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From dungeon with a mission

From dungeon with a mission


Wednesday, March 13, 2024

KNA by Samuel Maina/ Wanjiru Ndiritu

In April 20th, 1979, a gang of four men stormed Abdalla Sons business premises, located along Meru Road in Mombasa and robbed Mohammed Saleh Khadwalla of 87 wrist watches and Ronsel lighters, valued at Sh 26,455.

Prior to the incident, and on the same day, the gang had robbed one, Elizabeth Mole, of her Mazda Saloon car registration number KJZ 054 valued at Sh 54,000.

The second robbery had taken place at Ambalala House, along Mikindani Road.

The incidences had attracted the attention of revellers who were enjoying their drinks after work, who immediately responded to distress calls from the victims and gave chase to the fleeing gang.

In their hasty retreat from the scene of crime the gang had to abandon the get-away car after its engine stalled.Curious to get a whiff of what had led to the commotion, David Mwangi, who was at the time walking home from the then Kenya Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (KPTC),where he was working as a casual labourer, decided to hasten to the scene.

His curiosity, as he came to learn later, would turn out to be one of worst undoing, after he got implicated in the crime.

He ended up spending a total of six months at the Shimo La Tewa Remand Prison for a crime he never committed.Mwangi nevertheless came out wiser, as he told KNA.

“I was coming home from work that day when I came face to face with an angry mob, chasing four men who had robbed a woman of her car, before storming into a business premises where they made away with an assortment of jewelleries. Out of curiosity, I decided to witness the unfolding events and drew near the scene of the event, where the alleged stolen car had been abandoned. Within no time, the police officers arrived on the scene and managed to shoot dead one suspect, while the rest managed to escape. It was then that I found myself in the hands of the law enforcers,” narrates Mwangi.

Mwangi was born in 1960 in the then Murang’a District, where he attended his elementary education, before leaving for Mombasa in 1972 to join his father who was working there.

In 1974 he sat for his Certificate of Primary Education (CPE).After completing Class seven, he worked on several casual jobs, including at a refrigeration plant, where he worked as an untrained Unit Inspector for Dayalal Ramji.

“I used to ferry tomatoes for people and at the end of the day got paid one- a cent. I also worked in a hotel, where I was paid Sh 30 at the end of every month. In those days such an amount of money was a windfall, only a few could dream of,” reminisces the father of five.

But in 1976 Mwangi enrolled for a training course at the Kisauni Training Centre, where he undertook a one-year course in Sign Writing and Painting.

Thereafter, a breakthrough came for him in 1978, when KPTC hired him on a temporary basis at a monthly pay of Sh 200.

It was during his second year in casual employment, that he found himself on the wrong side of the law and in an incident he knew nothing about.

But Mwangi, currently a Preacher at the Elim Gospel Church in Nyaribo Village, says it was during his wrongful incarceration in prison, that he decided to one day venture into the field of counselling psychology.

And after the High Court in Mombasa acquitted him of the robbery with violence charges in 1979, he made it his duty to work among prison wardens and inmates, offering them mentorship talks and counselling sessions, to help them cope with life’s challenges.

“My short stint in remand pushed me to take-up the role of reaching out to those serving prison sentences. Since then, my passion towards this cause has enabled me reach persons I barely dreamt about. My work has seen me visit prisons, asylums and even ventured into the dusty alleys of our small towns, where the downtrodden have called home for years,” added Mwangi, who loves to identify himself as an evangelist.

In 1982 KPTC finally commuted his services to permanent basis, with a starting salary pegged at Sh 520 per month. His job description entailed marking postal office mail boxes and any other related work that came with signwriting.

The new status enabled him to enrol for Grade Two Test Certificate in Sign Writing at the Mombasa Industrial Training College. His love for the brush saw him serve in various stations in the country, including Nairobi until the cruel sledgehammer of staff rationalizing, fell on him in 2007.

By this time KPTC was struggling to stay afloat and to cut down on costs, the Company had to retrench scores of its staff, as part of its austerity measures.Commenting on that fateful turn of events in his career, Mwangi laughs it off as an opportunity that opened his eyes to the future.

Rather than turn wallow in misery and mental anguish, he decided to take the unfamiliar path of joblessness in faith. For him, one door had been shut; but a dozen others remained open for him.

“Retrenchment and retirement should never be a death sentence to anybody. It is always a possibility once you get employed. When retrenchment came calling, some of my colleagues committed suicide, others slipped into denial but a few moved on.

Luckily for me I had spent much of my years in employment mentoring others on how to cope when things come crumbling down,” he pointed out “Once people exit from active service, they need to accept their new status and walk out with their heads high.

A vast field of work is always awaiting those who take retirement as a step to the next responsibility,” he advises.Today, the painter cum preacher, is satisfied with the route he took which he says has enabled him to provide for his family besides helping others grow.

His pastoral work has also seen tens of prison inmates, scholars and common people give life another stab when all appeared lost.“The fact that I have a helping heart enables me help anyone in need. I have been able to train some young men for free since they could not afford to pay. In addition, criticism has never been far from my Pastoral word. There will always be people to criticise you no matter how well you do things.

My advice to those facing tough time is to get up, dress up, show up and never give up” stresses Mwangi.Today, his work as a sign writer is quite visible in many parts of Nyeri, ranging from Government offices, churches to private businesses.

On average, he pockets at least Sh 2,000 for the cheapest piece of work.But this can go up to Sh 150,000 depending on the scope of work at hand. And those wishing to learn the ropes of the trade under his tutelage, are charged Sh 25,000, a fee which he says, is always negotiable.

Courtesy; KNA

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