Three things are certain in Kenya— the President’s silk shirts, contested elections and the next land or house-buying scandal.
At this very moment, there is probably someone buying land on a riverbed somewhere, or someone who is the lucky 5th buyer of the same plot, or another one getting convinced to pay the deposit for land they haven’t seen yet because the plots are ‘almost sold out.’
Someone is listening to some pastor selling them land that doesn’t even exist. Someone is buying an apartment in Kilimani apartment for Ksh30 million while proudly referring to it as an investment.
Then, of course, there are the people who haven’t learnt their lessons from last year and are still buying off-plan homes where they’re going to get recycled wood in the name of doors and a pond in the name of a pool.
These are the same people who lacked septic tanks and had flooding toilets, lacked water in their taps and had a pending water bill of over a million from water they had never used.
I would laugh at these people except I was almost one of them, six years ago. Let’s take a trip down memory lane.
As the real Kikuyu men that we are, Wakaba, a friend from high school, and I decided that we were going to be landowners somewhere in Kenya. Anywhere really.
We decided that by the end of the year we were going to have a title deed each with our names even if the plot could only be reached by riding three camels and a donkey. We were ready.
The first time our desire for land had been piqued, a mutual friend, Amaru, had asked if we wanted to join a housing scheme for some really prime plots.
We’d excitedly said yes but we were quickly lost for words when the actual money was mentioned.
We were told that we needed to make a down payment of a million and pay the remaining four million over the next five years.
I wished that I could see myself the way he saw me. Maybe I had a few millions hidden somewhere and I didn’t know it! Where did he imagine I was hiding all this money I couldn’t see?
Anyway, I contorted myself out of the situation and told him how my money was tied up in other investments which I couldn’t liquidate fast enough. I giggle when I remember that “other investment” line.
So anyway, Wakaba and I scoured the internet looking for deals until we came across the perfect one! It was in Mwingi and an acre was going for Sh100,000.
That looked fair and workable. We called the guy who told us that he was a Kamba from the place, but his accent sounded like a Kamau. I wasn’t going to be put off by the simple matter of Ls and Rs.
It would have been wise to call an uncle for advice but for how long was I going to depend on other people? I could do this.
Off we went to Mwingi. The three-hour matatu ride was pretty uneventful apart from the fact that I had a friendly young girl plopped on my laps as soon as the journey began, but I was luckier than Wakaba who had to deal with chicken. A small price to pay for glory.
We finally got there and called Maingi. He was surprised that we had made it thus far and asked us to send him fuel money to come for us.
We declined and told him that we would meet him where he was. He sent us directions which seemed like he wasn’t far off.
Each time we thought we were close by, we would call him and the venue seemed to shift.
He kept on encouraging us to send him fuel money to come for us, but we refused. Five hours later at 6pm, we realised that this was probably a con.
I called him for one last time to tell him that we were leaving. He broke into a hearty laugh, uttered some unprintable words in Kikuyu and told me that if we had sent him the money earlier, we would have saved a full day of looking for land where there was none.
He then told me to call him if I ever visited Kinangop and he would buy me a drink for my hard work.
The audacity of this man! He was mocking us but we didn’t even have the energy to fight back.
Thankfully, we didn’t lose money but we couldn’t take back that full day. We went home quietly and didn’t tell anyone about it because that would have been shame-in-waiting.
Each time I listen to adverts on buroti maguta maguta, I remember that day we spent going round in circles on boda-bodas in Mwingi.
Make sure you’re well-educated when buying a property. Either that or make sure you come back with a hilarious story when you get conned.