The body of industrialist cum farmer Mansukh Patel was on Thursday cremated, in an emotional send-off at his expansive farm in Solai, Nakuru County.
The funeral, held under strict Covid-19 protocols, was a private family function, with the public and the media kept away.
Apart from close family members, only a few friends and leaders were invited to the funeral of the tycoon.
Baringo Senator Gideon Moi and Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui were among politicians who attended the private funeral.
Leaders who attended the funeral described Mr Patel as a great farmer and industrialist, who had an eye for opportunities.
“The cruel hand of death has robbed Nakuru and our nation of a patriot, whose entrepreneurial spirit, hard work and determination saw him create some of the country’s largest enterprises, which offer employment to thousands of our people,” said Mr Kinyanjui.
The governor further eulogised the business mogul as a devoted farmer, whose flower business employed thousands of people in Nakuru.
“When I last visited his farm in March this year, I could not help but admire his work ethic and the resultant model farm that employed over 1,500 people. He was always willing to share his knowledge, Mansukh was a father and mentor to many,” added Mr Kinyanjui.
Mr Moi described the late Patel, as an entrepreneur par excellence and who left a mark in the business world.
“We have lost a hard-working businessman who was a philanthropist and greatly helped to uplift the lives of Solai people. He has left a huge gap in the business world that will take time to fill. May he rest in peace. Patel was always strategic in his endeavors which included running industries, serving the public or farming-as he was hands-on,” mourned Mr Moi.
Friends and relatives painted the picture of a man with the selfless conviction of spending money to help residents of Solai find opportunities and empowerment.
“Mansukh was like our father in Solai. He has been in Solai for more than four decades as a farmer and philanthropist. His coffee, cut flower and dairy farming ventures employ more than 2,000 residents. He has also helped establish several projects, including at least three schools and a hospital,” said a resident Mr Evanson Kamwana.
Mr Kamwana had very fond memories of the late Patel.
“He was a man of the people. He leaves behind a very illustrious legacy and will be missed a lot by the people of Solai. Were it not for Patel, Solai would not have existed. His farm offers employment for thousands of residents. He contributed to various development projects, including construction of roads, schools and also contributed to the preservation of the environment through planting of trees,” stated a tearful Mr Kamwana.
Some of the schools Patel built include; Arutani Secondary, Jamhuri Primary and Mansukh Primary.
The principal of Arutani secondary, Ms Matildah Monterosso, described Mr Patel as a man with a big heart, who has left a rich legacy in the education sector.
“Patel helped many children from poor families to access education. He helped build Arutani secondary and ensured it has a well-equipped laboratory. He also bought us a brand new school bus. We have lost a man with a big heart,” said Ms Monterosso.
A stickler for the rules, his final send-off, with the 72-hour limit set by the government, followed the Covid-19 burial protocols to the letter.
Despite being a wealthy millionaire, Mr Patel had kept a low profile, avoiding the limelight. He managed to avoid the media so well that no photo of him was in the public domain. And even in death, the family chose a low key send-off. His body was ferried to Nakuru by road, with only about five vehicles escorting the hearse.
The hearse arrived at his Solai farm at 11am. And before the funeral ceremony started, the hearse was driven on the Nakuru Solai road to Kamkunji centre to allow residents to pay their last respects.
Emotional pupils and teachers of Mansukh Primary School sang songs in praise of Mr Patel, as they bid him goodbye.
All along, about five police officers were at the Milmet farm gate, ensuring only about 100 mourners — mainly family members — attended the funeral. The body was cremated at 1:30pm.
The billionaire owned the 3,000-acre farm that houses the Solai Coffee Estates, which grows flowers, macadamia, coffee and other horticultural produce for export.
However, May 9, 2018, remains a blot on his impeccable record. At least 48 people died and thousands of families were displaced after a dam owned by the family collapsed, washing away the surrounding villages of Energy, Nyakinyua, Endao, Milmet and Arutani. The dam was located at the Milmet Flower Farm in Solai.
The case against the businessman’s family is still in court.
The Patel family patriarch died on the night of Monday, June 28, at the Aga Khan Hospital, in Nairobi. He suffered a cardiac arrest.