BY MWANAHABARI REPORTER
At 73, Mzee Ben Mwangi spends most of his time reading newspapers – and basking in the sun counting days.
His day begin and ends at the Greater Life Concern (GLC) rehab centre. This has been his home since 2018.
This writer found him sitting on a green plastic chair, warm his weary body in the mid-morning sun. In his hand he was holding a newspaper.
“I read the papers a lot to jog my memory and keep me informed,” he says with a smile.
You can tell that vagaries of life and old age are getting the better of Mwangi. He is no longer that young man who lived a wild life.
He smiles – again – which totally transforms his aging face, dropping the accumulated years hidden behind a few stubborn wrinkles.
Although his voice trembled when he expressed his first words of ‘good morning my daughter,’ I knew that he hadn’t given up completely. He pulled a chair to allow us sit.
Mwangi reveals that newspapers make him forget his troubles besides bringing back the good old memories of the 70s and early 80s.
Born lucky and smart, Mwangi was amongst the luckiest students that enjoyed the comfort of good schooling at Alliance High School from 1963 to 1966 – where he did both his O and A levels – and passed.
Upon completion, a friend introduced Mwangi to the late president Jomo Kenyatta, and was immediately enrolled as a Barclays bank manager at Moi Avenue under the orders of the President.
“I worked there for about eight years, and in 1976 things went haywire. I was dismissed for defrauding the bank,” narrates Mwangi who lost his first job forcing him to go back to the drawing table.
“I went back home full of thoughts. I had a family that was looking unto me, and here I was with zero income. I couldn’t think of an immediate solution.”
A few days after being sacked, Mwangi decided to visit the late Kenneth Matiba to seek his help. Indeed, Matiba gave him a listening ear and offered him a job as a Chief Accountant to manage his group of hotels.
After working for two years, Mwangi was sent on a one week compulsory leave over alleged fraud.
“When I came back, Matiba summoned me into his office. The first question he asked was why I had decided to kill his business. I denied the accusations as any professional thief would, and that’s when he slapped me hard on the face. He shoved all the incriminating documents on the table. Angered by his hot slap, I lost control and kicked Matiba on the stomach and that’s how I was sacked.
Mwangi graduated to become a serial bank fraudster and would make tonnes of money without sweating.
Together with some friends they introduced another scam which involved fake cheques. They made money without arousing any suspicions until their luck ran out.
He was arrested together with his friend after five years and sent to jail.
‘We were found guilty of obtaining money by false pretense and landed a jail term of three years without bond,” narrates Mwangi who not only ruined his career but also lost his family.
No employer wanted him
After serving his three years jail term, Mwangi was released, but no employer wanted him.
He resorted to odd job of collecting garbage. On the other side he was battling scathing divorce case. He took to drinking alcohol and soon suck into depression before moving to the streets.
“Imagine having the privilege of dining with the president and Matiba and within a blink of an eye you are on the streets sifting through garbage in search of left overs.”
He endured the cold and the tough streets for 10 years without his family looking for him.
He would, however, leave the streets after being rescued by Mr Solomon Kilanga, the CEO of Greater Life Concern back in 2018.
Mistaken for a thief
“Life on the streets was torturous. It’s easier for a child or a woman to beg on the streets, it’s difficult for a grown man like myself to receive any help even if you beg. If you approach a woman to beg for anything, the first thing she does is to hold her bag and dash off. You can easily be mistaken for a thief and get beaten to death,” says Mwangi.
Jane Gitau a counseling psychologist, who focuses on mental wellness and trauma therapist, emphasizes on forgiveness of family members. Gitau who works at the Centre explained that rejection is more painful and difficult to cope with especially when its from family members.
On his part, Mwangi is still hopeful that one day he will go back home. Meanwhile, he is appealing to his family to find space in their heart to forgive him.
“I am a changed man now. I regret my mistakes,” he says.