Obituary

Dr Sam Gatabaki: It pays off choosing the right ancestors

The multibillion Fourways Junction off Kiambu Road made Sam and Nancy Gatabaki fabulously wealthy

It takes two to tango: The late Dr Sam Gatabaki with his wife, Nancy Gatabaki after she was awarded Sh725 million of Fourways Junction in Nairobi in 2011.

By Undercover Reporter

He was buried inside the Sh30 billion Fourways Junction estate, just 500 metres from upmarket Runda in Nairobi.

Though a scion of the famous Gatabaki family from Kiambu County, not many Kenyans had heard of Dr Sam Gatabaki until his wife, Nancy Wanja, went to court seeking a piece of the Fourways Junction bonanza in 2011. She left Sh725 million richer.  Part of the dough, Sh402 million was in cash; the rest in residential apartments, villas and land at Fourways Junction.

Dr Gatabaki died at 79. Long illness, it was.

Besides his wife, his two daughters and one grandson will be the other beneficiaries of the wealth coined in prime real estate.

Sam and his wife used half of what was their 200 acre farm off Kiambu Road to erect the multibillion housing estate with another couple, Sue and Peter Muraya of Suraya Properties, bankrolling the construction. The spoils were to be shared 50-50. But matters came to a head when Nancy went to court accusing the Murayas of trimming the edges of honesty via increasing their shareholding in the joint venture and hence her eye watering compensation.

Fourways Junction made Sam and Nancy Gatabaki fabulously wealthy. Just consider that before the Murayas came calling there only stood assorted rentals  and a school “for which we found them selling chapatis as source of income” the Murayas revealed in their suit papers in court.

But Dr Sam Gatabaki is a case study of how it pays off in choosing your ancestors well.

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In Kenya, fewer picked the right blood relations than those who were children of chiefs in colonial Kenya.

In the case of Sam, it came in the form of Senior Chief Peter Gatabaki of Thakwa, Githunguri, on the outskirts of Nairobi.

Chiefs then were resented as traitors and relics of colonial authority. They enforced labour recruitment and tax collection. But there were many advantages of being a chief who were above their African subjects, but beneath Provincial and District Commissioners.

Senior Chief Gatabaki’s children later landed influential positions in academia, politics, publishing, research, engineering, banking, medicine and the corporate world

The grave is a lonely place: Dr Sam Gatabaki was buried at his farm inside the Fourways Junction housing development.

Colonial chiefs were rewarded with free fertile government land, superior seedlings, cheap labour, work permits and access to business and trade licenses. Some were also given more land left by the Mau Mau freedom fighters and the livestock confiscated from them.  The other children who equally benefited were collaborators like Home Guards, Tribal Police and colonial informers.

 The intelligence of their children was assumed and they thus enjoyed government bursaries to the best local schools and scholarships for higher education abroad.

When Kenya attained her independence in December 1963, it was the children of chiefs who ate from the most succulent of fruits. With their education, political networks and connections in government saw them get absorbed as technocrats, bureaucrats and in the end, most became fat cats in business and top dogs in the civil service.

  Senior Chief Peter Gatabaki had two wives – the late Esther Wangari and Hannah Wangui, who died in 2012. His children, 19 of them, were even luckier. Besides imbuing them with stoicism to succeed, the least he expected of them was a university education. 

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The fruits of Chief Gatabaki’s foresight paid off big time. His children later landed influential positions in academia, politics, publishing, research, engineering, banking, medicine and the corporate world.

The children of chiefs also married upwards and into more influence. One of Chief Gatabaki’s daughter’s, the late Janet Wairimu, married Hon Muinga Chokwe, a coastal politician.

The financial reality of why people in Central Kenya uprooted coffee for real estate

Concrete windfall: Dr Gatabaki’s wife received 12 three-bedroom villas with a market price of Sh9.5 each as part of the court settlement including 3.6 acres at Fourways Junction in 2011.

Others became household names. Like Njehu Gatabaki, the formerGithunguri MP and fearless editor of Finance magazine. Shall we mention he was married to Rachel Mwihaki, sister to former Gatanga MP and Jubilee stalwart David Murathe? Or Kung’u Gatabaki, thechair of the Capital Markets Authority since 2011.  Then there is Mwende Gatabaki-Ndii, theIT guruPresident Uhuru Kenyatta tapped to spearhead “Kenya Single Source of Truth”  (the Huduma Namba) before her hubby, eminenteconomist David Ndii, was at loggerheads with Jubilee government for a NASA strategist and advisor to Raila Odinga. Ndii and Mr Baba Man were once detainees at the Nyayo House torture chambers at the crackdown on political dissidents by the Kanu regime in the 1980s. 

Others are not as famous, but are prominent. Like James Gatabaki, anarchitect, Dr JP Gatabaki, a consulting physician and senior international aviation medical examiner. Or Prof Dan Gatabaki, an economist and businessman in North Carolina, USA.

Then there is Dr Sam Gatabaki, the real estate developer with Sagana and Muga Developers in which his wife held a 25 percent stake.

Their crown jewel is the Fourways Junction where his wife was awarded 24 three-bedroom apartments valued at Sh7.5 million each, six two-bedroom apartments valued at Sh4.9 million each and 12 three-bedroom villas with a market price of Sh9.5 each as part of the court settlement which also included 3.6 acres.

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That is far and above the Sh402 million she was paid in hard cold cash; the financial reality of why people in Central Kenya uprooted coffee for real estate.

It was at Fourways Junction where Dr Sam Gatabaki was buried on March 13, 2020.

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