, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 30 – The silence is deafening.
It is inside a once booming shopping mall located in one of the populous estates within Nairobi.
Air Gate mall, formerly known as Taj Mall is a shadow of its former self.
About 98 per cent of the tenants have since vacated following a 30-day notice issued by the Nairobi Regeneration Committee, which lapses on Thursday.
But in a show of defiance, a supermarket and restaurant belonging to the owner of Air Gate mall are still operational.
The lapsed deadline means bulldozers can find their way there anytime from Friday, to do what they do best.
The mall is surrounded by controversy for being on a road reserve and as a result stalling construction of a section of Outering Road, while part of it is on riparian land.
– The fate of workers –
But it has been a source of income for hundreds of Kenyans. They know the future is irreversible and most of those who spoke to Capital FM News have retired to fate and are clinging on the hope that despite the imminent storm, “God will make a way.”
It is the case of George (not his real name), one of the security guards manning the mall.
Though meager, he says the income from working at the mall fed his family, pay school fees and so on.
But all that may go if the Nairobi Regeneration Committee keeps true its word of bringing down the multi-million shilling mall.
“You cannot fight the government. If they want to do it, let them proceed but if they can consider my opinion, they should convert the mall into a Huduma Centre,” he said.
Though he is distressed and not sure about tomorrow, he says “life must move on” – sentiments shared by other workers.
Ramesh Gorosia, the owner, remains adamant that he is rightfully there.
A few customers were seen streaming in the supermarket while there were only a few vehicles in the parking lot but even with that, the ticketing machine was still operational.
Gorosia has not been at the mall since Monday.
“He has been going to his Upper Hill office,” a member of staff at his office told Capital FM News.
On August 16, Gorosia held an emotive press briefing inside the mall, where other than saying a word of prayer, he vowed to stay put.
“The road is not needed now. If there is any mistake, it can always be revised after 50 years,” the owner, who was flanked by a group of youthful men said.
It is a demolition ‘tsunami’ that started with Java restaurant in Kileleshwa, Southend, another multi-million-shilling mall at the Lang’ata Road-Mbagathi Way roundabout and Ukay Centre in Westland’s.
Despite resistance, President Uhuru Kenyatta has vowed to sustain the crackdown that will so more than 1,000 buildings, erected on wetlands demolished.
At some point, Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu wondered why the government was keen on demolishing buildings instead of asking the owners to “move the rivers a little bit.”
“If there is a building near a river, one should be told to cater for expenses used to move the river a little bit. To demolish a building is not a solution. It is such a big loss,” he said during a church service attended by Deputy President William Ruto on August 19.
Environment conservationists have lauded the demolitions as “revolutionary”.
Green Belt Movement Chairperson Marion Kamau says, “It is vital that Kenyans recognize the importance of conserving our natural resources, which include water catchment areas and wetland’s, so as to promote sustainable development not only for ourselves but also for future generations.”