The curse and blessing of SGR cash

After squandering their millions, some residents say the government undervalued their land.

Mr Ngavazi Muthungu in his shop. He used the Sh1.4 million he received as SGR compensation to buy more stock for his business and build rental houses. PHOTO | LUCY MKANYIKA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

IN SUMMARY

  • The millions of shillings turned the residents’ fortunes in different directions.

  • Neighbours and relatives say when Mr Mwasema got the money, he went on a spending spree and blew most of it on alcohol.

  • Mr Mwaengwa received Sh2.9 million, part of which was misused on entertainment.

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It has been four years since a number of Taita-Taveta residents received compensation for the standard gauge railway land but some have little to show for it.

The millions of shillings turned the residents’ fortunes in different directions. For Mr Ngavazi Muthungu of Birikani area, the SGR project came as a blessing.

He used the sh1.4 million he received from the government to buy a piece of land where he put up a commercial building.

Part of the monthly rent helped transform his retail shop into a wholesale business.

“The compensation for the plot improved my life. My income has gone up and my family lives in relative comfort,” he told the Nation.

COMPENSATION

However, Mr Muthungu did not receive all the amount promised.

He was told that the piece of land he had bought before the project was launched belonged to Kishamba B group ranch.

The ranch owners sent a petition to the National Land Commission and Kenya Railways demanding a 30 percent share of the compensation.

“I did not buy the land from the ranch so I am entitled to all the amount. It is my land,” the businessman said.

Mr Muthungu and others have visited State agencies for help to no avail. A few kilometres from his shop is an incomplete double-storey building.

SPENDING SPREE

Its owner, Hamisi Mwasema, says he could not finish its construction because government officials undervalued his two and a half acre piece.

Mr Mwasema says he had several trees and a semi-permanent house on his land “but my family only received Sh13 million”.

Neighbours and relatives say when Mr Mwasema got the money, he went on a spending spree and blew most of it on alcohol.

He bought a new saloon and a Mitsubishi Fuso lorry. He later constructed a house for his family.

Area resident interviewed said the car is grounded after being involved in an road accident recently.

He may not have the money to repair the car or complete the other building, which was meant for business.

Mr Mwasema boasts of having constructed a house for himself and his mother using the SGR cash.

“My family is happy and I now have a permanent house. The lorry helps me make some money that I use to take care of the family,” he said.

Mr Mwasema insists that the government needs to top up the compensation “because what I received in 2014 was very little”.

“We gave our quotations but the compensation we got was not enough,” he said.

Mr Samuel Mwaengwa, another beneficiary, said Kenyans need to be educated on what to do with colossal amounts they get as compensation for a government project.

BUILD RENTAL HOUSES

Mr Mwaengwa received Sh2.9 million, part of which was misused on entertainment.

“When people knew I had money, they followed me everywhere and I bought them whatever they requested,” he said.

“To date, I cannot account for some Sh500,000.”

Family members came to the rescue of the mechanic when they advised him to build rental houses. Mr Mwaengwa gets more than Sh30,000 in monthly rent.

He also has a motorcycle spare parts shop.

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