Parable of man who built on riparian land

Demolition of Nakumatt Ukay Center in Westlands. [Edward Kiplimo/Standard]
Everybody knows the parable of the man who built his house on sand. When the storm came, all his hard work and investment was washed away.

If the gospel were being written today, perhaps it would be called the parable of the man who built his house on riparian land.

The images we have seen of expensive buildings being knocked down and cleared away are certainly shocking. It seems such a waste.

And of course, in the parable, it is slightly different, for it is the forces of nature that come and wash away the man’s house, not the forces of some government agency as has been seen in recent times.

Couldn’t they be made to pay a fine instead? Couldn’t the building be repossessed or nationalised? Could this situation have been avoided?

Well, perhaps. The truth is that this situation could have been avoided - by not building on riparian land without permission.

It’s as simple as that. No one just starts building without some sort of plan.

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Now the Government has shown us very clearly that plans have to be legal, or they won't be very good plans.

It is indeed a pity to destroy perfectly good buildings. But destroying them is the simplest way to enforce the rule of law and make sure illegal constructions do not happen again.

More money

People need to know that when they break the law, it will cost them more time and money in the long run.

The parable of the man who built his house on sand is designed to make you think about the difference between making sure you have the right foundations in place and simply taking shortcuts through life.

Some of these enthusiastic riparian land builders would do well to read it.

People who built without the correct permissions were taking shortcuts and building on poor foundations.

And that is the reason their buildings are now tumbling down, one after the other. They have only themselves to blame.

Sometimes in emergencies, you just have to get on with whatever needs doing, whether you have the paperwork or not.

But when it is just a case of chasing profits or saving a bit of time, I’m sorry; you either follow the rules or don’t complain when your house comes crashing down.

The State is there to be the rock on which citizens build. And whenever you cheat it, you turn it into sand. We should endeavour to make the State a gift that every generation receives from their elders.

To do that, we need to make sure that the State is a rock we can rely on. And that is why the illegal buildings needed to come down.

Public institutions

This parable about building a house is not just true for a literal house or a dream or a project, but it is even more true for building our Government and public institutions.

For many people, particularly the young, we think of these institutions as already fixed, and more dead than alive. But the truth is, our public institutions are made of people. People who are alive, People like you and me.

And therefore they are fluid and always capable of change and progress, and adapting to new ways of thinking and living. But for this to happen we need to be engaged citizens and to hold them to account.

Unique chance

We have a unique chance right now in the war on graft. Public opinion is strongly in favour of the anti-corruption drive that President Uhuru Kenyatta has pursued. But the moment will pass.

We need to make the most of this moment of goodwill and public attention to put the foundations in place and make sure that we are building on a solid basis for the future, no matter who is in power.

We have a moment right now to get behind reforms to make sure that this cleansing of certain corrupt individuals is not just a surface pruning that allows the graft to grow back even stronger next year.

We need to make sure the structures are in place so that zero-corruption becomes the norm, the expectation and the easy route for everyone in public life because that is the number one route to improving our economy and making our country live up to its full potential.

Mr Guleid is the Executive Director of the Frontier Counties Development Council (FCDC)

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illegal constructionsIllegal buildingsRiparian landDemolitions