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The rise of a rogue Somali developer

By Property Hero

Selling a 30-million apartment in Kilimani was one of my best real estate experiences. Or the worst, depending on how you look at it.  As for me, it’s the reason why I’m in hiding as I write this, for fear of my life, and for the love of justice. Up to this point, I have been getting strange calls and messages ever since I said I’d let the world know what I experienced dealing with this private Somali developer. In Part 1 of 4, I’ll share only the beginning. I have kept the names and attachments out of this one, but if you guys will want to know who these people are, I’ll include their names in part 2 to 4.

PART 1: SURPRISE!

The lady ‘in charge’ of sales for the developer told me to go to their office the next day and collect my 900K commission. Good days were made of these!

Not wanting to eat the money like most agents I knew, I budgeted for it immediately, and even went a step further and made commitments.

“I’m thinking of paying six months ahead,” I told my landlord on the phone. “But I’m not really sure I should continue staying here, you know, with all the plumbing problems, the toilet breakages, and the lousy wiring.”

Like The Flash, the landlord sent the guy.  Within a couple hours my apartment was fixed. The landlord surprised me with his customer service when he gave me the if-there’s-anything-else-you-need speech. Even my neighbours were shocked to learn that the landlord did such things.

Next, I told my mother, who lives in shaggz, that her leaking roof would soon be a thing of the past. Determined to cover her problems, I placed an order with the mabati guys for the versatile roofing sheets, told them to start arranging for transport because I didn’t appreciate delays.  Then I told Mum to take the next vehicle to Nairobi because I was finally getting her a doctor to take care of her condition once and for all. To hell with matatus this time around, I thought. So, I sent her money for a taxi

I went straight to my first honey and grabbed her behind. “Honey, I know what you are going through. I have not been fair to you despite all the good places you have gone with me in this city. So I’m calling the mechanic today, we are fixing that computer that’s been keeping you in this parking lot. And I’m getting you serviced too. I got you!” So, the mechanic came and I gave him the key. “Seventy thousand is a bit too steep for me, Engineer.” I said to him. He preferred to be called engineer, by the way. “But today is your lucky day. Bring her back when she’s new!” You see, those were the kind of words people whose commissions were ready used.

And what kind of man spoiled one honey and left the other alone and dry? I was a believer of equitable distribution of resources. “Listen honey,” I told my second honey on the phone. “Take a day off this Friday. And Saturday too. That Lamu trip I’ve been promising you? It’s finally happening! Now, go to that place ladies go in rundown and come out new. I got you.”

“In fact, I had planned to leave work early and go to the salon,” she said after several thank yous. “I have to look good for my birthday, after tomorrow.”

Shit! I thought.  I had forgotten about that. I should have held on to that Lamu trip idea a little longer.  No worry.  Things didn’t have to be binary when your commission was ready. I would get her a present and still take her to Lamu.

Later that day, I passed my neighbours’ kids playing in the stairway. I gave them two days to practice and showcase their talents to me, whereupon I would reward the top three with 3 to 5 K. What they didn’t know was that they were my birthday surprise for my woman. After that, I called her friends, told them to come over for a surprise party two days from now.

Being the supporter of my little sister and nephew, I told them not to worry about schools opening this week. “I got you.” 

I even called my creditors and told them to keep checking their accounts from time to time in the next couple of days and report any positive changes to me.

The next day came and I took an Uber Select to the developer’s office in Kilimani because I didn’t want to show up in Uber Chapchap. Deals had been broken by less.  I remember the driver almost got a heart attack from my 1,000-bob tip. 

The lady in charge of sales had told me to meet her between 12 and 12.30 p.m. but I was there by 11.50 a.m. like the good agent that I was. Besides, I didn’t want them to use lateness as an excuse not to pay me my commission. So, I bought time at the lobby, not wanting to report before time. A developer could easily withhold your commission just for appearing too eager. I’d heard of worse. I made small talk with the security guards, listening to their grievances. I hear you good fellas, I thought.  I’ll see what I can do with the change from the commission.

Anyway, I got in at about 12 and the receptionist told me the lady had just left. I called her immediately. She couldn’t have reached that far. Shockingly, she sounded shocked that I had even made it for the appointment.

What the fuck? You thought we were kidding? 

“Your commission was paid to another agent,” she said, and then she put me on a conference call with her ‘boss.’  I didn’t get his name at this point because it was one of those Somali names we all struggled to differentiate.

Be calm, I thought. This is just a misunderstanding. A developer of this magnitude surely knows what he is doing.

The boss said he was not aware of what was going on and for some reason, a long argument ensued between the lady and him. At some point both the lady and I went quiet.

I didn’t need to understand his Somali language to know the guy was angry. “Abru guch ga bro huch huchra hath hathu*&%$#?@@@,” he said, “Blah blah blah.” And then his voice disappeared.

Part of me suspected the guy had just abused me, but like the good agent that I was, I still managed to say, “Inshallah.”

The lady attempted to translate what he had just said, “Very sorry. Will go talk to the lawyer tomorrow and I’ll make sure you get the commission you worked hard for blah blah blah, blah blah blah. At this point, I was not listening to anything she was saying because a voice inside me kept telling me, “Surprise! You have been conned, you infidel sucker!” And the voice kept laughing at me.

“Doesn’t your company have payment records and stuff?” I finally said.

“What?” she said.

Does anyone know anything that goes on in this company? “Records. You know, rows and columns with names and figures … that sort of thing?”

“Oh I have to check with our lawyer  blah blah blah developer blah blah blah payment blah blah blah someone else blah blah blah receipt …”

Anyway, I took a matatu home because, in light of new information, I had to tread carefully with my now limited funds. 

In the evening, I was sitting at home with my mother. The doctor’s appointment was the next day. I could hear the kids practicing for the big day, also the next day. Some even took the initiative and knocked on my door to ask for last-minute advice. The mechanic also called to say he’d bring my first honey back the next day, that she was as good as new.  I’d have to pay him then. And worse of all, my second honey arrived looking new and ready for her birthday and the Lamu trip. Yet, between me and this sea of promises, was a 500-bob change in my pocket. The surprise was on me.

Yes, I was angry at the lady, angry at her boss, but above all, I was angry at myself for ignoring the red flags of a textbook rogue developer. In Part 2, of 4 of my story, you will know these red flags, and why I fear my client could lose Ksh 30 million from the deal. You will also learn the interesting discoveries I came across about this developer’s operations.

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