Hassan Joho

Former Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho.

| File| Nation Media Group

Joho defends family businesses, KPA deals

Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho has defended his family businesses at the Port of Mombasa, saying they are above board.

His family, he said, is in business with the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) just like “other prominent politicians” and businessmen who have competitively won contracts.

“Some say Governor Joho wants to own the port simply because my family owns some container freight stations," he said during the 7th Annual Mombasa Business Awards 2021 at a local hotel on Saturday.

"Yes, my family is in the CFS business, so as Joshua Kulei, Mohamed Jaffer, Mitchell Cotts, Gideon Moi, Compact, Sam Kairu, Feisal Abbas and many others. Unfortunately, some people only see my family.” 

He said the Joho family was the only “indigenous” investor doing business with KPA and it was unfortunate that he was being attacked by his own people.

“I shared with the public the contract that I believed was wrongly negotiated. Only if we stood together at the point of need, will we succeed. If you allow transporters to fairly compete with the SGR, everybody will work hard to do better. Just create incentives,” he said in reference to his opposition to the government decision to transfer cargo clearance business from Mombasa to Nairobi Inland Container Depot.

His comments come days after investigations into the awarding of contracts by the KPA revealed that companies with lucrative deals at the port are linked to prominent politicians and business people.

The National Assembly’s Finance, Planning and Trade Committee now wants KPA to come clean on how the private firms operating within its premises were licensed.

The firms mentioned are Portside Freight Terminals Ltd (PFTL), linked to the Joho family, and Grain Bulk Handlers Ltd (GBHL), owned by businessman Mohammed Jaffer.

GBHL handles 98 percent of grains imported to Kenya, according to a report by the House committee.

Also mentioned is Maersk— the Danish international container shipping company.

Shrouded in secrecy is how Maersk was allocated berth 13 and 14; how Portside Freight Terminal Ltd came to own berth number 7 and 8; and how GBHL got to own berth 3 and 4 since 2002.

MPs also want KPA to explain how it settled on the Joho-linked firm to operate the second grain bulk handling facility at the port, and not any of the other six firms that made proposals for the licences. 

According to the 2018-2047 master plan, the grain handling facility is required by 2023.

The firm won a multi-billion-shilling tender to develop a second grain bulk handling facility at the port, but it is being delayed by court cases by those opposing it.  

On Saturday, Mr Joho also defended Public-Private Partnership (PPP) his administration has entered into with investors to reconstruct modern houses in four dilapidated county estates. 

This is after tenants and human rights groups demanded the publishing of the contracts between the county and the investors to ensure public land is not grabbed by private developers. 

Evicted tenants are also demanding fair compensation in the deal. 

“The county government had a good plan to ensure residents become homeowners however there are concerns in the land ownership in the four estates,” said Haki Yetu land officer Mr John Paul.

“The project is being implemented on public land but our search shows private ownership. We want the governor to declare the truth.” 

Mr Paul and the Commission for Human Rights and Justice executive director Julius Ogogoh urged National Land Commission (NLC) chairman Gershon Otachi to investigate the matter.

“Was the land leased to private investors? Where is the contract? Senate please guide this urban renewal project before we lose our lands to private stakeholders,” said Mr Ogogoh.

Mr Joho’s administration is working with the investors to refurbish some 10 old housing estates starting with the Buxton Estate.

“The houses to be redeveloped shall be offered to members of the public to buy on a long-term lease basis or be rented where necessary,” County Chief Officer for Land Planning & Housing Dr June Mwajuma said recently. 

The Buxton Point plan is the first affordable housing project at the Coast and is expected to provide employment for at least 1, 000 people. 

Other estates set for a face-lift are Khadija, Kaa Chonjo, Nyerere, Tudor, Tom Mboya and Kizingo.