Portland Cement

Police arrest a man suspected of stealing building material from houses demolished in Athi River, Machakos County, on October 16, 2023.  demolition.

| Stanley Ngotho | Nation Media Group

'We have been conned': Theft, arrests and tears on day four of Portland demolitions

Day four of Portland Cement demolitions was marked by incidents of vandalism of building material, even as home owners battled to save their belongings before bulldozers crushed their houses to rubble. 

Police arrested several people who were caught stealing building material, with the hawk-eyed culprits reportedly targeting palatial homes for scrap metal. 

So far, the demolition exercise has seen multi-million shilling homes, churches and schools brought down. 

On Monday, it was a beehive of activities in Athi River as home owners tried to salvage items such as doors, windows and roofing material.

Portland cement demolitions

Home owners rush to save their building materials before bulldozers demolish their property in Machakos on October 16, 2023.

Photo credit: Stanley Ngotho | Nation Media Group
Portland cement demolitions

Home owners rush to save their belongings before bulldozers demolish their homes in Machakos on October 16, 2023.

Photo credit: Stanley Ngotho | Nation Media Group

Millions in investments reduced to rubble

At the site, the Nation caught up with Zacharia Marwa, 53, who said he had lost business structures worth Sh4.5 million. He said he had obtained a loan to set up the three streams of rental houses.

"I bought the two plots from the society at Sh400,000 per plot five years ago. I have share certificates to that effects. It is now rubble," he said.

Another investor, Eunice Wanjugu, said she had spent Sh18 million to set up a modern massionette as her retirement home. In tears, she added that she had borrowed Sh2 million from a bank to help build the palatial home.  

"We are pleading with the government to compensate us for the loss. I am not sure I will ever recover. My home that was near completion," said Ms Wanjugu.

Portland home demolitions enter fourth day

A few metres away, Ms Esther Macharia, 37, could not contain her tears as she told of how she had lost her Sh6 million investment.

"I borrowed a loan from a sacco for the rental houses investment. I produced the relevant documents issued by the selling society and they were found to be genuine before the loan was advanced to me," she said, adding that her building approvals were done by officers from Machakos County Government.

"The officers stopped my construction at first, until I later got their approvals."

Most of the home owners who spoke to Nation on Monday had Machakos County construction approvals and payment receipts. They had also applied for electricity connections from Kenya Power successfully. Some of the palatial homes had three-phase power connection. 

'We have been conned'

A homeowner, Ms Hawaliwi Ibrahim, said she wants the government to investigate the crooks who sold the land to unsuspecting buyers.

"We have been conned. I lost Sh4.5 million. We paid the money via financial institutions that can be traced. We want the culprits arrested immediately," she said bitterly while accusing police officers for stealing household items from abandoned homes.

At Mountain View Baptist Church and Academy, teachers tried to salvage the items that they could.

Pastor Shadrack Musau said the church had lost property worth Sh4 million.

"We had 150 learners who were to sit for Kapsea exams. Teachers have lost their jobs. This is barbaric," he said.

Leaders blast demolitions

Mavoko MP Patrick Makau demanded the arrest of individuals implicated in the lands scam while pointing an accusing finger at the Machakos County Government. 

"Let the government move with speed to arrest those who conned people. The County Government ought to be investigated for issuing construction approvals since 2014. We do not want double-speak from leaders," he said.

Mwala MP Vincent Musyoka slammed local leaders for faulting President William Ruto over demolitions.

"My heart bleeds for the victims. Let leaders stop shedding crocodile tears. Let them stop associating President Ruto with the demolitions. The court pronounced itself last Monday. Those who pocketed innocent Kenyans' money ought to be held responsible," he said.