Five glasses of gin and tonic later, coupled with what must have been more than a litre of bloody mary’s over lunch, decided to slow down. The Bloody Mary’s were a bastardisation of a recipe provided by Columbo, a Nanyuki-based inspector who insists on using fresh ingredients. He would never have approve of my improvisation of his recipe, he is after all Jewish and one of my key ingredients was bacon grease. I was keen to make a good impression later on at Christmas dinner in front of a university friend’s family and their invited guests. Yes, Christmas dinner in mid August with the works; a turkey, Christmas ham, mince pies and a smattering of seafood. The seafood is easily explained, we were after all in Kilifi, right on the creek. Pre-dinner conversations in Kenya have the inane habit of drifting towards our country’s politics and corruption — discussing your golf handicap one second and the next your frustration with your government’s inability to get its act together. Just before dinner, my friend’s father approached me with a rather interesting solution to this, social ostracism.
My hosts were pretty well-off by most standards, although they would prefer to think of themselves as ’comfortable’. They, to my knowledge, earned their comfort by honest means; much unlike some of the people they found themselves interacting with socially. High profile figures in Kenya who’ve been found guilty or have been suspected of corruption, gross mismanagement or deliberate negligence lose their jobs and slip out of the limelight the minute the media hounds catch wind of another juicy story. Later they emerge once again on the board of a parastatal, in a ministerial position or as president of the local Rotary Club chapter. Meanwhile, they and their families will have continuously enjoyed lives of unbridled luxury, earned at the expense of livelihoods, and sometimes lives, of the common mwananchi.
“Writing, speaking and protesting in the streets is getting us nowhere really. What you young guys are doing is great but these people aren’t bothered by a couple of headlines, not here in Kenya. It’s time they were held accountable by their peers,” he said, offering a beer.“Professional bodies and private clubs should have ‘codes of conduct’,” he leaned forward almost conspiratorially as he continued, “ if someone is found guilty or is under investigation then their membership should be revoked or at least suspended, pending review. Think about how wonderful it would be if they were worried about how their actions would affect them and their families instead of some hapless guy in the street who has no idea why his sugar cane is rotting in the field.”
He left me at that and went off to chat and mingle with his other guests and I couldn’t help but imagine the scenario in my head. Found guilty of sticking his grubby fingers in the Constituency Development Fund? Ban him from the golf club indefinitely. Nearly collapsed an airline through deliberate mismanagement? Don’t let her park her yacht in the marina. Ran over someone with his car and bribed his way out? Stop tithing at his church! No one should be spared, even their kids will eventually come home one day and ask why Mummy and Daddy don’t take them to lunch at Nairobi Club after Sunday Mass anymore. The sins of the father/mother shall be visited upon their children until they dare not sin anymore.
Exclusive private schools in Rift Valley and Nairobi’s outskirts should reject applications for admittance if one or both of the students’ parents has been found guilty of breaking the Code of Conduct.
The first few victims of this new form of justice will serve as warning signs made from severed heads on poles outside a village called ‘corruption’. “Social death to all ye who enter!”.
Soon they will be on the phone to the chairman of the Bird Watchers Society, the Wine Appreciators Club and the Rotary Club asking why they were taken off their mailing lists. The revolution will not be televised, it will happen in board rooms, ball rooms and over Sunday brunch at the club. The kawaida mwananchi will no longer have to stand alone in the face of corruption and general buggery from the ‘upper echelons’ of society.