An illicit alcohol brewery has survived police raids for nine years, and thrived.
The brewery, along Katine River in Ngomeni, Matungulu, is a major source of the chang'aa sold in the region.
Residents described the person behind the brewery as 'untouchable' and well-connected with the police and Machakos County officials, who protect him.
They asked the national government to intervene and close down the den, which they claimed had turned youths into zombies, destroyed marriages and made students drop out of school.
They said consumption of chang'aa had also led to deaths and insecurity in the region.
There were reports that the brewery produced an average of 200 litres of chang'aa every day, which is sold as far as Kangundo and Kathiani sub-counties.
The Standard visited the brewery, about three kilometres south of Nguluni market, at the weekend following the residents' complaints. We found four young men busy preparing the liquor.
They said they thought we were undercover officers, but they didn't seem perturbed by our presence.
"Are you new police officers? Anyway, your colleagues were here yesterday and we sorted things with them as usual. Ours now is to work," one of them said.
They relaxed even more when we told them we were from a neighbouring county and that we had come to visit our in-laws.
They offered to teach us how to produce 'pure' chang'aa, free of charge, from a concoction that includes molasses. There is a huge metallic drum mounted on raised ground next to a pool of water near the river.
"This job is not easy. We are forced to work extra hard to produce large quantities so we can earn good commissions. The agreement we have with our boss is that we are paid according to our output," said another youth.
The youths, primary school and secondary school dropouts, work in day and night shifts.
They said they were not worried about police raids because the owner had established "a good working relationship" with the police and county officials.
"The only thing we dread is heavy rains and the resultant floods. Otherwise, nothing else prevents us from earning our living,” he said.
And asked why they preferred brewing illicit liquor, another one said: “This is our only source of livelihood. It is a job like any other. We have to do it to meet our needs.”
County Commissioner Abdullahi Galgalo has vowed to eliminate the illicit brew menace.
“Nobody is above the law. If that has been happening anywhere in Machakos, then it is unfortunate. However, we shall spare no effort in ensuring the chang'aa menace is dealt with once and for all. Those culpable will face the full force of the law,” Mr Galgalo said.
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