Construction of Magadi Road may trigger mass exodus to Rongai open-air market by over 2000 traders at Soko Mjinga market in Ongata Rongai after authoritative revelations confirm that it sits on a road reserve. This comes in the wake of revelations that Kajiado county government could be losing millions in uncollected taxes, as area cartels flex their muscles to cash in the confusion, and politicians add to the muddle.
Multiple interviews with area authorities including Rongai ward administrator Samwel Muchiri, Ongata Rongai plot owners’ chairman Jacob Wangora, who doubles as environment development organization head, Rongai market chairman Mr. Anthony Kamau, Ongata Rongai MCA Mwathi Pere show that the current state of the affairs at these marketplaces need watertight plans to smoothly execute the construction of Magadi rd, and at the same time allow Soko Mjinga traders and other roadside businesses to relocate to Rongai Open-air market smoothly without disrupting business.
And as the traders benefit from government structures and conducive environment to do business, the county government also need to devise mechanisms to properly collect taxes in centralized markets to enable them provide service to the people, including expansion of the market to accommodate more traders and to flush out cartels who take advantage of management loopholes to allocate themselves several stalls to illegally sublet them back to desperate traders.
“Rongai open-air market is going to be the biggest market in the area. Very soon, the construction of Bomas to Kona baridi road will kickstart. The road work will affect Soko Mjinga market since it lies on a road reserve. The majority of those trading at Soko Mjinga are holding stalls at the Rongai open-air market” said Samwel Muchiri who is Ongata Rongai Ward Administrator. “They do so as a backup, once the road work begins. When the construction of the open-air market was completed, many traders were trading outside the market, some individuals managed to secure multiple stalls.”
The ward administrator warns cartels to stop illegal allocation. “You will find even one person owning between 2 to 15 stalls. I have had cases here multiple times where spaces have been sold. The selling of stalls is done secretly without the involvement of the committee.” Muchiri further said. He urges politicians to desist from inciting traders to resist relocation. “Some Politicians incite traders on road reserves to defy orders until Magadi road construction begins. Many Rongai residents don’t even know that the open-air market exists, many people assume Soko Mjinga is the main market.”
County Government losing over 10 million shillings annually
Soko Mjinga is in Nkaimurunya ward, while Rongai open-air market is in Tumaini area in Rongai Ward. The last data collected showed Soko mjinga traders are approximately 2400, while Rongai market has approximately 1500. Data collected by Elveza show that the road behind Beautus restaurant will be used as a parking bay for wholesalers when the road construction works kick-off. Currently, there are about 800-1000 traders within the market. According to the authorities, the wholesalers will operate between 4am to noon to allow the road to be used by motorists. Approximately 200 stalls are currently empty. Traders will be given 2 months grace period, after which revenue collection will once again begin. It’s estimated that the county government is losing over Sh10 million annually for failure to collect revenue.
“We want to use diplomacy to move traders from road reserve especially Maasai Lodge road, Nibs and the police areas. The inspectorate officers must show respect, humility and exercise patience when dealing with the traders. The traders must also respect and listen to the inspectorate officers. If all the traders in the above-mentioned areas can come back, the market will be vibrant.” Said Muchiri.
Rongai market chairman Kamau admitted that currently, Rongai market traders don’t pay taxes to the County government until all the traders, including those on road reserves, return to the market.
“We held a meeting with all the traders and allocated them spaces. Those who were trading near Kobil refused to go back to the market and said they will move back once the Magadi road construction begins. Earlier this year, a three weeks-notice was issued and expired on March 26, 2019, threatening to reallocate any unused stall in the market to new owners. Some traders moved back immediately but political interference came into play. The trading continued on the road reserves.
“The market committee came into agreement with the county government that those operating within the market should stop paying revenue to the county until all traders return to the market for the sake of fairness.” The chairman said.
According to Kamau, it was also proposed that new greengrocer license applications outside the market should be denied. “Unfortunately, there are many greengrocery shops all over Rongai. If you walk in Rongai today, you will find Mpesa shop with a greengrocer, a butchery with a greengrocer and many more,” he said. “Customers go to the nearest shop. If all greengrocers and, traders move back to the market, the business will be vibrant.”
The market perimeter wall
The market perimeter wall was built during the 2015-2016 financial year for Sh6 million and funded by the county government of Kajiado. There have been complaints by some people and traders that the market perimeter wall is too high.
The complainants had said the buildings built outside the market perimeter should be demolished, but the committee opposed the demolition based on security. The market committee has proposed to be allowed to build structures along the perimeter wall. They also want the county government to allocate them the spaces permanently and charge them Sh500 as rent per month. They also want the county government to allow them to build the kiosks themselves, a proposal, that according to Kamau will generate revenue which can be pumped into providing service to the market.
“Sh8 million shed was proposed in 2017-2018 financial year in the middle of the market and had allocated Sh8 million but not yet delivered. In response to our reporter query why the traders are not paying the trading fees, The market Chairman said “The county legally is not supposed to charge anyone operating on the road reserve and it would be unfair for them to come and charge those in the market and yet they are the ones who have failed. Sukumawiki worth Sh200 make a profit of Sh120, take away Sh30 market fees and Sh40 lunch, the person will be left with Sh50. Our mandate is to allocate spaces to those with stock, not anybody, we have a discipline committee to address disputes between traders and to maintain cleanliness in the market. We have done our duties.”
Market electricity bill
There was a period when some traders were taking advantage of the free electricity by the county government. Some had established welding businesses and consuming free electricity, others with hotels were using electrical cookers and other gadgets. The county government is currently forced to pay the electricity bill since it is not collecting revenue from the traders.
Cartels suspected to be working in Rongai market
Rongai Open Air Market Chairman Anthony Kamau alleged that a cartel made up of well known and connected 40 men were managing 100 spaces around the market perimeter wall before they took over the management. He further alleged that some of the cartel members had owned at least 6 spaces individually and had proposed to install containers along the perimeter wall and rent out shops to vulnerable traders at a profit.
“The proposal was bad since it was to be owned by a few individuals with the majority of the spaces owned by ghosts. the Rongai market chairman said. He further said “The Rongai community market traders are the owners of the spaces around the market perimeter. As the chairman, I have already built one stall along the perimeter wall and the other members will follow soon. We will not allow the structures to be demolished since you never know what will happen thereafter”
Rongai Plot owners Chairman Mr Jacob Wangora said “It’s against the law to build structures on the road reserve. All the structures outside the market perimeter should be demolished to create parking spaces and pedestrian walks”.
Investors ready to build stalls
Elveza Media contacted Rongai MCA Mwathi Pere who said “there is an investor who wants to partner with the county government to build standard modern stalls which will be sold to traders” In response to our reporter query why he is supporting the construction of stalls beyond the market perimeter wall, Mwathi said “the high number of unemployment requires extraordinary actions to create opportunities for the youth. For the sake of youth empowerment, we can partner with the banks to provide loans for the youth to buy the stalls.”
He said that it’s political incitement that has created a delay, claiming that the investor has already held meetings with the county government.” The Rongai MCA said there are 114 spaces available, a figure that contradicts the market chairman figure of 105 spaces. Mwathi further said “I did a survey and discovered that the spaces around the market perimeter wall are owned by less than 20 people including politicians. The owners collect rent and the spaces are money-making machines. The same people own spaces in the market. The only solution is for the executive to come out strongly for a solution to be found”
Mwathi requested the county government to inject money to develop the Rongai market. He concluded by saying “It is the only market that is being funded using the ward development funds.”