Getting someone to guarantee you a loan is akin to trying to milk elephant

Loan guarantee

If you save with a Sacco, at some point you will have to append your signature against someone’s loan, otherwise you will never get a loan should you need one.

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The other day I was walking down one of the streets of Nairobi City minding my business when I spotted someone who looked familiar up ahead. As he came closer, realisation hit me. Hard. My heart was palpitating. It was beating fast, pounding.

The man had been my colleague many years ago, in fact, we were employed on the same day and therefore went through orientation together. At the end of that one week, we had become friends, somewhat.

The first thing that employees are advised to do when they join a new organisation is to join the company’s Sacco, and that is what we did. Six months into our new jobs, the guy decided to take a loan. I have no idea what he wanted to finance, but since I considered him a friend of some sought, when he asked me to be one of his guarantors, I said yes. After all, he wasn’t going anywhere, was he?

But he was, only that at the time I had no idea. A couple of months later, I heard that the guy had been sacked, something about swindling someone out of millions of shillings. I only got to learn about his sacking days later because he didn’t tell anyone that he was leaving.

False pretense

I guess I too wouldn’t if I lost my job because I obtained money through false pretense, but I digress. Our friendship had not gone beyond the office, so I decided not to call him, figuring that I’d be embarrassing him with my phone call.

Four months later, however, I was forced to make that phone call. Turns out that he had defaulted on his loan repayment that same month he left the company. The Sacco required those who had guaranteed him the loan to start repaying it. I had even forgotten that I had put a signature against that loan request.

Anyway, I was aghast because I had been generous with the amount I had put next to my signature. As you already suspect, my many phone calls and text messages and emails went unanswered, and so were those of other colleagues who had guaranteed his loan. Nothing unites guarantors more than a defaulter.

The eight of us quickly looked for one another and had an emergency sitting to deliberate on what to do. It was agreed that the first course of action was to find out where he was, after that, we would decide what to do next. You see, the law does not compel Saccos to prove that they have done everything they can to recover money from a defaulter, so we were on our own.

Unfortunately, we never got the guy, it is as if he disappeared into thin air. To cut a long story short, a certain percentage of my small salary was slashed every month until I finished off the chunk I had committed myself to.


I have never felt so cheated in my life because at the time, I really had no idea what I was committing myself to. Coming from a certain community, the feeling was worse when it occurred to me that the lump sum would have bought me a ka-plot somewhere.

Many, many years later, there was the man, right there, coming towards me, looking quite healthy and prosperous. And then our eyes locked and I saw his go wide with a mixture of surprise and panic. Before I could react in any way, he turned on his heels and quickly crossed the road to the other street. My first instinct was to run after him shouting, “Mwizi, mwizi!” after all, I argued, he was a thief, even if he had not robbed me at gun point. A thief is a thief, right? But then I imagined the crowd descending on him with kicks and blows and the stones that appear out of nowhere during mob justice. Could I live with myself if he was crippled? Oh my God! What if he died?!

I know, I know, I think too much…

And that is how I lost a golden chance to get hold of that defaulter, who, from his expensive-looking suit and even more expensive-looking shoes, seemed to be swimming in money.

If you save with a Sacco, at some point you will have to append your signature against someone’s loan, otherwise you will never get a loan should you need one. It is people like this defaulter who have sworn distrust amongst Sacco savers such that nowadays getting someone to guarantee you a loan is akin to trying to milk an elephant in the wild.

The writer is editor, Society and  Magazines, Daily Nation.  Email: [email protected]


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