Mercury, copper and other scams are a way of life here

Sunday July 8 2018

Juma’s posho mill and cereals shop must be the headquarters of impurities in Mwisho wa Lami. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGAH

Juma’s posho mill and cereals shop must be the headquarters of impurities in Mwisho wa Lami. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGAH 

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For those  who have been asking why I have not shared with you how Mwisho wa Lami is coping with the addition of impurities in common foodstuffs like sugar, flour and maize, I have bad news for you: In Mwisho wa Lami, long before Matiang’i discovered that there were lots of illegal goods that contained impurities, this was a way of life here.

From the milk that Lutta sells, drinks we take at Hitler’s, the foodstuffs we buy at the cereals shop, to the tea we take at Kasuku Hotel, every business person in Mwisho wa Lami dilutes their wares. Allow me, friends and enemies, to take you through some of the adulterated things we buy in Mwisho wa Lami.

Hitler:Any regular visitor at Hitler’s knows that you do not fully trust the man, unless you are fool. At any one time, Lutta always has three versions of his drink. There is the pure stuff brewed locally by him and his sons at the forest next to River Lukose. This is clean, pure, and top of the range stuff, the one that does not cause hangovers.

Then there is the second type, the cheap imports from neighbouring villages. They are quickly made from molasses and although Hitler buys them cheaply, he still sells them at a premium. Then there’s a third version, the stuff Hitler’s dilutes with water – lots of water!

As such, you will notice Hitler serves from different bottles hidden in various places. If you ask him, he will say he is hiding the bottles from the police. But he seems to have segmented his customers well.

People like Kwame and Kuya are served the original pure stuff; those of us who are always taking drinks on credit are either given heavily diluted stuff or the molasses variety. And that is why we have bad hangovers that can only treated by going back to Hitler’s for more!

Juma’s posho mill and cereals shop: This must be the headquarters of impurities in Mwisho wa Lami. You see, Juma also runs a cereals shop next to his posho mill. Although he has a variety; maize, beans, ndengu, rice among others - you can only buy them from him if you have a lot time in your hands.

The last time I bought ndengu from Juma’s, Fiolina bitterly complained because after sorting the chaff from the grain, she was left with only half agorogoro of ndengu! If you look carefully, you will notice that there seems to be some construction happening next to the posho mill, but although the sand and soil always seem to disappear, not much construction takes place. As to where the sand and soil goes to, your guess is as good as mine.

But Juma also deals in spoilt maize and other rotten cereals. If you have spoilt maize or beans, you can always give it to him at throw-away prices. Although he claims that he sells them to Hitler’s for chang’aa brewing and Lutta as animal feeds, no one has ever seen him make deliveries.

 But whenever you buy maize from him, 20 per cent of it is always be spoilt, and should you grind your maize into flour without sorting, be ready for bitter-tasting ugali! Even if you take your clean maize to grind into flour at his shop, some flour from his bad maize will still make its way into your flour –upende usipende.

Lutta the farmer:Despite being mean, Lutta is one of the successful farmers in Mwisho wa Lami. He has a variety of vegetables in his farm. But there is a catch, however early you go to buy your vegetables, Lutta will always delay you and will only give you your sukuma or kunde when it is getting dark. Most people will get home and prepare the vegetables immediately. But if you wait until the next day when there is light, you will find lots of grass and other unknown leaves and shrubs in your vegetables.

Then the milk.I can’t remember a time Lutta didn’t have milk – yet he only has one cow. But Lutta’s milk is always enough to serve all people in Mwisho wa Lami. During mid-month weekdays, you will get good milk from Lutta. During weekends, he adds some water in order to meet the increasing demand. But during end month weekends and holidays like Christmas, Lutta does not add water to his milk – he adds some milk to his water then sells it to everyone in need of milk!

Maina the shop keeper and hardware owner.How his name has not appeared in parliamentary investigations is something I do not understand! In his many years of serving Mwisho wa Lami residents, we have never seen him receive any supplies during the day. All supplies arrive at night. And over the years, he’s faced many accusations, but he somehow survives.

Given that he never sells packed sugar from the popular brands we know, we always get some particles in our cups. So when Matiang’i said there was copper and mercury in sugar, we were not surprised because this is something we have been seeing for years. We would wish to try alternatives, but his sugar is the cheapest on this side of the Sahara.

Last year, there was a time when Mwisho wa Lami people started taking more rice than ugali – our staple for years. This was because Maina was selling a new variety of rice that was cheaper than maize. Soon, every home was taking rice, a hitherto delicacy only found in Milimani – the leafy suburbs of Mwisho wa Lami.

Until Pius came home, and told everyone that we were taking plastic rice. The rice disappeared from his shop instantly, and it has never been seen again. We all went back to ugali!

But it is in his hardware that Maina plays all manner of tricks.

When I was building, I would go to Kakamega or Kisumu whenever I had money and needed to buy lots of materials. But however much I tried, I could not avoid Maina for I needed him for urgently needed materials, and more importantly, credit!

Whatever you are buying, Maina has adjusted his weighing scales in such a way that he will always remain with a quarter of what you pay for! Second, Maina collects soil that runs from soil erosions into a mound outside his hardware and adds a little sand on top, and if you are new here and are looking for sand, he sells you this. One day I bought cement from him, only to find out it was maize flour.

So as you complain of impurities in the things you buy, we the people of Mwisho wa Lami have gone through this for years.

We want this matter addressed but if it means the price of common products will go up if impurities are removed, then we have no problem with them, for no one has ever died because of the mercury and copper in Maina’s sugar!