The loaded are different- from playing solo golf, indoor pools to flying over police road blocks
By Brian Guserwa and Shifa Mwihaki
Condemned to their sprawling mansions, Kenya’s super rich are not isolating like you and I with noisy, nosy neighbours. Flamboyant city lawyer Donald Kipkorir recently twitted photos of the rains ruining his lawn from where he lounges at his Karen home, performing opera renditions to keep his sanity.
The Don also twitted that though Nairobi has a national park, it’s still “ugly, slummy, dirty and unsafe” but he still gassed his Range Rover HSE to have drinks with political activist Silas Jakakimba and Law Society of Kenya President Nelson Havi.
While mandarins of the corporate world are showcasing CSR activities, the Don has no heartburn parading his life on social media, after all, “I live my life in the open because I have not stolen and I have no monetary or political debts to pay.”
But the lockdown has limited posting snapshots of his lavish lifestyle. Like his expensive dinners in Italy or visits to the rural monstrosity he built in Cheptongei village, Marakwet. Neither can he charter a plane, like he did in 2013, splashing Sh10 million for a two week tour of Hungary and Austria. Or his birthday party last year in Montego Bay, Jamaica. “My life is abundantly blessed” he often says, and so would yours be if charging clients Sh50 million per brief is normal fair and you proposed to your wife, Noni Weru, mid-flight to Denmark.
Now with the lockdown, the Don who does not take political, criminal and divorce cases or walk-in clients, can only chill in Karen, waiting for courts to reopen while watching Series, Dead to Me and Peaky Blinders, on Netflix. That is when he’s not reading Michelangelo: God’s Architect by William E Wallace. He buys books online “to stimulate my thought process, opening a world of wonderment” and during lockdown “to maintain my sanity, keep the devil away.”
The Don also wets his gills with choice wines: Giusti Umberto I, the red blend of merlot and grapes from Veneto, Itali. Then there is Esporao Red Reserve, a dark berry offering and starring spice notes with a dry finish from Alentejo, Portugal. The deep ruby red Kanonkop wine and the Groot Constantia are from South Africa. The Don doesn’t break the bank for these wines. Prices range from Sh6, 000 to Sh14, 000 a bottle.
Kenyans are ordering more maru Bhajia, chocolate doughnuts, beignets, tiramisu, roasted Turkey during lockdown
As you and I worry about police road blocks, others are sweating over air potholes. Like former Bomet Governor Isaac Rutto. From North Rift to his home in Phenom Estate, Lang’ata, he hired a chopper.
In Phenom Estate too, it appears many a Miss Mboch are on leave for obvious reasons. Thus parents have been ordering take aways: chicken and cheese sandwich, mozzarella sticks and chicken Dim Sims with a dash of mahamri. Healthy eaters are ordering coleslaw and soups, the most popular being Chinese braised beef soup which goes well with Gulab Jamun-basically berry milk balls mixed with leavened flour, according to Uber Eats Index for May, 2020.
Money, sometimes, can lead to loneliness, living far from the madding crowd
The Index also reveals that Kenyans are ordering more maru Bhajia, chocolate doughnuts, beignets, tiramisu, roasted Turkey, green power smoothie of blended kale and apples and Java Dawa. Also on heavy demand is ‘Monkey Business’-a cocktail of chocolate liqueur and assorted flavours.
The middle class have missed outdoor activities like swimming in public pools. Not so Wanja Michuki, daughter of late Cabinet Minister John Michuki. Her daddy gifted her a Sh50 million home next to the family’s Windsor Golf and Country Club in Ridgeways, Nairobi. Though she can swim at the club, her house has a heated indoor pool.
Money, sometimes, can lead to loneliness, living far from the madding crowd. Take former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo who pipes “Yes, I am rich and there is nothing wrong with being rich. Money is good.”
