I fell out with Mzee over mnazi ban, says Tsuma

Wednesday, February 5th, 2020 00:00 |
Former Kaloleni MP Chibule wa Tsuma. Photo/PD/FILE

Former Kaloleni MP Chibule wa Tsuma recalls how his campaign to have palm wine, popularly known as mnazi, legalised in the 1980s brewed cold relations between him and President Daniel arap Moi.

The Coast politician-cum-consultant surgeon says the ban on mnazi, and other traditional liquor, was a cause of a bitter clash between him and the then President.

He recalls how he once led a delegation of Kilifi residents to State House to present a petition to lift the ban on mnazi but were dramatically ejected by GSU officers because they did not have an appointment.

“I remember it was in January when we travelled to State House, Nairobi. We deliberately decided to go without appointment because we knew he would have denied us one.

So we arrived at the State House gate at around 5.30am but we did not find the President. We were told he never spent the night at State House,” Tsuma remembers.

Special drink

At 5.45am, he recalls, Moi arrived from his Kabarnet Gardens residence and he was shocked to find a crowd at the gate.

“He asked what had brought us to State House and I handed him the memorandum.

At around 6.00am he allowed us in and we walked in confidently and went to the taps to wash our faces in readiness for the meeting with the President.

Moi made several phone calls to Coast leaders, the likes of Sharif Nassir and Katana Ngala and at around 9.00am, GSU officers came and threw us out,” he says.

Tsuma said they wanted an audience with the Head of State to explain to him why mnazi was a valuable commodity unlike other traditional brews.

According to Tsuma, Moi’s decision to ban mnazi affected the livelihoods of the Mijikenda people, many of who relied on proceeds of palm wine to eke out a living.

“Moi was angry at the way people in other parts of the country were abusing  traditional brews.

For instance, when coffee and tea farmers were paid bonuses, they spent most of the money on brew. That is why Moi decided to ban all traditional brews,” he says.

Handshake episode

But his bone of contention with Moi was to categorise mnazi as a traditional brew.

Tsuma considers mnazi a natural wine and not a brew given that it does not involve a brewing process.

According to the surgeon, the fact that mnazi is tapped from a palm tree and consumed directly without additives makes it safe for human consumption.

Apart from the Mnazi episode, he recalls his other encounter with Moi was when the President visited Parliament and MPs were lining up to shake hands with him. He said he queued behind the then Butere MP Martin Shikuku.

“While shaking hands, Moi spotted me and he stopped the handshakes and waved to the rest of the MPs,” he says.

Tsuma claims Moi was afraid of him because he “knew I was a relative of Tsuma Washe Guro alias ‘Kajiwe’ one of the most feared magicians.”

Apparently, Kajiwe was consulted by many people, including top politicians, and he was therefore known even to the President himself.

“Kajiwe used to visit the President and Moi respected him. So when he learnt that Kajiwe was my nephew, he avoided any kind of interaction with me,” he said.

Tsuma, who first went to Parliament in 1979, made for himself a name as one of the few MPs who took on the government during the single party era.

He recaptured the seat in 1983 and served until 1988 when he lost to Mathias Keah.

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