Report & Essay

Pigia Dada (cont.)
Kingwa Kamencu

 Another excerpt, following on the one posted last week, from Kingwa’s elections dispatch:

The voting day dawns bright and sunny. Very few matatus are in operation in the town centre, they come in to the city in ones and twos. All shops are locked, even major supermarkets, restaurants and shops. From a sign on the window at Steers Muindi Mbingu Street, they apologize that they are closed, “To give our staff time to vote.” Town centre is empty. Today Pollyne is in blue jeans and a blue denim jacket with a white British council t-shirt. The hot-pink kikoi she has wrapped around her head, its tassels swinging on the side of her face, are the only spark of drama on her today, the wild hair concealed. All day, Pollyne is driven around in a rented car, paying the agents that have shown up and monitoring how the elections are going on in different stations.

“My aunt was to give me her car but she was using it. So she sent 4k so that I can hire one,” Pollyne explains as we enter the small dark blue starlet. We transverse South B to Buru Buru. It is going smooth, apart from the reports of votes being stolen in some constituencies. It is also alleged that the young mayor Dick Wathika has been arrested in town for rigging.

The day rushes by in this flurry, in a hurry to get to the crucial time- vote counting. By 7pm, we are at Pollyne’s local polling station- Bidii primary. Bidii has one of the highest number of voters- about 12,000 in total. Pollyne expresses hope that she will get the majority here after all it is in her own backyard and she is the only person from Buru Buru who is contesting. Everyone else lives elsewhere- majority of the aspirants coming from the more moneyed South B.

We walk down the corridors of the school, Pollyne, a spring in her step, opens door after door randomly. At each room, the ECK officers and agents turn to scowl at us to see who the ‘intruders’ are.

More than once, the administrative policemen guarding each room come to see what we want.
“Yes, I am a candidate,” Pollyne declares, “And these are my agents.” She says pointing at Phillip and I. Phillip is one of her campaign managers. The AP’s nod noiselessly and let us in. We sit in one of the rooms, 6W, listening as they do the counting for civic seats. In the first place in this particular room is ‘Sonny’- Anthony Gathumbi of ODM. Pollyne smiles, she is not surprised.
“This guy used to dish out money, weh, he was not joking! He used to give out 500-500.” She says.

His father is a rich man. Apparently he was formerly a deputy mayor in Nairobi and councillor of Hamza ward in the same constituency. We then move to class 7, which has the WO-ZO names. We find the ECK clerks huddled around the table, surrounded by agents carefully watching every step. The tension is palpable, these people have been in the room all day but still look fresh as roses, their energy not flagging. They are in the middle of sorting the parliamentary ballot papers into parties. Then they start counting the numbers of votes per candidate.

“Wathika, Wathika, Wathika, Wathika, Ndolo, Kivuti, Ndolo, Wathika, Ndolo, Wathika, Shikanda, Ndolo, Ndolo, Wathika…..”

The returning officer is reading out the ballot papers as she sorts them out into batches. Our ears are pricked to hear Owoko, Pollyne’s surname but nothing doing. Towards the end, we hear her name, one person in this particular room has voted for her. Pollyne does not believe it.
“Hii place ni ya wasapere. Let’s go to another room.” She says dismissively. We go back to the previous room and find that they are just cutting the seals. They sort the ballot papers out as per party and then begin counting. A pin drop silence reigns as the presiding officer begins calling out the names and handing out papers to go in different piles.

“Wathika, Wathika, Ndolo, Wathika, Ndolo, Kivuti, Shikanda, Kitivi, Ndolo, Ndolo, Wathika….” And it goes on.

By the time she is three quarter way down the pile, we have once again heard Pollyne’s name only once.

“Wathika, Wathika, Mashua, Ndolo, Kitivi, Ndolo…….” The lady continues.

Pollyne crosses one leg over the other. She is leaning on the table in front of her ; ECK ballot books, envelopes and files are spread all over it haphazardly. Her face is expressionless as she notes down the numbers read out per candidate. Only her fast blinking eyes reveal her state. The top two are Dick Wathika with 106 votes and Reuben Ndolo with 65 votes. Pollyne has one vote in total.

Kingwa Kamencu is a journalist writing for the Media Institute’s magazine- Expression Today (ET) and a contributor with ‘The Standard’ newspaper. Her first book, To Grasp at A Star was published by East African Education publishers and has since won the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for fiction in 2007

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