Mama Ngina Kenyatta, founding President Jomo Kenyatta’s widow and the mother of the current Head of State, has been drawn into a multimillion-shilling property tussle pitting a 67-year-old woman against her two children in Gatundu South, Kiambu County.
In a court affidavit, Mr Dickson Muiruri Njoroge and his sister Esther Nyokabi Njoroge claim their mother Virginia Wairimu Njoroge sold a 1.5-acre plot in Ichaweri without their consent a few months after they turned down Mama Ngina’s overtures regarding the prime property situated across the road from the Kenyattas’ Gatundu home.
Mama Ngina has not directly responded to the claims filed in court and the Sunday Nation could not establish any clear association between her or the larger Kenyatta family and Southbrook Holdings, the firm named as having paid Sh20 million for the property, which has a block of flats currently occupied by General Service Unit (GSU) personnel guarding the Kenyatta home. Half of the Sh20 million was used to clear a loan at Kenya Women Microfinance Bank.
In court filings, Mr Muiruri says that sometime between 2017 and 2018 he and his mother were invited by Mama Ngina to her Muthaiga home “to discuss the sale of parcel numbers Ng’enda/Kimunyu 1520/ 1521 and 1522”, and that they did not agree on the proposal.
“After the meeting, and without my knowledge, my mother transferred the property to her name without going through the due succession process,” says Mr Muiruri in the affidavit filed at the Thika Environment and Land Court.
The land in question lies directly opposite the main gate to the home of the First Family on Kenyatta Road, two kilometres from Gatundu town. Kenyatta Road connects Thika Road to Gatundu.
The tussle over the property has divided the Njoroges and shocked the village of Ichaweri. Soon after Mr Muiruri and Ms Nyokabi learnt about the sale, they cut all communication with their mother even as they prepared to sue her.
Records at the Registrar of Companies show that Southbrook Holdings has three shareholders, two of whom own no shares in the company. The two are Robert Kimani Ndung’u and Patrick Kamau Gacheru, while the third shareholder, Ropat Nominees Ltd, owns 100 shares and is listed as a foreign company shareholder. The name Ropat appears to be a play on the first names of Mr Ndun’gu and Mr Gacheru — Robert and Patrick — who are also the shareholders of Ropat Nominees Ltd.
Southbrook was registered in July 2016, with Leonard Irungu, Herman Gikungu and Rose Wamaitha Ng’ote as the initial shareholders before they resigned to pave the way for Ropat, Mr Gacheru and Mr Ndung’u.
Ropat Nominees Ltd is also a shareholder at Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA), owning a 22.5 per cent stake in the bank, which it retained following the bank’s merger with NIC Bank to form NCBA Bank. The Kenyattas are linked to the bank’s ownership.
On March 15 this year, Justice Lucy Gacheru issued orders directing Ms Wairimu not to sell or transfer the property. The judge also ordered that rent accrued from the commercial and residential units be deposited in an account run by lawyers of both the mother and her offspring.
In their suit, Mr Mururi and Ms Nyokabi claim that their mother only held the family property in trust, and that the rent collected sustained their livelihoods. They state that their mother did not seek their consent when she sold the land as is required in law.
“The company (Southbrook Holdings) has already threatened to evict us from the suit property, where we have been residing since the demise of our father,” says Ms Nyokabi in her affidavit. “We have been collecting rent from the said property which we use for our sustenance. We run the risk of being rendered destitute.”
Mr Collins K’Owuor, replying on behalf of Southbrook Holdings, described himself as its property manager. His defence was drawn by Wainaina Ireri Advocates, the same law firm that drew the sale agreement.
Mr K’Owour confirmed that Southbrook is the owner of the disputed land after it was issued with a title deed on December 10 last year. He added that the transfer was lawful as per the sale agreement entered between the company and Ms Wairimu on October 30, 2018, and that the claim of consent from the children did not arise as the parcels were registered in Ms Wairimu’s name, and she was at the time the absolute owner.
“In light of the foregoing, Southbrook Holdings is an innocent purchaser for value in a willing-buyer-willing-seller transaction without notice to the plaintiffs’ alleged interest, whose burden of proof has not been discharged by the two children of Virginia Wairimu,” he noted, and further argued that the temporary orders issued by the court had already been overtaken by events.
Documents seen by the Sunday Nation show that in 1996 the land in question was acquired by Mr John Njoroge Muiruri, the family patriarch who has since died, initially as three separate plots each with its own title deed. The plots were adjacent to each other and, due to the prime location, suitors for the land started as early as 2000, but Mr Njoroge declined to sell. He instead built commercial and residential houses, which until April this year were earning the family Sh140,000 a month in rent.
But sometime in April this year, GSU officers are alleged to have gone to the property and evicted all tenants. The officers were occupying the property when the Sunday Nation visited the area last week.
In 2007, Mr Njoroge suffered a stroke that left him bedridden and without the ability to speak. Mr Muiruri says in court papers his mother took his father to the lands office in Thika in 2012, where, using fingerprints as his signature, he transferred two of the plots to her. At the time of his death in 2014, the remaining plot was still in his name.
On August 18 last year, Ms Nyokabi placed a cautionary notice over the land after she and her brother got wind that their mother was intending to sell the land. The caution was received by the Gatundu Land Registry on the same day.
Mr Muiruri says that, despite all attempts to get their mother not to sell the land, she secretly entered into a sale agreement with Southbrook Holdings Ltd on October 30 last year.
But, in response, their mother says she was the registered proprietor of the three plots, which she argues are not matrimonial property.
For all the time the commercial building existed, Mr Muiruri acted as the landlord. He says that he was therefore taken aback when, on February 6 this year, his caretaker called to say police had ordered his tenants to vacate the premises by the end of that month.
The case will be mentioned on December 10 this year.
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