What a way to start a year. It is one thing to be homeless and quite another to lose valuable household goods to auctioneers. This is the grim fate retirees of Teleposta found themselves in early this week when the unexpected visitors came calling.
Last week, auctioneers, accompanied by police officers, raided Kangundo Road Flats in Kileleshwa in Nairobi and emptied houses of 11 households over Sh34 million rent tussle, leaving the occupants empty and in tears.
The standoff between the retirees and Teleposta Pension Scheme started in 2005 leading to many court cases and frequent raids by auctioneers acting on behalf of the scheme.
Last Wednesday’s visit by auctioneers is the latest dreaded encounter that has forced the occupants to start all over with the purchase of items carted away by a lorry.
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Despite the action by the scheme that claims to be seeking to collect rent, the retirees say they just want to be paid their retirement benefits in order to leave the premises.
“We are here because we have not been paid. Let them pay us our money and we shall leave. Without the payment, we shall remain here at all costs,” said Keziah Kiseu, a retiree speaking on behalf of other victims.
Keziah said she was set to receive Sh2.5 million in 2006 as benefits, an amount that the scheme has not remitted to her account despite several pleas.
And she is not alone; other retirees, some having lived in the premises for over 30 years, share similar experience of an endless wait for their dues and the cat and mouse games with the pension scheme making rent distress calls.
But Teleposta Pension Scheme claims that the payments have been settled and accuse the retirees of deliberately refusing to pay rent for over 15 years, since July 2005 when their employer stopped making direct deductions through a check-off system.
According to Teleposta Pension Scheme Chief Executive Peter Rotich, that was the genesis of the tussle between Teleposta scheme and the retirees.
He said in 2007, the 11 tenants and many others were told by the scheme to clear their arrears, sign tenancy agreement and buy the houses.
“Many followed the guidelines and acquired the houses. They were required to pay 10 per cent as deposit and clear the remaining 90 per cent in 90 days. The 11 tenants are the ones who did not purchase the houses,” said Rotich.
This is where there is a contest between the scheme and the retirees. Keziah and other victims said they do not understand why they were required to pay rent yet they could just purchase the houses using their benefits. “Look at it this way. With my Sh2.5 million at the scheme as my benefits and interests it has accrued for all those years, why couldn’t they use that as payment for the house?” posed Keziah.
Rotich said the process involved signing tenancy agreement and purchasing the house, adding that Keziah and other 10 tenants had violated the guidelines.
“There are several other tenants (nine) in that building who bought the houses after following the procedures we gave. These other 11 are dictating to us how things should be done,” he told The Standard.
The retirees accuse the scheme of selling houses to third parties and leaving them out yet they were supposed to be the first beneficiaries.
“Retirees were given priority but it was not a right. Third parties were also allowed to buy the houses if they wanted and could afford,” said Rotich.
The pension scheme has made several attempts to evict the tenants from their houses but they were unsuccessful after court orders barred them, forcing them to continue demanding rent.
Last year in February, Environment and Land Court Judge Elijah Obaga ruled that the tenants should pay rent since the monies were meant to pay their pensions.
“They have huge rent arrears. Some applicants are pensioners of the respondent.
It is through rent collected that they are paid their pensions,” said Obaga in a ruling tenants said they will appeal.
Teleposta Pension Scheme has similar properties in Makongeni Estate on Jogoo Road, Matumbato Estate (Upperhill), Ngara and flats in Hurlingham and along Ngong Road.