19 March 2019

Kenya: Tearful Tales of Ekeza Sacco Savers and Gakuyo Investors

Hundreds of Kenyans who lost their savings in the troubled Ekeza Sacco and Gakuyo Real Estate company camped outside the Directorate of Criminal Investigations headquarters on Kiambu Road Monday morning hoping that they would get their money back.

Ms Anne Wairimu Mwangi, a housewife, joined Ekeza Sacco in 2017 and had saved Sh14,000.

She was tired of living on handouts from her husband and decided to start a business. Unfortunately, she got sick last year and needed the money for treatment.

SH670,000

Ms Mwangi went to her local Sacco branch in Kahawa West, but found they had closed shop. She found another in Githurai, where she filled out forms to withdraw her savings and close the account.

Her membership booklet, which had records of her saving history and all other documents related to the sacco were taken away, and she was given a slip to present to Equity Bank that was to disburse her funds after three months. She is still waiting for her money.

Ms Mwangi was with Ms Nellius Wangui as they discussed a way forward after they were told they would not get their money that day.

Ms Wangui had saved Sh26,000 over a period of two years. She wondered whether it was possible for the government to unfreeze the investment company's bank accounts so that deserving people like her could get their savings back.

Ms Ruth Wairimu is bitter. She joined the sacco four years ago and grew her savings from Sh500 to Sh670,000 by saving the little she earned from her business. She later decided to start saving for her daughter's secondary school education and put away Sh55,000.

"Last year I went to get a loan from the sacco, but I was told that I couldn't get one. I asked to withdraw my savings and again, I was told that it was not possible. I've been going to the offices and finding them closed," Ms Wairimu said.

LAND PIECE

She revealed that the loan was to be injected into her business, which has since collapsed. She had been saving towards buying a lorry to help her move her goods easily.

A February 21 meeting held at the Kasarani gymnasium by the commissioner of cooperatives did not resolve their issues as Ms Wairimu said they were only told about the extent to which the founder and chairman of the sacco had siphoned their funds.

Mr Stephen Njuguna, who had aspirations of becoming a land owner, joined Gakuyo Real Estate and bought a piece of land.

Mr Njuguna said that the efforts to have a site visit before buying the property always faced obstacles.

On one occasion, the van ferrying them to the site broke down and they never saw the piece of land.

He wants the State to seize Gakuyo's properties and pay them.

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