Police officers enforcing the curfew in Githurai on Friday night came to the aid of two women who had been locked out of their houses over rent arrears.
The officers tried to intervene on behalf of the women, who stay on two different floors of the same rental building, but the caretaker refused to come out for dialogue.
Given that one of the women has a five-year-old boy, and the other is nursing a leg broken from a motorcycle accident, the officers gave the women a metal rod to remove the padlocks on their doors. One of the officers notified the Nation of the incident.
Elsewhere in Nairobi, a middle-aged man was involved in a car accident Saturday morning as he sped back home after being alerted that a group of strangers had descended on his house and were carting away his property at Karima Flats off Jogoo Road. He had rent arrears for two months.
Jane Kibicho and Evelyn Sammy said their business earnings have dwindled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and are thus struggling to raise rent.
Ms Kibicho said she runs a club in Githurai and since the facility has been shut down due to a government directive, she has had no stable source of income and has resorted to hawking water melons and sometimes plaiting other people’s hair to raise cash.
On Friday, she had gone for a check-up on her leg, which has fractures on two different parts due to her recent accident.
“I left for hospital at around 1pm. On returning in the evening, I found a padlock on my door. I called the caretaker and he told me there is no way he could help me; nilale nje,” Ms Kibicho told the Nation.
Puzzled, she thought it would be better to go to the area chief and inform him of the occurrence, and see if she could get some assistance. That is when she came across Evelyn, who had been locked out with her son, too.
Evelyn is a hawker in Nairobi who mainly sells men’s trousers.
“Since March, it’s been challenging. Business has been down; you can’t make what you used to,” she lamented.
With arrears going back to April, she had suspected the caretaker would lock her house and decided to place three padlocks on the door to ensure there was no room for another.
But the wily caretaker applied a strong type of glue on the keyholes of the padlocks, so she could not open them when she returned home.
A shocked Evelyn decided to go to the police and report that she wanted to break the padlocks.
But even after being given the green light by police, only two padlocks gave way. One remained stubbornly in its place and Evelyn was forced to spend the night in the house of Ms Kibicho, who had quite easily opened the caretaker’s padlock on her door.
The two saw a different face of the police as they pondered the next move when they found their doors closed.
“We found them at the gate. We had gone out between 8pm and 9pm carrying rods for breaking padlocks. They wondered why we were carrying such rods at night and stopped us,” said Evelyn, noting that the officers were sympathetic.
“They sent someone to the caretaker but he refused to come out,” she added. “They were busy, but they helped us get a metal rod to use.”
Evelyn’s rent is Sh10,500 a month. She has paid Sh6,000 for April but is yet to pay her rent for May. Ms Kibicho has arrears for May. By June 15, this month’s rent will be overdue for both of them.
In the Jogoo Road case, the man whose property was thrown out of the house – Mr Lenson Kiraithe – had left early in the morning to meet his obligations of supplying milk to a bank in Parklands, leaving his younger brother sleeping.
At around 6.30am, a group of rowdy men who introduced themselves as auctioneers knocked on the door and when Mr Kiraithe’s brother, Dennis Mureithi, opened, they forced their way in. An hour later, they started carting out the household items.
By then, Mr Mureithi had called Mr Kiraithe, who was involved in an accident as he rushed back in his car. He sustained a head injury and was later treated at Metropolitan Hospital.
According to Mr John Diang’a, Mr Kiraithe’s neighbour who is also the tenants’ representative, the affected man has not had rent issues for the six years he has lived there. He has, however, been facing challenges in light of the Covid-19 pandemic but had committed to pay his rent.
“I understand that there were some negotiations with these guys to have the rent paid, owing to the current situation right now. So, when he left the house this morning, he was not notified of anything,” said Mr Diang’a.
“He has never had problems until now. And it is not only him. A number of us have also been affected,” he added.
Mr Mureithi said his brother had rent arrears for two months and that he had committed to pay by June 8.
“They said they don’t want to negotiate,” he said. Tenants tried contacting the landlord without luck.
President Uhuru Kenyatta on Saturday urged landlords and employers to “put people before profit” as he announced the extension of a number of measures aimed at containing the spread of Covid-19, among them the cessation of movement in and out of Nairobi and Mombasa.