How killer bus owner rose from humble beginnings to amass great wealth
The politically connected businessman also has footprints in real estate, football, construction and farming.
Cleophas Shimanyula, the owner of the bus that crashed in Kericho leaving at least 58 people dead, rose from a modest background to a politically well-connected businessman, who curved a niche for himself in the public transport sector.
He has demonstrated his business acumen by investing in transport, real estate, football, construction and farming.
Mr Shimanyula and his three brothers developed a keen interest in vehicles at an early age and would spend hours helping at their father’s garage in Kakamega town.
He once operated a taxi service at Somken petrol station in Kakamega before graduating to matatus in western, especially on the Kakamega-Kisumu route.
He ventured into long-distance travel nearly a decade ago, with vehicles branded ‘Home Boyz’.
The man is simply known as ‘Toto’ in his home area and is the founder and chairman of Kakamega Home Boyz Football Club.
Lately, he has ventured into construction and one of his firms, Western Cross, is involved in garbage collection in Kakamega. Some attribute this to his close ties to Kakamega County, whose Governor is Wycliffe Oparanya.
Mr Shimanyula is shrewd but prefers to stay away from the limelight. Despite his affluence, he does not frequent social joints.
The businessman cuts the image of a simple but enigmatic individual and is often seen driving himself in his 2015 Lexus LX 570.
The man is credited with turning around the taxi business in the town by introducing bigger and powerful vehicles, including Toyota Prados, for car hire services by high-profile clients, who include county executives, politicians and other prominent personalities.
Today, Mr Shimanyula owns a yard next to Bukhungu Stadium where his lorries and construction machines are kept.
As his businesses grew, Mr Shimanyula started making his presence felt in the political scene by associating with key politicians in the region and helping mobilise supporters for their campaigns.
One such politician is former Cabinet Minister Cyrus Jirongo, who hired Mr Shimanyula’s vehicles for campaigns. The businessman helped him gather supporters for his rallies.
When he ran for the presidency in 2013, politician Musalia Mudavadi also hired Mr Shimanyula’s large fleet.
The businessman is also said to enjoy close ties with Governor Oparanya and scores of other western politicians.
The football club was perhaps Mr Shimanyula’s biggest move. He has steered its activities for the last eight years and single-handedly gave financial support before the county stepped in with sponsorship.
The team has nurtured the talent of youths in Kakamega and other parts of western.
The October 10 bus crash has however cast a dark cloud over Mr Shimanyula’s empire. By Friday, he had temporarily closed an office he recently opened for coordination of his business activities.
Mr Shimanyula and Western Crossroads Express Sacco manager Bernard Shitiabayi have been charged over the accident.
The two were arrested on Wednesday evening after it emerged that the crash resulted from dangerous driving and flouting traffic rules.
Kericho police boss James Mogera further said the registration status of the bus could not be found on the National Transport and Safety Authority’s website.
Mr Shimanyula and Mr Shitiabayi did not take plea at a magistrate’s court in Molo on Thursday as police requested to detain them to complete investigations.
More than 50 people were reported dead and 15 seriously injured after the accident. The bus veered off the road and landed on a rocky farm in Fort Ternan while heading from Nairobi to Kisumu.
After receiving news of the accident, Mr Shimanyula said in a brief interview, “What has happened is quite unfortunate. We have worked hard for some time now to ensure our vehicles operate safely. This has come as a big shock to me.”