Nairobi — Public hearings on the intended restoration of the Westgate Mall which was attacked by terrorists in September last year kicked off on Monday at Charter Hall, with two business owners taking to the stand to detail their losses.
African Lily Enterprise Director Madeleine Ambrosino explained to the Westgate Restoration Committee that since the attack they have been paying their workers half their salaries, and pleaded for compensation to cover the losses incurred.
"For the small traders who were adversely affected by the attack and have no insurance, we would like some compensation to help us back on our feet. We have closed our shops for more than three months after the attack and though we are slowly trying to re-open, we are barely surviving," she said, adding that they were looking for a new premise to re-open their business.
"For our staff, we opted not to dismiss them; instead we retained them on half their salaries until we can fully go back into business because they too have families they need to support," she explained.
Speaking during the hearings another affected owner, Beatrice Kemunto director of Sana Bora Designs observed that her greatest regret was not having insurance for her merchandise.
She added that she lost 50 percent of her stock, a loss that she is yet to recover asking the committee to consider owners like her and offer some arranged financing for them.
"Unfortunately very few owners if any had insured their businesses against the terrorist attack and this has proved to be a painful but learning experience. Any business owner whether in a mall or otherwise ought to get a comprehensive cover that ensures that if there was such an attack they would avert the hardship that we are experiencing," added Kemunto.
Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero who is the chairman of the committee said the ongoing sittings will aid them in coming up with the final report as they gear up for the renovations next month.
"The committee's main agenda is to support our business owners and help them pick up the pieces after the attack."
"Aside from that is to reassure the shoppers at the malls that they will be safer and they will enjoy a better shopping experience," said Kidero.
Nairobi County Assembly Member Japher Kasam urged the investors not to neglect former staff.
"Approximately a total of 3,000 people lost their employment and gainful means to generate an income following the attack. I appeal to the investors even as they count their losses they should reinstate the workers that lost their jobs as soon as they open their new premises," appealed Kasam.
Before the September 21 attack last year, the mall was said to be supporting the economy at an estimated Sh100 billion annually.