Traders, transporters, hoteliers and other business operators were yesterday counting their losses after opposition protests disrupted businesses on Monday, and their woes are bound to mount following a declaration that the demonstrations will be held twice a week.
Nelson Mwangi, the chairperson of Super Metro Limited, a transport company in Nairobi, said the demonstrations in the capital cost the firm close to Sh3 million as its fleet was grounded for most of the day.
“Three buses were destroyed. In one, a teargas canister destroyed the screen, while the other two were pelted with stones. Luckily, none of our passengers was harmed. We kicked off the day with 350 vehicles as usual but stopped our business at 10 am. We resumed at 4 pm with 70 buses,” said Mr Mwangi.
“We lost about Sh2.7 million. We have our partners, such as the fuel stations, which lost about Sh4 million. We also have people who rely on us, such as tea and mandazi vendors who feed our drivers and touts, but they were not present. It was not a good day, and if this goes on, we will lose more money every Monday, which is usually a very busy day for most people,” he added.
Mr George Wekesa, a book vendor, along Moi Avenue, said he makes about Sh6,000 on a good day and Sh2,000 when business is low.
“If they are going to demonstrate every Monday, I hope they do it outside of the central business district. Sh2, 000 is a lot of money for a small business like mine to lose weekly,” said Mr Wekesa, who has been in the business for three years.
His colleague, Francis Njoroge, said he was forced to flee from his station also along Moi Avenue.
“It is outrageous that the government and opposition cannot sit down and have a constructive conversation. This kind of unrest is unsustainable for us in the Jua Kali sector,” said Mr Njoroge.
Elizabeth Ndung’u, a juice vendor at Imenti House who did not open her shop on Monday, said she suffered losses as her daily supplies went bad.
“I am burdened with the responsibility of paying my employees and providing for my family. It is deeply unjust that those with wealth and power have put us in this dire situation,” she said Ms Ndungu
Elias Chege, who sells imported clothes for men at a stall along Kimathi Street, said he lost about Sh25,000 due to a lack of customers.
“Losing such sales every Monday will not be good for us because we have rent to pay and bills to clear,” he said.
Kwizera Ali, a Ugandan beautician employed at a nail bar in Imenti house, said they lost about Sh5,000, which is what they make in a day. His boss, Tiger Henry, a Rwandan and the proprietor of Tiger Nails bar, said he came to town but could not run his business, and was forced to close at 9 am.
Shaziah Muthoni, a salesperson at a beauty shop in town, said she thought the day would end well as it started calmly with heavy police presence.
“At around 8 am, we started seeing police cars rushing towards Jevanjee, people running and empty buses crossing the streets. We eventually had to close the shop. We only sold approximately 10 per cent of our daily sales having only been open from 6 am to 8 am,” she said.
Pelted with stones
In Kisumu, Pitstop Dala Club was vandalised and looted as premises along the Jomo Kenyatta highway, including the newly renovated Sh500 million Sarova Imperial Hotel, Post Bank, Naivas and Quickmart supermarkets, were pelted with stones. The destruction could slow down the completion of the hotel managed by Mayfair Holdings, whose rehabilitation kicked off in 2020.
Lake Victoria Tourism Association chairman Robinson Anyal said that the sector has already started feeling the negative effects of the protests through the cancellation of bookings.
“The mass action at this moment is detrimental to our industry and the macroeconomy. We, however, believe that the effects will not last long to leave a huge dent,” said Mr Anyal.
Royal City Hotel General Manager Nelson Miguna also expressed concerns that the hospitality industry is bound to suffer more as a result of the staged weekly demonstrations.
“Our leaders are pushing away investment opportunities with the protests. We are, however, grateful to the county government for issuing a statement against the hooliganism and assuring the residents and potential investors of restoring calm and taking action against the criminals,” said Mr Miguna.
In Homa Bay, Shivling Supermarket lost at least Sh310,000 for failing to open. Perishable goods and food also got spoilt. Mr Rocky Patel, the manager at the branch in the town said: “We are concerned that we may not achieve our financial targets if the protests continue in the coming weeks.”
Homa Bay County Traders Chairman Festus Okoth said that the closure of businesses could lead to a shortage of consumables like fruits and vegetables.
In the Coast region, players in the hospitality sector have said the opposition’s declaration to hold weekly demonstrations will affect tourism as the peak April season nears.
Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers coast Executive Officer Sam Ikwaye, Kenya Coast Tourism Association chairman Victor Shitakha and Pollman’s Tours and Safaris Director Mohammed Hersi called for a cease-fire. They further condemned the attack on tourism establishments in Kisumu.
“These tourist investments and infrastructure are set up to boost the economy and create jobs. We must be mature and civilised, let us refrain from chaos and destruction of properties,” said Dr Ikwaye.
The UK and the US have already issued a security alert to their citizens on the demonstrations by opposition leaders.
By Mercy Chelangat, Mercy Simiyu, Mary Wambui, Victor Raballa, Elizabeth Ojina, George Odiwuor and Winnie Atieno