Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i has announced that the government will revoke the work permits of seven Chinese nationals who were found selling second-hand clothes at the Gikomba open-air market in Nairobi this week.
You have to be more audacious than a skydiver to go against your work permit at the heart of Eastern Africa’s largest open-air market, because your chances of getting busted are higher than a kite. You don’t want to try that especially when your government is already breathing down our necks for your loan that we’re struggling to repay.
We acknowledge that even foreigners have been affected by the hustler political bug currently sweeping through our borders, but if we wanted to open a Hustler Diaspora Branch, we would have included it in the loan agreement with your government and opened a roadside maize roasting stall for you in your country.
There are many things that can get you a million likes on government social media, but taking pictures with imported second-hand clothes isn’t one of them.
Work permits are supposed to be given to foreigners for assignments that have no available local expertise. We understand that Kenyans love a good life and taking up jobs that dirty their collars might not be as lucrative, but we did not ask for help from any foreign government for hawking expatriates, neither do we have a skill deficit in that sector locally.
If you thought Kenyans are only good at athletics, we challenge any foreign government to organise a hawking contest anywhere in the world and dare invite Kenyans to participate in it. We will wipe the board with all the medals on show, and put this matter to rest once and for all.
Every Kenyan comes with a hawker’s gene hard-wired in their DNA. We spray mallets with a gold coating and sell them to unsuspecting clients at the price of pure gold. We stop you in traffic to sell you a packet of ball bearings at discounted prices only for you to get home and find you bought a sachet of overloaded skittles.
This is the same country where two different passengers going to the same destination pay different fares, based on their bargaining skills with the bus conductor. We have two families who are neighbours in the same apartment block but get to pay different rent charges based on their bargaining skills with their estate landlord.
When you live in the land of abundant natural talent like Kenya is, there is no way a foreign national can walk in and elbow their way into the front of the hawking queue; unless they’re fundraising for a one-way ticket back to their motherland and they want to catch the attention of our immigration officials.
You wonder how a foreign national would fit into a high intensity open-air market and compete favourably with local businessmen, many of who have perfected their hawking craft from birth.
Everything about that picture is out of place and you’re hard-pressed to find one factor that would give them a head start. There is no variant of Sheng, the language of the street vendor, in Mandarin.
A foreign national cannot wade through the dangerous Nairobi traffic gridlock on a rickety handcart, unless they hired police outriders to clear their way, in which case the Inspector General of Police has already issued a circular and their names aren’t on the list of VIPs to benefit from that exclusive privilege.
A foreign national cannot outshout a local hawker in the battle for choosy clients, neither can they outrun a city council askari when the chase to avoid arrest is on.
They do not have the instinct of ducking a tear-gas canister thrown into the crowd to disperse hawkers off the streets, neither can they talk themselves out of trouble when they find themselves riding in those city county patrol vans that last saw paint during Governor Evelyn Baring’s reign.
Kenyans know that we owe your government a lot of money, and we have committed our life to pay you back. We also know that if we defaulted on our commitments you might do bad things to our government; and we don’t want to face the full wrath of your powers because our entire population cannot even match up to one of your many provinces.
If you wanted a job in our country, you could as well have shared your curriculum vitae so that we help you raise awareness on social media.
Kenyans are an accommodating people and we wouldn’t have let you be deported for struggling to make ends because we all know too well what it means to be broke. It is not our nature to turn down those committed to providing Kenyans with affordable clothing, but since it is not in the Big Four Agenda we have no option but to let you go.
Mr Oguda writes on topical issues; [email protected]