Businessman who built popular city eatery

Tuesday September 1 2015

Njuguna's Place along Waiyaki Way in Nairobi in a picture taken on September 1, 2015. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Njuguna's Place along Waiyaki Way in Nairobi in a picture taken on September 1, 2015. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

For more than three decades, Joseph Njuguna Macharia, who died last week, fed thousands of Kenyans on the country’s famed nyama choma from an early 20th century stone building along Nairobi’s Waiyaki Way.

He served from a smoky little building where Kenya’s Who’s Who trooped.

The small house was built during colonial days when the road was known as Salisbury Way to serve as a canteen for the Westlands community and families in the neighbouring military camp. It’s from here that Njuguna roasted and boiled meat, made ugali, mukimo, kachumbari and sold bread to go with it.

He did most of the work himself, never leaving everything to workers for he believed they would not do the work he had perfected over the years.

Veteran broadcaster Leonard Mambo Mbotela recalls 1985 when he worked in the Presidential Press Service Unit. They had returned with President Moi from a foreign trip and had missed their favourite meat.

“When he saw us, he did not even greet us, he went straight to cut a chunk of meat and put it on red hot charcoal which he served us with bread and told us it was his bill to welcome us back to Kenya,” Mambo recalls.

The late Joseph Njuguna Macharia. FILE PHOTO

The late Joseph Njuguna Macharia. FILE PHOTO

Salim Mohamed, another veteran broadcaster says for all the years he went for meat at Njuguna’s, he met the Who’s Who in Kenya’s political landscape.

At one time, word went round that Njuguna was to be evicted from the plot situated next to Total Petrol Station under the excuse that it belonged to the military. It only took a telephone call from a top civil servant in the Office of the President in Harambee House to scare off the vultures.

Njuguna became a meat supplier for prominent personalities.

The late Hezekiah Oyugi, known to have been a larger-than-life Interior Permanent Secretary under the Moi regime got his meat supplies weekly from Njuguna as well as top military personalities.

Veteran journalist Roy Gachuhi recalls going to Njuguna’s in early 1980s because it was the place one was sure to find a government news source.

At the height of Kanu-Opposition political hostilities of the 1980s and early 1990s, it was the universal place where both sides went in the guise for meat roasting to plot strategies.

Kanu hawks like the late Joseph Kamotho (secretary general) would be there talking in low tones. Opposition doyens such as Raila Odinga would make their entry followed by President Mwai Kibaki’s opposition group in the Democratic Party led by former Kieni MP Munene Kairu.