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When phones stop ringing for bigwigs battling graft charges

“I am alone, my phone never rings anymore,” says Mr Peter Mangiti, the former Devolution principal secretary who was pushed out of office and charged in court after the first National Youth Service scandal broke four years ago.

The Nation caught up with him at the Royal Golf Course on Nairobi’s Ngong Road, where he spends most of his days.

Mr Mangiti says he has learnt more in the past four years, during which he has been in the cold, than he has in his entire adult life.

‘BETRAYAL’

When he is not fighting to clear his name in court, he is most likely playing golf to pass time, and perhaps distract himself from the coldness that comes with courtroom benches.

When we arrive at the club, we find Mr Mangiti all alone, wearing a striped T-shirt, a pair of shorts and flat shoes, ready for a game. However, there are not many people available to play with him.“I am handicap 13 and now a pensioner,” he says as he finally tees off. “I have all the time in the world to do things I was never able to do when I was in office.”

Though he has less company than ever before, he says that he is not bitter with anyone.

“The burden of betrayal rests on my fake friends who vanished the minute they heard I was in trouble. It’s not on me,” he says.

But the man, a career civil servant who rose through the ranks as a civil engineer to the post of director of Water Services, after which he was made the principal secretary in the Devolution ministry, before he crashed out in a slew of corruption-related allegations, says he is no longer bothered by his friends’ absence.

“I take a different view. My phone never rings anymore, but this is a blessing in disguise. I now know my fake friends from the genuine ones. This experience has helped me sieve a lot of fake friends,” he says.

BITTERNESS

Not everyone left, though. He says a few genuine friends have stood by him and have come to support him.

When we sit down for lunch – beef ribs and ugali – he admits that life has been hard. He had three cars but had to sell two. If the one he has breaks down, he would have to call a cab on one of the taxi-hailing apps or jump into a matatu.

He says one of the things he learnt very quickly was to drop the rank and entitlement once all the perks that came with the office were taken away.

“You can imagine coming from earning Sh1 million a month to just Sh68,000. How do you survive? But I have learnt not to be bitter. If you are going through such challenges and you add bitterness, you could easily die,” he says.

Mr Mangiti says he now just looks at the positive side of the experience and this helps him move on.

“It is better to have one or two friends than a bunch who sing your praises but are happy to see you go down. You have to battle with perceptions. Some family members whom I turn to when I am financially struggling, wonder how daft I was if I didn’t leave government as a rich man,” he says.

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