Tenants at South End Mall located at the junction of Mbagathi and Lang’ata roads in Nairobi were the biggest losers as the government continued with its crackdown on buildings put up on riparian land.
National Youth Service excavators descended on the mall at 3am and under the watchful eye of the police, started demolition at 5am. Potential looters were kept at bay by the officers.
The Annex building, which was yet to be occupied, was the first one to be brought down.
Ngong River runs between the two buildings and the owners have constructed a car park on top of it.
NYS officers at the site said the main building, which had tenants, will be demolished in the coming days. “We are not leaving until both buildings come down,” said an NYS officer who declined to identify himself.
The window of opportunity allowed tenants to evacuate their business premises, with many complaining they had no prior warning.
Salons, clinics, pharmacies, a bar and restaurant, barbershops, jewellery shop, M-Pesa outlets are some of the businesses which had rented space in the mall.
The two buildings are owned by former Bobasi MP Stephen Manoti who together with his brother DanSteve Ragira and their lawyer Nyaboga Mariari narrated to journalists how the government had ignored a court order. “All construction plans were approved by various government bodies. Building started in 2008 and we have sank over Sh1 billion here. We had court orders since July 2016. We just don’t understand,” said Mr Ragira.
Mr Manoti said he had acquired the plots measuring almost two acres “way back and it was a clean deal approved by the government".
Mr Faisal Mohamed, a jewellery shop owner, had just started his second year at the five-storey building and had established clients who flocked to his shop.
“We had been reading on social media, but the landlord assured us all was well. He said he had court orders. The government should advertise all condemned buildings, so that tenants can move out,” he said.
Mr Mohammed Hassan, who owned a forex bureau, said: “I have been here for six months and I had presented all relevant documents, even those from the landlord about the building, to the CBK, which were approved. We don’t understand how the government is working,” he said.
One of the biggest losers was the owner of Charlie's Bistro, a hotel-cum-night club. A staff member said it made sales of about Sh1.3 million every weekend. The club had employed 200 staff.
Dr Walter Konya, who had a clinic, said: “We got all the licences even from Nema and City Hall. These are all government bodies. Didn’t they know this is a condemned building?”