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Muumbo 'lion of Nzatani' dogged by court cases even in death

NATIONAL
By Kamau Muthoni | October 26th 2021

Former Nairobi Provincial Police Chief Timothy Mwandi Muumbo. [Courtesy]

Former Nairobi Provincial Police Chief Timothy Mwandi Muumbo’s pet name was lion; the king of the jungle.

When he lived, his roar reverberated across his kingdom and beyond, sending shivers down the spines of anyone who met him. He commanded enormous respect from family and peers who fondly referred to him as “the lion of Nzatani.”

Nzatani is a sub-location of the greater Migwani division, Kitui County, about 150 kilometres from Nairobi.

By any measure, he was powerful, wealthy, and ran his affairs with the precision and discipline of the military.

However, after his death in 2015, his kingdom erupted, things fell apart and the centre could no longer hold. A judge diagnosed that the cause of the volcano was a lava of hate, which boiled in his children waiting to erupt.

Muumbo endured five years in the cold storage compartments of Lee Funeral Home, until November last year when, after several false attempts to inter him, he was finally buried.

One year after his burial, his family is yet to pay the millions of shillings owed to Lee Funeral Home, with the matter going to court after the lapse of six months that the morgue had given the family. 

When the six-month period lapsed in May this year, his children Johnstone Kassim, Alex Munyasya and Carolyn Kalunde filed a case before Justice Joseph Sergon, seeking to stop the mortuary from disposing of the security provided by Munyasya. In this case, the trio blamed their siblings Bily Mbuvi and Johnson Mwinzi for failing to release burial money.

Sergon issued temporary orders but the funeral home went back to court on May 27, seeking to lift the orders on account that the accrued debt has not been forthcoming. Its lawyer Martha Gichuki argued they had mutually agreed to settle the fees after mediation.

She added that Justice Sergon had no powers to issue the orders since he had withdrawn from hearing the dispute.

According to Lee Funeral Home, its agreement with the three had no indication that the money to settle the fees was to come from their late father’s estate. It was of the view that Kasim, Munyasya, and Kalunde were to pay and recover the money from the estate once the succession case was settled.

Lee Funeral has been roped in in the case filed by Kasim before Justice James Makau. [David Gichuru, Standard]

While opposing Lee’s application the three argued that their case was to simply extend the time to pay the debt. They asserted that the agreement did not tie them to the source of money.

Justice Hedwig Ong’undi allowed their application but only for four months. In her September 30 ruling, she said they had a genuine cry, which the court could not ignore. The trio now have up to end of January to foot the remaining bill or the land will be auctioned.

Battle raged

“In the interest of Justice, the court will give the plaintiffs 4 (four) months from now to sort themselves out and pay the defendant the money owing plus interest from the date of default. In the event of failure to comply the defendants will proceed with the disposal of the security given by the second defendant without any further reference to this court,” Justice Ong’undi ruled.

Muumbo, a former assistant commissioner of police died on June 22, 2015, at his home in Dik Dik Gardens in Kileleshwa, Nairobi. Despite owning assets amounting to around Sh1 billion, a battle raged in courts to determine his final resting place.

The bone of contention was where to bury him, between his ancestral home in Nzatani or in Mbakini where he built a home for himself. Muumbo was polygamous. His first wife was Phiatah Kathumbi who he married in 1957. They had 10 children and lived in Nzatani Village, Mwingi.

The two parted ways in 1976 after Kathumbi discovered Muumbo had a second wife Josephine Kioko who he lived with in Narok, then Kakamega and finally in Kileleshwa, Nairobi. The second wife had five children.

Muumbo and Kathumbi however never divorced.

His three children Johnstone Kasim Muumbo, Alex Munyasya Muumbo and Carolyn Kalunde Muumbo sued their eldest brother Billy Mbuvi Muumbo and step-brother Mwinzi Muumbo, stopping the initial planned burial.

This war started in the magistrate’s court and escalated to the High Court. One side, Kasim, Munyasya and Kalunde called 11 witnesses to support their argument that he should be buried in Nzatani, their ancestral home, next to his first wife.

On the other, Mbuvi and Mwinzi called eight witnesses to buttress their argument that he wanted to be buried in Mbakini, where his second wife was buried, according to a will produced in court. The intrigues of the case involved the supremacy of a will and Kamba culture.

After hearing the parties, Justice Margaret Muigai overruled Mbuvi and Mwinzi and ordered that Muumbo should be buried at Nzatani. She ruled that the land was accessible to all children and family while Mbakini was not open to all.

“Although custom is not mandatory, if the wish of the deceased is not clear or known then the closest person(s) shall bury the deceased and it may be on ancestral land or his land as the family agrees. The relationship with the deceased’s wives though relevant is not the predominant factor,” Justice Muigai ruled.

