Sunday, May 28, 2023
Thursday, May 25, 2023
This will be a bit long so find something else to read if you don't have the patience for wonky, ill-written, badly-argued, semi-literate analyses.
I pledge my loyalty to the President and Nation of Kenya. My readiness and duty to defend the flag of our Republic. My devotion to the words of our national anthem. My life and strength in the task of our nation's building. In the living spirit embodied in our national motto - Harambee! And perpetuated in the Nyayo Philosophy of Peace, Love and Unity.
No one wants to live in sub-prime housing. No one wants a house in a neighbourhood plagued by blocked sewers and drainage, where garbage piles on for years in end, where the street lights have never been installed, where footpaths turn into muddy rivers in the rainy seasons, where access to water is only through the sufferance of water shylocks who charge extortionate prices and where, if you survive all this, the "house" is a four-walled metal shack that barely fits two and is vulnerable to the privations of violent criminals and equally violent police. Suffice to say what electricity is available in these places is neither official nor cheap.
The reasons for the deductions into the Housing Development Fund have varied. It is designed to offer the downpayment for an affordable house. It is a savings scheme for Kenyans. It is a source of financing for the private development of affordable housing. It will spur employment among the youth of Kenya. It is meant to supplement ones retirement benefits scheme funds.
I don't think there is a Kenyan who has any fundamental objection to a scheme that provides affordable housing for Kenyans, especially Kenyans living and working in cities and urban areas who don't have access to affordable housing. The mainstream news press has breathlessly repeated the statistics that say Kenya suffers from a severe housing shortage and ignores the explanations offered by economists and professional architects that the shortage is artificial due to, among other things, the high taxes imposed not he housing industry and the high prices charged for the thousands of vacant housing units in places like Nairobi City.
It would pay if we knew what we were being told, and whether what we were told squared with the facts on the ground.
The [National Housing] Corporation may, from the National Housing Development Fund and from time to time, in the manner provided by this Act...make loans to any company, society or individual person for the purpose of enabling such company, society or individual person to acquire land and construct thereon approved dwellings or to carry out approved schemes...[and] construct dwellings, carry out approved schemes and lay out and provide services for approved schemes. - Housing Act, Cap. 1117 [s. 8(1)(b) and (c)]
The functions and powers of the county are...County planning and development, including...housing. [Paragraph 8(d), Part Two, Constitution of Kenya]
When Mr. Raila Odinga, as Minister of Roads, Public Works and Housing in the first Mwai Kibaki Government, initiated the Slum Upgrading Programme in 2004, he set off a chain of events that ended in the complete subversion of the role of local government in the provision of social and affordable housing in Kenya. Of course, we can't ignore the fact that local government had become a hotbed of corruption - the failure of the City Council of Nairobi and the Nairobi City Commission are stark reminders of that corruption. However, instead of making the necessary corrective changes in governance and integrity, Mr. Odinga, with he support of the central government bureaucracy that had become wedded to contractors, took over a role it had never performed and undertook the project without further reference to the people ostensibly for whom the project was initiated.
Anyone who has followed up on the Slum Upgrading Programme will be able to confirm that while the "affordable" housing units were indeed constructed and delivered for occupation, the current occupants are not the original targets of the Programme; many of them, if not all, rent out the units to Nairobi's who can afford to pay the rent, and they have gone back to the slums from which they were supposed to be "rescued".
The 2018 Affordable Housing Scheme was challenged in the High Court and the Employment and Labour Relations Court. Among the arguments was that too was a usurpation of the role of county governments in the development of housing as prescribed by the Fourth Schedule to the Constitution. Both courts granted injunctions preventing the implementation of the Programme. The petitions were withdrawn, without the superior courts rendering a judgment, after the law was amended to repeal all references to the Programme. The re-introduction of the Programme, in the same way it was introduced in 2018, using nearly the same language, in the absence of a definitive ruling by the superior courts, risks the same kind of litigation that saw it being suspended for two years and then scrapped.
I read once in the tabloid press that there are place sin Nairobi where the price of an acre of land has exceeded one billion shillings. There are many factors affecting the price of land, not least being the scarcity of serviced land at affordable rates for the construction of affordable housing. In more mature markets, such as South Africa, a flat of 100m² costs less than ten million shillings. In Nairobi, prices start at twelve million shillings. The continued existence of large swathes of the City being "single dwelling bungalows in quarter-acre" is a scandal of poor physical and land use planning.
The redevelopment of "leafy suburbs" like Lavington, Kilimani, Kileleshwa and Jamhuri was long overdue. The same re-zoning should be done for Parklands, Westlands, Spring Valley and Kitisuru to open up uneconomically utilised land for higher housing density instead of concentrating the densification of housing in Eastlands which, in any case, has long passed saturation point. In the long run, Muthaiga, Nyari and Runda should also cease to be low-density residential areas given their proximity to the Central Business District. Re-zoning these areas will unlock land at affordable rates and spur the private development of affordable housing, and thereby obviate the need for an additional tax on already highly-taxed Kenyans.
