Among the politicians waving flags on the stairs of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands, on a cold October morning in 2013 — when President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto were summoned by the court — was a man who went almost unnoticed.
Standing next to National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale and Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi was Zaheer Merhali Jhanda, who watched in glee as the rest of the high-powered delegation from Kenya sang in support of the President and his deputy.
Mr Jhanda had, six months before The Hague visit, vied for — and lost — the Nyaribari Chache seat on a Jubilee Party ticket.
WELL-OILED CAMPAIGN MACHINE
But despite the loss, his friendship with the top leadership of the party remained intact. It still is, even though he soon afterwards defected to the Wiper Democratic Movement and vied for the same seat in the 2017 elections — which he also lost despite running a well-oiled campaign machine against Mr Richard Tongi.
“Mheshimiwa, kusema na kutenda,” one of his followers remarked on Facebook after Mr Jhanda posted the famous photo from The Hague in 2013.
The tag ‘mheshimiwa’ stuck on the man from Kisii, whose preferred mode of travel is a helicopter or the latest issue of the Lexus LX570. His love for celebrity life was probably exhibited best when he married socialite Faith Makau, alias Amber Ray, in 2016. Their union provided endless fodder for blogs.
The teetotaller has never been afraid of letting the Internet know how much money he has as he likes to pose behind mountains of wads of notes running into tens of millions of shillings.
These millions are regularly donated to various causes during fundraisers in Kisii, where he enjoys celebrity status. It’s here, after all, where he started out as an event organiser about 20 years ago, then barely out of his teens. His family, which has Arab roots, has run businesses in Kisii town for a long time.
As a showbiz player in the early 2000s, Mr Jhanda shifted his base to Nairobi about 10 years ago, seeking the right connections for the celebrity image he wanted to cultivate. Within no time, he struck friendships with the cronies of politicians, and soon the politicians themselves.