He used to fly from his Nyali home in Mombasa for nyama choma at Olepolos Country Club in Kajiado
He used to fly from his Nyali home in Mombasa for nyama choma at Olepolos Country Club in Kajiado before cutting sundowner pints at the Masai Mara Game Reserve enroute to Nyali. But recently he twitted how lockdown has taught him “the value of having friends around.”
Others are discovering hidden talent reserved for bottom drawers. Rebecca Miano, the CEO of KenGen, purses home Sh11.2 million in annual salary. She has been knitting, a hobby she says “is great mental therapy” during lockdown.
Then there is politician Peter Kenneth. Having sold a majority stake in his Mayfair Bank to Egyptian investors for Sh3.7 billion, the former presidential candidate can breathe the cool air in Kyuna estate Nairobi and worry about his wine cellar. Like how to ship over bottles of 50 year old Johnnie Walker Director’s Blend. But thank heavens for small mercies, KQ cargo planes are on duty.
Lockdown can be suffocating but not when you live in Kihingo Village in Nairobi’s Kitisuru estate. Like Kirinyaga Governor Anne Mumbi Waiganjo who is holed up in her rustic country style home punctuated by “open living” and bar-less windows.
And you can’t just drop by. Access for visitors is via a biometrically activated pedestrian turnstile. For those with cars, there is a CCTV monitored chip and pin car gate access.
As George Orwell told us, some animals are more equal than others
For physical exercises, Mr and Mrs Kamotho have the village’s Bustani Club which also boasts a pool, Jacuzzi and aerobics room. The Governor and First Gentleman of Kirinyaga County also have the option of relaxing at the lounge bar or have a pep talk while taking evening walks at the nearby blue gum forest or relax by the “shores” of the 12-acre natural dam.
Kihingo Village is the brainchild of former Tetu MP Ndung’u Gethenji who also lives there and has been wrangling over the property with his brother, Gitahi Gethenji. Ndung’u converted the family’s Kihingo Flowers into Kihingo Village- which popularized the concept of gated communities in Kenya in 2007.
For Kenya’s blessed 10 percent, the lockdown is only a mild inconvenience
Other wealthy residents include SportPesa boss Captain Ronald Karauri and Radio Africa shareholder William Pike. Indeed, Pike does not have to gas his car to Lion Place in Westlands to find out which is the headline in the Star. He can work from home. Or the Bustani boardroom. For meetings, he has the 24-seater dividable conference room for outlining with fellow shareholders, how best to salvage the dwindling fortunes in media.
Most tenants bought the houses at between Sh35 million and Sh75 million depending on number of bedrooms and garage size. Today, a house at Kihingo costs the northwards of Sh200 million minus stamp duty, legal fees and service charge.
As George Orwell told us, all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
For Kenya’s blessed 10 percent, the lockdown is only a mild inconvenience. In the case of others, the economic shutdown has barely registered: Orders for luxury cars like Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Range Rover rose by 73 percent in the three months to March 2020 according to the Kenya Motor Industry Association. DT Dobie sold 17 Mercedes-Benzes in the first quarter, up from 13 last year.
Akothee sometimes flies for a few rounds of golf at the seemingly deserted Vipingo Ridge
Among the buyers defying inflation, looming recession and pay cuts was Kenyan rapper Khaligraph Jones. In early March, he gifted himself a Sh5 million Porsche Cayenne GT, another addition to his car collection. But petrol heads intimated that the Porsche, at that price, might not have been off a showroom, and most likely had previous owners. The OG took his quarantine further by sending cash for their support over the years.
Gospel producer DJ Mo, one half of The Muraya’s power couple has been relegated to babysitter duties and has since requested his wife, Size 8, to put a brake to baby production.
Other celebs have been forced to take up other hobbies. Musician Akothee (Esther Akoth) has been keeping fit through martial arts at her home in Migori when not engaged in between charity work; distributing food and sanitary items to needy communities. Social distancing be damned, Akothee sometimes flies to Mombasa for a few rounds of golf at the seemingly deserted Vipingo Ridge when not having a picnic on a private beach or an indoor concert at her home.