COTU Secretary-General Francis Atwoli has lauded President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration for repossessing 3, 000-acre parcel of land in Ruai, Nairobi County which had been grabbed by private developers.
Reports in a section of the media said the land, until the reclamation, was in the hands of Deputy President William Ruto.
“Your Excellency, do not get tired [of repossessing public land from grabbers]. We want you to go and reclaim plots initially owned by the Government. Be aggressive in that quest the way your government was when it was reclaiming the Ruai land. I support you,” said Atwoli while addressing the nation during Labour Day celebrations.
By Thursday, eviction of occupants who had bought property next to the disputed land had begun. A 50-foot wide ditch had been dug round the property to prevent encroachment.
Government says it repossessed the land to pave way for the expansion of the Dandora Sewerage Treatment Plant.
In his Friday address, the COTU boss urged President Kenyatta to expand the scope of workers that are exempted from paying taxes to the government.
Currently, persons earning Ksh24, 000 and below are the ones exempted from remitting Pay As You Earn (PAYE) to the taxman.
“Consider extending tax exemptions to those earning between Ksh24, 000 to Ksh100, 000. We will require them to build Kenya’s economy in the future,” said Atwoli.
In response to Atwoli’s suggestion, President Kenyatta, during his speech, said:
“We shall try. However, Kenyans should know that a nation cannot be built without taxes being remitted.”
Atwoli, in his address, said the COVID-19 crisis has subjected Kenya to tough economic times, and, therefore, “we are unable to make calls for a minimum wage increment as we have always done”.
The COTU chief also took a swipe at those claiming he has hogged the Trade Unions top seat for years, and always has a way of discouraging competition against him.
“If you do not want this mzee, let us meet at the Tom Mboya Labour College on May 22 next year so that you can vote me out. I am not holding an appointive position, but an elective seat. Police and sections of the government will be there to oversee the exercise (election) [is done in a transparent manner],” he said.
In the tail-end of his speech, Atwoli touched on the BBI end-goal, saying a Constitutional change is needed soon to expand the executive so that inclusion can be achieved.
“This pandemic should end as soon as possible so that we embark on changing the Constitution. This is a big house, we are creating for everybody. You will be in it hopefully,” said the trade unionist.
Atwoli also defended himself against those faulting him for actively engaging in politics, instead of spending most of his time rooting for Kenyan workers’ welfare.
“What is politics? Politics is talking about shortages. When your wife is asking for salt, sugar, soap, flour, or anything that is needed in the house. She is actually playing politics with you. For you to be elected or re-elected, you have to dwell on shortages. So, when we talk about shortages, some brand us as people who are in politics. What is pushing me to play national politics, is because of shortages,” he said.