Pulse Editorial: On the shame of Kenya Power & landlords who deserve a special place in heaven

The heroes and villains during fight against coronavirus

Pulse Opinion: On the shame of Kenya Power & landlords who deserve a special place in heaven

The novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and the disease it causes (COVID-19) have caused significant disruptions to markets around the world since the virus was first identified in Wuhan City in China. As the country faces the Covid-19 outbreak, Kenyans in many parts of the nation have been asked to stay at home in a bid to curb the spread of the deadly disease.

This literally means that Kenyans will rely more on Kenya Power to ensure minimal outages and lets talk about the pricing?

Since the Covid-19 epidemic began, we've seen concerted efforts cutting across the board to cushion Kenyans from the hard economic times : Safaricom waived charges for transactions below a Ks1000, EABL announced that they would be producing hand sanitizers, KCB set aside Sh30 Billion for mobile loans adding that they would extend borrowing limits and repayment periods for customers who qualify and those with existing loans during the next 90 days.

I've been waiting and waiting for Kenya power to follow suit and announce reduction of price tokens, but it seems i might wait forever.

To make matters worse, the power outage that Kenyans have experienced this week alone is beyond imagination, remember companies have dispatched their employees to work from Home.

Is it time to review our relationship with Kenya Power? oh, wait, their is no relationship here, i almost forgot its a monopoly, in short itabidi tupambane na hali yetu kama Wakenya.

The Kenya Meteorological Department had announced that there will be rains in the coming days and chances are power outages will also be increasing. Can Kenya power do any better to prepare?

According to the World Economic Forum, Electric power disruptions can occur anywhere with many of these outages associated with natural disasters such as typhoons, wind storms, tornadoes and earthquakes.

A quick look on social media paints a grim picture of the number of cases being reported on the Kenya Power social media pages. Some have indicated that they have gone without power for more than two days.

Blackouts at such a time are not something most Kenyan want to experience. Children are learning from home and they will need the power to access their e-learning centres.

Here at Pulselive.co.ke, we have been working from home, some colleagues have been faced by the challenge of not having power for up to 4 days. This means they have to move either to friends houses which beats the whole logic of #StayAtHome.

Kenya Power might be overwhelmed due to the huge numbers of people that are at home and using power simultaneously but that isn't an excuse to put hardworking Kenyans who pay for the service through power outages. Kenyans deserve better as they face these challenging times.

Away from the disappointment of the Kenya Power Company, we must commend landlords who have led from the front and declared rent moratoriums.

In these extraordinary times, there is no secret that many players in the economy, particularly those who trade in non-essential products and services – will suffer a huge decline in income.

Consider the mutura monger who survives hand to mouth by selling the African sausage on the dark alley. The looming curfew will definitely keep them out of their jobs for a couple of months.

Construction works have been suspended leaving many who earn a daily wage stranded. The same applies to boda boda operators, barbers, and even conductors who have little business as many citizens have opted to stay home.

For many of these workers, the priority in their hard work has always been to put a roof over the head of their families and that will predictably become a challenge as long as the coronavirus continues to disrupt the economy.

Which is why the few landlords who have waived rent for the next few months must be commended – for they have allowed many families to focus on feeding themselves after the burden of rent has been lifted.

Second liberation hero and former ODM official Wafula Buke is among those who have played their little role in this crisis by directing his three tenants not to pay any rent for the next three months.

Another Kenyan worthy of admiration is James Karanja, a landlord in Mugumo estate in Kiambu County who opted to waive rent for his tenants to soften the economic effects from the pandemic.

Karanja told his tenants they would only pay half their rent in the month of April.

The apartment in Mugumo estate holds 20 tenants who pay Sh15,000 for a two-bedroom house and Sh10,000 for a one-bedroom house.

There have been calls on President Uhuru Kenyatta to issue an order directing landlords to stop demanding for rent over the next few months.

While such calls are informed by the interest of the country’s poorest, we must appreciate that we operate in a constitutional order where private businesses must be allowed to operate independently.

The best President Kenyatta can do is to implore reason on the private businesses and lead by example – something he has clearly failed to do.

The President and his government have not waived the tax charged on landlords which would enable them to reduce their operating costs and pass on reductions to their tenants.

The Kenyan government and the 47 county governments have major interests in the real estate industry where they act as landlords to thousands of Kenyans. It is a shame that their buildings are not among those who have declared rent moratoriums during this coronavirus pandemic.

Addition writing by Tony Mukere and Martin Wachira

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