Mall owners cry foul as Sh2 billion building in demolished

An excavator demolishes the Southend mall Building along Langata road in Nairobi on August 8, 2018. National Environmental Authority (NEMA) is currently demolishing buildings along the Nairobi River bed. [Gilbert Otieno/Starndard]
The ground shook as the bulldozer tore into the five-storey Southend Mall, along Lang’ata Road early yesterday morning.

Where the monster's teeth failed to bite, a drill was unleashed and parts of the building came tumbling down. Owners of the building watched helplessly as their Sh2 billion investment was reduced to rubble.

Tenants had a hard time salvaging their valuables. Some of them used improvised pulleys to lower their property down through the windows. Power had been cut off and the elevator was not working.

The demolition, according to the businesspeople, started at 5am.

Eddy Onyango, 22, a worker in one of the business premises, woke up at 9am to "the sad news" that the building had been brought down.

He is among hundreds of employees at Charlie’s Bistro Restaurant that the proprietor, Dr Muriithi Muhoro, is planning to let go.

“I have lost millions of shillings that I may never recover. But that is not the main issue. We had a workforce of 110 and had just added another 350 since we planned to branch out. There are thousands of mouths that depended on them. These are now jobless people,” he said.

A day earlier, a similar demolition in Kileleshwa left 80 employees of Java Coffee House stranded.

“We never received a notice. We have a court order. We have all the papers. This is complete sabotage of business,” said Dansteve Ragira, brother of former Bobasi MP Stephen Manoti, the owner of Southend Mall.

His lawyer Wilberforce Mariaria, armed with copies of the court order, and reports, including that of National Environment Management Authority (Nema) that gave the green light for the building to be constructed, was at the scene.

But they were just papers.

According to the Environmental Impact Assessment Licence dated August 16, 2012, Nema gave an approval to Mosiara Trading Company Limited to construct a hotel and office block on plot L.R. No 209/12227. It was at a cost of Sh40 million.

“The proponent will ensure that no development activity will be undertaken within a distance of 10m from the highest ever recorded level of Ngong River,” said Nema.

The river had been covered with a slab, leaving small spaces where water on top drips back to the river. The mall had two blocks-A and B.

“No, but this building is very far from the river,” said an infuriated Mr Ragira. “They cannot even tell me who is overseeing the demolitions. They just say it is a State order.”

Ragira confirms that construction of the mall started in 2008 but was stopped in 2012 by State authorities due to concerns over the river before resuming in 2013. The first block was ready in 2016.

The other block, which was to provide parking spaces and a few offices, was yet to be occupied.

“We have a hydrological report that we have adhered to in preserving the river. Is this fair really? he posed.

Neither the communications official of Nema nor the agency's Director General could be reached to confirm if these documents were authentic by the time of going to press.

On April 4, 2016, Nairobi County through the then Director of Public Works and Transport FN Karanja reportedly issued a licence to have the plot improved.

“We have no objection to your proposal to improve the plot frontage with concrete paving blocks to serve the development plot L.R. No 209/2227 Mbagathi Road,” Mr Karanja wrote.

All the improvements were to be overseen by the county, which acknowledged receiving Sh10,000 as inspection fees for the works.

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