VIDEO: East Africa’s cigarette tycoon Wilfred Murungi buried by only eight family members

Thursday June 13 2019

By DAILY NATION

In life, Mastermind Tobacco tycoon Wilfred M’iti Murungi was reclusive; he hardly mixed with villagers in his Magutuni village in Tharaka-Nithi County.

After he died, the villagers and his friends were asked to keep off his burial ceremony at Kiurani village, Maara constituency.

Only eight family members were allowed to witness his burial on Tuesday, a ceremony that lasted approximately one hour.

Heavily armed police officers from Magutuni and Chogoria police stations were deployed to Mr Murungi's palatial homestead.

They guarded the three gates leading to the home, making sure no villager sneaked in to see the body of the man referred to as ‘Master’ descend into the grave.

Two choppers, one carrying the casket and the other the tycoon's family members and a clergy from Nairobi, touched down at Kiurani Primary School at around 11.10am.

From there, a Mercedes-Benz hearse ferried the body to the home about a kilometre away.

The casket was hurriedly taken out of the chopper and loaded into the hearse by family members including Mr Murungi's two sons and two daughters.

Curious members of the public were kept at a distance by police officers and local administrators, only seeing the casket that was wrapped with nylon papers through the school's fence.

NO JOURNALISTS

Journalists who turned up in large numbers to cover the send-off were also barred from accessing the school and Mr Murungi's home.

They were only able to take photos of the choppers and the hearse through the school's fence.

At the home, locals hired to dig the grave were asked to leave and wait outside the gate only to be called back to fill it with soil.

One of the men, who sought anonymity, said that when they returned into the compound, they did not view the casket because the pit had already been half-filled by family members.

One of the police officers guarding the home said no photos were taken during the service and that there were no printed eulogies.

WIFE'S BURIAL

Though the locals were astonished and also angered for being kept off, they acknowledged that Mr Murungi's wife, Joyce Ithiru Murungi, who died back in 2012 was buried in the same manner.

Only 40 people were allowed to witness the ceremony burial and residents said even Mr Murungi did not attend.

“He landed at the same primary school in a chopper containing the body of his wife, handed it over to his children and the other family members and immediately went back to Nairobi in the chopper,” said Mr James Mutembei, a villager.

Another local said that during the burial of the wife, water was poured on the dusty road from the school to his home and no food was provided.

DISAPPOINTMENT

Members of the Arua clan to which Mr Murungi belonged expressed disappointment after being denied a chance to bury one of their clansmen or to even contribute for the ceremony as traditions dictate.

A local administrator told the Nation that Mr Murungi's eldest daughter directed that no one should get closer to the casket upon its arrival at the school grounds.

Only 20 people were to attend the burial, going by the number of seats at the venue, but things changed and only about eight people were allowed into the home.

In fact, some relatives, including one of the deceased's nephews who had driven his mother, were turned away.

“The son has been asked to stay outside with the vehicle and wait for his mother,” said Mr Nicholas Mutegi, a villager.

UNFAMILIAR

Mr Murungi worked as an engineer at British American Tobacco (BAT) before quitting and setting up Mastermind Tobacco in the late 1980s – first in Nakuru and then, when the business flourished, in Nairobi.

He had to fight survival wars in the cut-throat tobacco industry, fighting the government, and the BAT, something that could have changed his lifestyle.