She also held that since Mbuvi was the eldest son, he was to lead all the deceased’s children to bury him and was to facilitate settlement of outstanding mortuary fees. This was on August 6, 2018.

Timothy Mwandi Muumbo’s son, Alex Muumbo, at Lee Funeral Home with lawyer Mary Muigai. [David Gichuru, Standard]

Justice Muigai also ordered Muumbo’s cousin to chair the funeral meetings.

The judge noted that the acrimony in the family stemmed from Muumbo and his two wives. According to the judge, Kathumbi’s children, save for her eldest son Mbuvi, watched helplessly as their mother struggled.

They saw her deteriorate in health and general well-being and when they were older and able helped her the best way they knew how.

On the other hand, Josephine’s children suffered resentment from Kathumbi’s house as they were deemed to be more advantaged and close to the patriarch.

Justice Muigai found that although Muumbo tried to reconcile his children, upon his death, they retreated to their houses.

“Instead the children of the deceased have stepped into the shoes of their respective parents and continue zealously to protect each parent’s right and/or attempt to resolve the family dispute. In the process they have all used the deceased’s burial as means of settling scores instead of prioritizing a respectful and decent burial of their late father,” she ruled.

“As human beings, they may have made mistakes that affected the family, but they passed on and the family can only move forward as the deceased pledged in the video recording, reconcile and live in harmony. Therefore, priority shall be to bury the deceased.”

Succession case

The judgement did not end the fight because 24 days later, Mbuvi and Mwinzi went back to Justice Muigai.

This time, they wanted her out of the succession case, and also asked her to set aside her judgement on the burial grounds. They argued that their siblings had prior to the judgement bragged that she would tilt the scales of justice in their favour.

The two also alleged that an unnamed informer also leaked to them they would lose the case. They also accused the judge of bias. Kasim, Munyasya and Kalunde denied the claims. Justice Muigai had to write yet another verdict to settle the contention.

She said the claim by the two was unsubstantiated. “I wish to state that he who alleges must prove the allegations. I have no spokesperson to speak on my behalf on judicial matters except through court orders, rulings or judgments that are subject to review or appeal,” she ruled on November 16, 2018.

As the family was fighting, the mortuary bill was escalating.

The bone of contention was where to bury him, between his ancestral home in Nzatani or in Mbakini. [David Gichuru, Standard]

When Justice Muigai finally settled the burial battle, the mortuary bill stood at Sh3 million. Court record reads he left Sh1.2 million in the house. This, according to the court, was to be used to foot funeral expenses.

At the same time, contributions were made towards funeral arrangements, by the immediate and larger family, fundraising, and from the estate.

The 83-year-old lion of Nzatani was buried in November last year. However, the battles continue.

Initially, the fight was between siblings, but the morgue and a pathologist were also drawn in.

The morgue has been sued over the fees it charged. The bill stood at Sh4.7 million.

The pathologist has been sued over allegations of Muumbo’s missing heart.

Meanwhile, Kalunde told the court that Munyasya took a loan and footed Sh2.9 million. He also deposited his title deed as a guarantee for the funeral home to release their father.

Another hurdle

However, there was another hurdle, a succession case before the Family Court.  

Muumbo’s death sparked battles in all courts. In the Constitutional court, former government pathologist Moses Njue has been sued over the deceased’s heart. The contention is that his heart is missing and his family accuses the pathologist of having a hand in it.

Lee Funeral has been roped in in the case filed by Kasim before Justice James Makau. It asked however asked that its name be expunged from the file, arguing there is no complaint or orders sought against it.

Kassim wants the court to compel the pathologist and the morgue to release the lost body part.

Then there is a criminal case. Dr Njue and his son, Lemuel Mureithi, were charged at a magistrate court over the heart and were released on Sh300,000 cash bail.

At the same time, the family is before the civil court; the mortuary bill matter where Lee Funeral is the respondent. This case stems from the succession duel before the family court.

In the family case, Civil Appeal number 7 of 2016, Kasim, Munyasya and Kalunde claimed that despite the judge directing that they settle the case quickly so that they could inter his body, their sibling Mbuvi and Mwinzi, who are controlling the estate, defied the orders.

The trio asked the court to compel the duo (Mbuvi and Mwinzi) to release Sh7 million, arguing that this was part of rent they collected from the estate by the two and an additional Sh60 million allegedly obtained from selling a piece of land in 2015.

Mbuvi and Mwinzi opposed the application filed before Justice Thande Mugure this year. They accused Kasim, Munyasya, and Kalunde of abusing the court process, arguing the trio had filed another application in a separate family case seeking Sh15 million to meet the burial cost last year.

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Timothy Mwandi Muumbo was a big fish in the police force
A burly figure, Muumbo bestrode the country's police units like a colossus.
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