EMMA & FAMILY
Antonio Rudolfo Jose Pio Gama Pinto was born on 31 March 1927.
31 March 1927 - 24 February 1965
Emma & Family
‘My husband’s views on current affairs were often published in “Letters to the Editor” in the East African Standard under pseudonyms...
EMMA GAMA PINTO and FAMILY
Emma on the Assassination (24 February 1965)
Pio had dropped me off at my office in Jogoo House and had returned home to collect his Parliamentary papers. About an hour later, I was in Achieng’s office, around 9 o’clock when my mother called me on the phone. She had just returned from India after taking my eldest daughter Linda there for six months. My mother phoned to say that Pio had been attacked and she was hysterical, and I said: “I will be home soon. I am coming home right away.”
I am a very, very calm person in any emergency. So, I immediately phoned the Minister for Defence, Dr Njoroge Mungai, and told his office that Pio had been attacked and requested him to send the police there (to their home). Then I picked up the phone and rang Joe Murumbi knowing that he would not have left the office because parliament did not start until 11 am. He was the Minister for Foreign Affairs. He and his wife Sheila lived five minutes away from us. I said to him: Joe, Pio has been attacked, please go to our house. Next, I ran into Achieng’s office and said: Can I have your car? He said his car was in the garage for repairs or a service. Then I rang Oginga Odinga’s office and spoke to an American girl, Caroline Odongo, Odinga’s secretary and said to her: “Caroline, Caroline, can I get a car to take me home? Pio has been attacked.” She said she would call me back immediately. She did. She told me Odinga’s spare car was being sent round to the front of Jogoo House and would be waiting for me. Odinga was the First Vice-President of the country.
When we saw Pio’s body in the car, Joe said let’s get Pio inside the house. Because I was in shock, I have no clear memory of the people there. Waweru and Joe’s driver put Pio’s body in a pink blanket and carried his body, not like a sack of potatoes, but like something, into the living room.
Fitz de Souza (MP and Deputy Speaker) arrived at one point. I had not phoned Fitz I don’t know at what point Fitz was involved. Perhaps he found out from Parliament which had been informed. [Fitz, a barrister, heard the news while attending the Kenya High Court].
Fitz was there when Pio’s body was brought into the living room. I remember I sat down and they put the blanket down and I could see that little hole under his ribs. I was sitting with Joe and Fitz, and I said: “Gosh, Pio looks so pale”. And Fitz said: “Get out of there, get out of the room”. So that was my one and only view of Pio when he was brought into the home.
Joe and Sheila Murumbi took me to their home for two days. My mother stayed with the girls at our house. Our friend Dr [Yusuf] Eraj gave me a sedative because I was in a state of severe shock.
Emma on emigrating to Canada
Oscar’s postcard had opened the door to Toronto, so we took in the EPO and then travelled to Toronto. [Oscar Fonseca was Emma’s cousin who resided in Toronto.] We will be eternally grateful to Joe and Oscar and his family for helping us to get our feet wet in a new country. I felt like a duck on the edge of a vast ocean. We took up the challenge and after years of persistent hard work on the part of my mother, the children and myself, we are content.
I worked with the Scarborough Board of Education (one of the largest in Toronto), for 15 years and took early retirement at age 55. In the meantime, my three daughters, Linda, Malusha Marie and Tereshka received post-graduate degrees in Law, Speech, Pathology and Sports Administration respectively.
Even though Pio’s friends in Kenya and abroad collected $30,000 towards the education of his children, the girls worked and paid their way through university for almost eight years. Finally, when the Children’s Trust Fund was released, I passed the funds on to them. They have wisely invested their individual shares into the homes in which they reside. For the generosity of Pio’s friends, we do not have adequate words of thanks.
Emma on Pio’s political work
At the same time, Pinto used to write under pseudonyms, so that it is difficult to have a full list of his writings. Emma Gama Pinto reflects on this: ‘My husband’s views on current affairs were often published in “Letters to the Editor” in the East African Standard under pseudonyms, and never remained the same over the years. On occasion he used his own, but in most cases he favoured an African name. He was a prolific writer but remained that hand behind the curtain. He felt he could achieve more by not contesting in the race to jump on the bandwagon. His was a dedication to uncover the injustices perpetrated on innocent Africans who, although politically very mature, could not articulate in the Lingua franca of the world, their grievances. They were men who were often hamstrung by the inability to retort rhetorically to the arguments that came thick and fast, and eventually had to resort to brute force. Pio kept his political work completely secret from me.’
Pio on the South Asian community
While working with the African National Movement, I did all I could to build up the progressive front among Asians in Kenya. I was a founder member of the Kenya League which was formed to combat the reactionary trends in the Kenya Indian Congress shortly after the Declaration of the State of Emergency. I was also General Secretary of the East African Students federation. Both these progressive and largely Asian Organisations were banned during the Emergency. During the first Lancaster House Conference, I assisted in the formation of the Kenya Freedom party and worked as its Asst. Secretary. The Kenya Freedom party was dissolved as soon as KANU opened its doors to non- Africans.
Emma on the South Asian community
“Asians are looked down upon, but they really fought,” she said, her voice beginning to break, signs of tears showing in her eyes. “Asians may not have been in the forefront but they gave out a lot of money. Pio got money from a lot of them and I think they deserve some commendation. Pinto went into businesses and got loud speakers and microphones free of charge for public rallies. The young people of today may not remember past contributors. It is up to Kenyans to be honest with their people.”