It’s Ponda Mali to the rescue

He showed up with relief food after floods but missed the mark

In Summary

• Nothing delights of our Members of Parliament like a good disaster photo op 


For nearly two years since the conclusion of the last elections, our perennial representative Mr Ponda Mali has been catering to our needs sight unseen. And by that, I mean he’s done nothing to justify our hard-cast votes.

Not even making a technical appearance in Jiji Ndogo, or what my boss would call a by-the-way visit. As in, “I was only passing through, but you were by the way, so I thought I’d just pop in.”

But nothing brings out the best out of our Members of Parliament like a good disaster photo op. A picture is worth a thousand words, but a well-lit photo of a representative holding a baby who just got rescued out of a well is worth a thousand votes.

The electorate will even sell their votes to the candidate who graced a newspaper page doing such an un-MP-like thing as buying groceries at a kibanda and smiling at the seller as if it were Rolexes on the rickety table, and not a bunch of bananas and avocadoes. In politics, where image is important, presentation is everything.

There’s a story from Nairobi (I can’t vouch for its veracity, but, boy, does it tickle my fancy) about a candidate who went to a ghetto neighbourhood to seek votes.

The crowd was madly behind him all the way to the end of the rally, when the wannabe governor discarded his mud-caked shoes in favour of a fresh pair, and washed his hands with beer before getting into his vehicle. That was tantamount to buying the groceries, getting a pretty picture taken, then tossing the damned things out of the window while leaving.

Accompanying Ponda Mali’s convoy is a bevy of reporters from nearly every newspaper, armed with their weapons of mass seduction. Cameras click and flashes flash as soon as the man with a stomach the size and shape of a beer keg steps out of a four-wheel behemoth that resembles a black military tank.

The man is all comforting smiles as he waves at the modest crowd here to greet him, his girth contrasting sharply with the lean frames of his hungry audience.

But the man is well-informed. The way to a starving man’s heart is through his stomach. Bringing the rear of the motorcade is a big lorry, the only other thing capable of drawing attention from the rotund politician. And it does exactly that as Ponda Mali begins his speech.

“Good people of Kijiji Kidogo,” he begins before an aide promptly steps up and whispers into his ear. “As I was saying, good people of kijiji kidogo cha Jiji Ndogo, I am here to let you know I am one of you and I feel your pain. Do not for a minute think that—”

“Nini iko kwa lori?” shouts a determined denizen.

Ponda Mali smiles. “We’ll get to that in a very short while. As I was saying—”

“Hatutaki saying. Tunataka kujua serikali imeleta nini.”

Soon, the crowd takes up the man’s cry and Ponda Mali can’t even hear himself think of a way to spill his spiel. “Okay, then. Let’s get down to it.”

I’m afraid I’ll have to give our not-so-venerable Mr Ponda Mali an E for effort. Not only is the lorry less than half full (“I had to stop by several other towns,” he explains), it comprises half and half of exciting stuff and other stuff that is the opposite of exciting. Diapers, bathing soap and toilet paper do not come high on the list of a man whose stomach growls more than Lion King.

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