Relief for South B Mariakani estate residents as court stops evictions

Margaret Wambui, a resident of Mariakani Estate in South B, Nairobi, speaks on May 23, 2024, during the evictions.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

A Nairobi court has halted the ongoing eviction and harassment of tenants of Mariakani Estate in South B, pending the determination of their case.

Milimani Principal Magistrate Hosea M. Ng'ang'a issued the order after the residents rushed to court to stop Machadian Auctioneers from seizing and carting away their household goods over a rent dispute.

"That a stay of the breach orders be and is hereby granted pending the inter partes hearing on June 4, 2024," Ng'ang'a ruled.

The order comes hours after auctioneers descended on the tenants' property early Thursday, evicting them from their homes following a years-long battle over the property between the county government and the Local Authority Provident Fund (Lapfund).

The property in question originally belonged to the Nairobi City Council before being transferred to Lapfund, a pension scheme for county government employees.

When power was transferred from the Nairobi County government to the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS), there was confusion over who should collect the rent, prompting the Mariakani Estate Welfare Association to seek a court ruling on the matter.

Residents of Mariakani estate in South B, Nairobi, outside their homes on May 23, 2024.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

In a ruling in September 2021, former judge Said Chitembwe directed the tenants to pay their monthly rent to Lapfund.

This was after he was informed that Lapfund could not meet its obligation to pay pensions to retired members of the Nairobi City Council without receiving income from its properties.

"This morning," the anguished residents told the Nation, "the auctioneers, accompanied by rowdy thugs, broke into their houses and carted away furniture.

At the heart of the dispute is a plot of land that allegedly changed hands in what is believed to be a "debt swap", explained Marikani Estate Welfare Association vice-chairman Edward Thairu.

"Last night they sent goons who banged on the doors and threatened us," Mr Thairu said, adding that "this morning they came again. They were told to evict us all.

"We have lived here for 60 years." But in 2013, the city council transferred the property to Lapfund. Then the confusion began over who and how much rent should be collected from the residents.

"Hooded men came this morning and started throwing my belongings down the stairs. They told me they were auctioneers sent by the owner," said Margaret Maina, a resident.

"When I asked them to identify themselves properly, they started beating me up," she added, "It took the efforts of my neighbours to calm the flaring tempers."

In the drama, some of the tenants' belongings were smashed and left in the field. But the alleged assailants left when the Nation team arrived.

"We are still in court. Why are we being harassed? They have gone to the extent of hiring goons when there is really no justification," wondered Noel Openda, a resident. "This is happening every four months".

The case has been in court since 2021, Mr Openda said, explaining that "there is no justification as to why their new rates have been increased from Sh10,000 to Sh30,000 and yet their houses are dilapidated".