An old congenial man, my land lord is. Upstairs on the flat he floats quietly on the stairs, a very simple man. He rarely talks, but his eyes say a lot. Much more, to a keen observer with a sense of good story.
Paying rent last week I prodded him gently with words from his reclusive cocoon. I was itching for a landlord’s angle on state of housing.
“Hii pesa mwalipa sio yote inaingia kwa mfuko wangu” He said gently. (The rent you pay, not all of it ends in my pocket)
The ensuing chat opened my eyes to how rent is broken down in Eastlands, Nairobi.
To begin the garbage collector gets about Ksh. 200 from every house. This hunched men bending forlornly over bins in dawn hour like things forgotten in Nairobi onward march to civilization play an important role.
They unclog drainages and man holes aiding the city in chocking to death its water bodies.
They are players in the politics of poverty; the city council is blocked from estates with their taxes which translate to high prices on comodities. (A Ksh. 100 vegetable in Uchumi Supermarket, Aga Khan Walk goes for Ksh. 20 In Eastlands)
This makes the collectors to come in handy where the council is not allowed.
A second person and most interesting is the estate electrician. This is the jobless guy with a Dip in electrical and has interned with Kenya Power and Lighting Company, KPLC. The crook pockets a cool Ksh. 300-500 per house very end month.
KPLC with their monopolistic obsession places electricity as a privilege. The crook just invests in gadgets and wires, enters a deal with tenants and the electricity bureaucratic doodle is checked.
“It took time to fill the papers at KPLC for electricity” the old man states, before losing hope. Tenants were restless until one month when he came to collect rent to find the flat wired.
“They just tapped it from the pole outside during a blackout” he says.
So next time KPLC announces an increase of rates due to drought an Eastlando is not worried. Anyway he/she is been paying over 50% less on the bills.
The same tactic is used to illegally tap Council’s water and sell in the estate.
The third are the estate hothead having a hand in every fight. They are guest of the state making the OCPD to know them by their three names. You pass this group high on khat discussing football fixtures and wonder where he gets his daily bread.
Partly reformed they keep off muggers and petty misfits. Their services though not seen are a psychological satisfaction to Nairobians obsession of getting mugged. (Offering the same catharsis like an armed guard in up-market Muthaiga)
Lastly in the list is the estate agent next to boards written ‘Vacancy room Avalable.” This is the type revolutionary rapper Immortal Technique in the song Poverty of Philosophy calls ‘the ghetto bred capitalist trying to escape the ghetto with their ignorant ways’
They are the ghetto classified like online Delfish and Nsoko.
“They know how to corner the defaulters at 10pm and before 5am to get the overdue rent” the old landlord explains passing me my receipt.
And need I add that the bugger gets a 10% discount?