One of Kenya’s most visible Vision 2030 flagship projects, the Thika Highway, continues to breathe fresh economic life into its surroundings, with the skyrocketing property prices making land owners a prosperous lot.
But it has not quite worked out for John Macharia, 61, a father of four.
For 15 years before construction work on the highway began in 2009, Mr Macharia lived on a quarter acre he had purchased metres away from the original road.
According to his estimates, the developments he made on the plot and land prices at the time meant his property was worth about Sh60 million.
The Government offered to pay him Sh10.8 million in compensation, but he contested this amount before the Land Acquisition Compensation Tribunal, terming it “too meagre”.
“This initial sum is yet to be paid, despite direction from the Commissioner of Lands to do so after I moved to the High Court, which ordered the payment plus accruing interest and costs amounting to Sh11.7 million. The court ruling put my total compensation payment at Sh20.5 million,” he said.
Today, Macharia lives in a makeshift store at Juja trading centre, where he also moved his transport and hardware business.
A letter to the National Land Commission dated November 6, 2014 from Macharia’s lawyers, Waruhiu K’Owade and Nga’ng’a Advovates, reads in part: “Our client did agree to take the part payment of Sh10.87 million originally awarded, while the Commissioner of Lands seeks from the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) the additional funds necessary to settle the balance of the principal sum and costs awarded by the court, plus interest accrued to date.”
A desperate Macharia voices his concerns over lack of payment on a posters he carries around that reads: “Destroyed livelihood. Evicted with no compensation over two and a half years now. Where is justice for the weak?”
His property, Ruiru Mugutha Block 1/T555, was next to the weighbridge and about 15 kilometres from Ruiru town. Macharia said he had built a house for his family on the plot, as well as business premises. He had also dug a borehole.
“I ran my hardware shop on the premises. My lorries and the hardware business brought in an average Sh4,500 a day,” he said. He also kept cattle and poultry.
A pharmacist by profession, Macharia worked at the Government Chemist for years. He quit his job and used his savings to buy the Ruiru plot and go into business after he was injured in a road accident that left him with a pronounced limp, saying “working as a civil servant in my condition became difficult”.