Of all the Kenyan billionaires — and they are a handful — reclusive businessman Madatali Chatur could be the least known.
Although he shuns publicity these days, he was in the 80s a common face in the media but as money, power, and wealth followed him, he became the invisible billionaire.
With a fortune that runs into billions of shillings, his decision to sell all his Kenyan properties, estimated to be worth Sh76.99 billion, must have caught everyone by surprise — but not those who know him.
“He was not getting well with some government people,” a source who knows him told us without getting into details.
Whether he has seen warning signs ahead in the real estate market or he is escaping from uncertainty is not clear.
Some pundits see this dramatic decision as either a vote of no confidence in the economy or a feeling that he can no longer survive the changing political atmosphere.
For over three decades, Mr Chatur built an enviable empire with several properties on hundreds of acres spread across the country, which he claims, rose from an electronic shop that he opened in River Road, Nairobi, in 1977.
During the days of Kanu, Mr Chatur was a blue-eyed boy of the regime and hobnobbed with the party mandarins, power brokers and security chiefs — including some former police commissioners who were on his speed dial.
He would also be part of Asian delegations to State House, contributing money President Daniel Moi’s projects and was a known philanthropist.
As his networks grew and wealth ballooned, Mr Chatur consolidated his portfolio under a group that boasts 16 companies, all of which own prime land in Nairobi, Nakuru, Machakos, Kilifi, Mombasa, Kwale and Turkana counties.
Little had been heard about Mr Chatur until February this year when Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter was arrested alongside Mr Arthur Ingolo Sakwa and “a Mr Madatali Chatur” for what the Central Bank of Kenya and the Banking Fraud Investigations Unit said was presenting a forged 90-day Treasury Bills dated 1990.
But the Chatur Group of Companies said the arrested “Mr Madat Suburali Chatur” was not related to their chairman, Mr Madat Saburali Chatur.
At the moment, the actual reasons for the looming sale remain unknown, as efforts to get an explanation from Mr Chatur have been futile.
The businessman told the Daily Nation on Saturday last week that he was out of town and would get in touch once back.
He has since not answered calls or responded to text messages.
Investigations by the Daily Nation have however revealed that the businessman, reputed to be one of the wealthiest in Kenya, has land and buildings valued at Sh76.99 billion.
Each of his 16 companies own prime properties, while some of the real estate is registered in his own name.
The Chatur Group mainly deals in real estate, but it has now emerged that the tycoon also has interests in the agriculture sector, owning two farms in Kwale and Malindi measuring 32,499 acres.
He co-owns most of the companies with his eldest son — Rahim.
But even as Mr Chatur looks to cash in on his vast empire, City Hall has marked two of his properties for demolition, arguing that the billionaire businessman acquired building approvals illegally.
City Hall in August gave notice to Mr Chatur’s tenants at New Muthaiga Mall and a car bazaar the tycoon owns in Gigiri that it would be bringing down the constructions.
Mr Chatur has since sued through Gemini Properties (New Muthaiga Mall) and Scorpion Properties (Gigiri Mall).
Judicial review division judge Pauline Nyamweya last Wednesday transferred the suit to the lands court.
“Neither the applicants nor their tenants were afforded a fair administrative action before this decision was made since no prior notice was given of the decision nor a hearing was afforded to the applicant or its tenant.
“There is no claim by the director of physical planning in the enforcement notice or any iota of evidence that the herein attached approvals of the development plans were acquired through fraudulent means or are forgeries,” Mr Chatur’s son Rahim says in court papers.
And adds: “The applicants’ buildings have been financed by a bank facility which is being paid to date. The loss of tenants will lead to foreclosure of the applicants’ property, which will cause substantial loss and irreparable harm,”
His real estate interests are spread across commercial, residential and hospitality facilities.
His commercial buildings include Mithoo House, Diamond Plaza, Diamond Plaza II, Hope International, Ngara Shopping Complex, Simba Centre, Mariam Arcade, Likoni Mall, Trust Building and New Muthaiga Shopping Mall.
The residential buildings include Langata Paradise Apartments, Bahari Dhow Villas, and houses in Nyari Estate and Fourth Parklands Avenue.
His hospitality arm has the Concord Hotel and Suites, Mara Concord, Shelly Beach Resort and the Cloud Hotel.
The agriculture side has land in Lokichogio, Maanzoni in Machakos, Syokimau, Malindi, Mai Mahiu and Mombasa.
Leo Investments is perhaps the billionaire’s most successful venture, owning several high value properties such as Diamond Plaza (Sh20 billion), named after his late brother, Concord Hotel (Sh3 billion), Mithoo House (Sh2 billion) on River Road, the Mara Concord (Sh700 million), Ngara Shopping Complex (Sh480 million) among others.
Diamond Plaza, aside from letting space to several shops, also hosts the Chatur Group offices.
The businessman’s wealth has not been without controversy, as he has been a defendant in a litany of court cases filed against him and his firms over deals gone sour.
At least twice, Mr Chatur has been found to be in contempt of court in property battles, which has seen him fined.
In 2010, High Court Judge Ruth Sitati fined Mr Chatur and his son Rahim Sh300,000 after finding that they disobeyed her order stopping works on the Sh3 billion New Muthaiga Shopping Mall.
The stop order had been issued following a suit by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, which was investigating how the land ended up in the hands of private developers, having been listed as public property.
Muthaiga residents had gone to court seeking to have the construction of the mall stopped, saying the land had been earmarked for a nursery school and a clinic.
“The public plot was allocated to Gemini Properties with a new land reference number being 209/9295 in place of the original 209/8000/84, subject however to certain special conditions and in particular condition number five, which was to the effect that the suit property would be used for a clinic and day nursery school,” court papers say.
The resident argued: “The allocation of the suit property consisted of a public utility, was illegal and accordingly Gemini Properties holds the suit property in trust for the citizens of Kenya and for the residents of New Muthaiga in particular.”
Justice Sitati, who also presided over the claim by Muthaiga residents, ruled that only the Attorney General could sue to recover public land, which allowed Mr Chatur to start construction of the mall.
Mr Chatur’s family owns New Muthaiga Shopping Mall through Gemini Properties. Five years later, another High Court judge, Olga Sewe, found Mr Chatur in contempt.
The businessman’s Chatur Properties Limited had kicked out a tenant at its Simba Centre on River Road and attached goods to clear a debt.
Ex-Sec Printers had contested the debt and obtained an order barring attachment of its assets.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.