On December 28, 2018, former President Uhuru Kenyatta was tasked with explaining his plan to impose a 1.5 per cent deduction from employees' salaries to support his National Housing Fund.
During the State of the Nation address held at Mombasa State House, Hussein Mohamed, who worked at Citizen TV then, pinned down Uhuru over the controversial deduction, which had attracted mixed reactions from Kenyans.
Hussein pressured Uhuru to explain why workers were compelled to lose 1.5 per cent of their salary to support his agenda.
"Why would someone be forced to pay the tax yet they may not necessarily buy into the plan," Hussein questioned the then Head of State, forcing Uhuru to interject sharply, debunking reports that the deduction was a form of tax.
"You see, that is where you are getting it wrong because you are misleading people by telling them that it is a tax. It is not a tax, it is a saving and a contribution towards owning a home. It is not a tax, it is a contribution," Uhuru responded.
During the interview, Uhuru also elaborated that every Kenyan contributing to the fund would receive their money if they were not interested in occupying the constructed houses.
He, therefore, defended the mandatory deduction explaining that the country's mortgage scheme was exorbitant. He further argued that most Kenyans would not afford to meet the rates imposed on the mortgage system.
"Gentlemen, let us not go so far. We live in a country with less than 500,000 mortgage householders. We have people who go to borrow and are given a loan to pay for five years. How do you pay that for five years?
"If the government and Kenyans don't get involved in that process, we continue with this system that becomes exorbitant, and that is why you don't have affordable houses in the country," Uhuru added.
Despite giving a clear plan on why the government had imposed a 1.5 per cent deduction on employees' salaries, the court halted the plan.
In a ruling delivered on April 2019, Lady Justice Maureen Onyango termed the deduction a burden to Kenyans.
"Since there were previous orders stopping the implementation of the housing fund levy, I am satisfied the application by Cofek is of utmost urgency and grant order stopping the deduction of employees' salaries until May 20 when the dispute will be heard,” Onyango noted.
The plan was later quashed in court, forcing Uhuru to adopt another strategy to implement his Affordable Housing agenda.
Hussein Supporting Now
Hussein Mohamed, who now serves as the State House spokesperson, is among the plan's supporters. President William Ruto's administration plans to impose a 3 per cent levy on all salaried workers in private and public sectors.
The 3 per cent is double the rate of what Uhuru had proposed in his Housing Fund Levy, which was quashed.
Defending the deduction, Ruto noted that the 3 per cent would act as a guarantee to investors building the houses. He further assured Kenyans that they would withdraw their money after seven years.