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January 21, 2019

Tenants vacate Taj Mall but owner Gorasia won’t let go without a fight

Airgate Mall, formely Taj Mall, on August 16 /EZEKIEL AMING’A
Airgate Mall, formely Taj Mall, on August 16 /EZEKIEL AMING’A

The owner of Airgate Centre, formerly Taj Mall, will not vacate as ordered by the team in charge of demolitions of illegal buildings.

Tenants have been racing against time to remove their assets and avoid losses. All but proprietor Ramesh Gorasia have left. Bata was the latest to leave last Friday, a day after the deadline issued by the government.

The Kenya Urban Roads Authority says part of the building is on a road reserve and is to be razed this week.

Gorasia’s Rams Supermarket is the only business still operating inside the Embakasi mall. Posters dot the wall, informing customers that the supermarket is running round the clock. Gorasia’s office is at the basement. He said he will stay put.

“I’ll not leave or remove anything from the building. Why should I do that? If they want to demolish, let them come and do whatever they want to do,” Gorasia said.

“I’ll not remove anything so they can know I own the building. You can’t just tell me to walk out and not give me good reasons. I have the title.”

The Nairobi Regeneration Task Force is charged with demolishing illegal constructions on river banks and road reserves.

Last Friday, it held a four-hour meeting at Nyayo House to work on the budget and logistics ahead of Airgate’s demolition.

In 2015, suspended National Land Commission Muhammad Swazuri said the government had in the 1960s compulsorily acquired part of the land where the mall stands for “future expansion” of the Outering and North Airport roads.

Gorasia said he genuinely bought the 1.75 acres in 1991 and another two acres in 1995, both from Abuja Ltd. He joined the two parcels. He said he has the legal ownership documents and is ready to prove his case.

Julius Wanjau said they were to move to Airgate Centre once they were done with flattening Southend Mall on Langata Road.

“We’ll be given instructions on when to move there [Airgate]. We will know on Wednesday [tomorrow],” the officer in charge of the demolitions said.

Flattening of Southend Mall was to be completed by the end of yesterday.

Frequent break down of the NYS-owned bulldozers and excavators, and the structural intricacies slowed down the exercise.

Besides Southend Mall, Ukay Centre and part of Oshwal Centre in Westlands, Shell petrol station and several walls of residential apartments in Keleleshwa have been pulled down in the crackdown that started on August 6.

Wanjau said about 4,000 structures are targetted in an effort to reclaim Nairobi River and its tributaries. The river has been threatened by encroachment, effluents and solid waste.

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