus and the importance of heeding the directives issued by the national government through the Health ministry on safe distancing.
This new-found camaraderie has inevitably elicited talk of the two working together ahead of the 2022 race in Mombasa.
However,they say this is not the time to talk about politics.
“We are fighting the coronavirus now and everybody must channel their energies towards that,” Joho said on Saturday.
Shahbal said, “There might be no one to lead in 2022 if the coronavirus wipes us all out. That is why we have to fight it with all our strength.”
Edited by R.Wamochie