This week in History

Kenyatta’s pistol and the Sh1.67 pending Pilsner bill

While he smuggled VAT 69 into the presidential limo, he preferred lager from the pub inside Parliament

Debt collector: First Speaker of the National Assembly, Sir Humphrey Slade, often wrote president debt reminders, sometimes, alcohol related.

By Undercover Reporter

@Undercover KE

Sir Humphrey Slade was elected independent Kenya’s first Speaker of the National Assembly in February 1967. But the lawyer and ardent mountain climber was more known for his run ins with founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. One day it would be pending beer bills, the next it would be the president’s gun.

Let us start with bills. Parliament has a bar where honourable members run bills for settling at end month. President Kenyatta was no different. While he smuggled VAT 69 and drunk it in the presidential limo, he preferred lager from the bar at Parliament. The problem was his selective memory when it came to payment.

In 1964 when Slade was Speaker of the House of Representatives, Kenyatta had to be reminded to settle Sh1.65 for “one small Pilsner” as Bar Charges from the Kenya National Assembly. Slade even sent him a reminder on February 19th, 1964: “You may not be aware that your Catering Account here now stands at Sh1,597.30, no payment having been made for some months past…. I should be very grateful if you could make a payment on account, as our reserves are not sufficient to carry large accounts outstanding for long.”

Then there was the day in 1970 when Mzee Kenyatta fumed and tried pulling out a pistol from his pocket when Kadu leader Ronald Ngala, the Minister for Constitutional Affairs and Administration, was attacking him on the floor of the house.

Sir Humphrey Slade died in Nairobi in 1983 aged 78

Slade saw him from close quarters and hissed: “Mr Kenyatta, what are you trying to do? Please take your hand out of the pocket. This is Parliament!”

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Kenyatta couldn’t stand it and left the House. It was the last time he attended Parliament as the MP for Gatundu. For the remainder of his term in office, he only went there during state functions like Budget Day.

Humphrey Slade came to Kenya from England in 1930 and joined the law firm of Hamilton, Harrison and Mathews on his way to representing the Aberdares in the Legislative Council (Legco) where he served as Speaker from 1950. 

Sir Humphrey Slade died in Nairobi in 1983 aged 78.

Oh! almost forgot, Ronald Ngala, for whom Kenyatta had drawn the pistol, later died after his car was invaded by bees along the Nairobi-Mombasa highway in 1972.

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