There is a large swathe of land in Nairobi between the Makadara Railway Station and the Central Railway Station that is ripe for redevelopment. Part, if not all, of it is owned by the Kenya Railways Corporation Staff Retirement Scheme. It will cost and arm and a leg to compulsorily acquire but not is the best alternative option to a mandatory tax on hard-taxedKenyans and it may stave off the day that Runda, Muthaiga and Nyari have to be converted into high-rise paradises. The National Social Security Fund, and the retirement benefits schemes for the employees of the former local authorities, have the money to acquire and redevelop the land. If they buy in, the dozen or so major private retirement benefits schemes will have the confidence to buy in as well. Private funds for the redevelopment of the land is available. There is no need to trouble salaried Kenyans unless they wish to buy into REITs.
Saturday, May 13, 2023
No law is ever clear and any person, especially a lawyer, who claims that the law is clear is a charlatan and should be shunned by right-thinking members of the society. If the law was clear, if any law was clear, we wouldn't need the courts of law to interpret what they said or how they could be applied. So anyone that comes to you, unctuous oiliness dialled up to ten, and tells you that the law relating to ministries of religion is clear, is trying to gaslight you. Don't let them get away with it.
I don't wish to dwell on the intricacies of the Societies Act or the Income Tax Act when it comes to the "regulation of churches" but only to say that the law on the regulation of church societies exists, it has been abused, and as a consequence, there are many unregistered church societies that cause serious and continuing harm to many Kenyans. But, and as we have discovered with that shady minister of religion in Mombasa, many church societies also strictly abide by the letter of the law.
The problem in Kenya is not the law. It is not even the interpretation of the law. It is that the legitimacy of the law has never been high to begin with. An apocryphal story relates to the development of social housing in Nairobi in the 1950s. The wazungu in charge fiddled so much with the books of account that anyone who can say with a serious face that they know how much it cost to build Ngara or Pangani estates is a liar. Kenyan civil servants were initiated and indoctrinated in procurement corruption by Her Majesty the Queen's subjects and it s a lesson we took to heart.
Many of the thieves in our government attend church with a regularity that sometimes is a bit disturbing. For sure, the church is where sins go to get washed, where the penitent seek God's forgiveness. But that is not the relationship ministers of government and ministers of religion enjoy. Some may truly believe that the blood of Jesus washes all sins. But the majority, the overwhelming majority, attend church because, in some way, the pastor and the civil servant need each other to steal from the rest of us. Not only do they steal our money through procurement graft and the redirection of tithes and Sunday offertory to fancy Range Rovers, they rob us of our spiritual dignity and find innovative ways to blame us for being so gullible.
We tolerated this grand heist when the leadership of the ministries of religion allowed one among them to depart from the thieving path and speak the truth about the things that were being done to us. But nowadays, there are no honest men of the cloth left. Even the ones we invite to our corrupt TV stations to be interviewed by the less salubrious lying TV personalities have one foot out the door. They are not real rebels. They are agents sent out tot he world to gaslight us that the church exists to serve our spiritual needs and blind us to the material and spiritual robberies taking place in our lives.
There is no way that a ministry of religion can hide the deaths of 179 Kenyans and the disappearance of over 600 others without the officials of government knowing. It simply doesn't make any sense. Yet that is what concerted efforts by diverse spokesmen of the church and the state wish us to believe. They know that if we believe these lies, there is nothing they will not get past us. Don't let them get away with, literally, murder.
Tuesday, May 09, 2023
Thursday, May 04, 2023
Dr. Ndemo says, "It would be great if there were no manipulative persons who would take advantage of the legal provisions and the vulnerability of poor people in our society." (Trouble with religious freedom, Business Daily)
He makes a fundamental assumption, one many of us have unconsciously made: poor people are more vulnerable to charismatic leaders of death cults. But, as one of my favourite interlocutors on Twitter asks, how many poor people do you know that can afford to keep four children in school in the Kenya of today?
It is a prejudice we have of poor people and it colours the way we discuss matters where people we perceive as vulnerable are impacted b y the actions of others. The Kilifi death cult leader, and his counterpart in Mombasa, do not appear to have attracted only the poor. In fact, the way many of the stories of their victims are told, it would appear, after a bit of digging, that many had access to resources that were sufficient to support them as they relocated themselves and their children to Kilifi and Mombasa to participate in the fatal activities of the cults.
When I worked for my previous employer, I met and interacted with people in challenging circumstances. Many of them may not have know the law the way that I did, or may not have read Government policies the way I had read them, but they were not gullible, naive or stupid. For sure they were exploited, but only in the context that they were often left with choices that were difficult, if not impossible, to make. But they did not easily fall for sleek-tongued rogues come bearing gifts.
Many of the victims of the cults have been impoverished by the cult. They didn't start their death march living in penury. The cult leaders managed to persuade these frequently educated, well-travelled and informed men and women to abandon their families, communities, jobs and lives back home, give the cult leaders all their worldly possessions, and then kill themselves in a slow and painful process in the hopes that their souls would ascend to heaven.
What we have obscured in these sagas, focussing as we have on the poverty of the victims, is the numbers of our high and mighty who seem to be involved in the affairs of these killer preachers. We have seen them sup together, commune with each other, promote each others' work. Were we to probe these relationships, we would be able to identify many of the reasons why otherwise stable-minded men and women killed themselves and their children.