An investigative story that has put ‘Chinese masters’ on the spot for mistreating Kenyan employees in the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) operations has upset many Kenyans.
One Paul Wafula lay buck-naked the highly celebrated multi-billion railway line whose operations cost the country at least Sh1 Billion every month.
Wafula, a business investigative journalist at Standard Media Group exposed the findings on how Kenyans were being subjected to racism, torture and abject discrimination dispensed by Chinese employees of the China Roads and Bridges Corporation(CRBC) that runs SGR.
“This was an eye-opening moment for me because when I first heard of these complaints from one of the employees I thought this was probably one of those who have not done their job properly and maybe they just have a bone to pick,”
Sometimes later, more Kenyan employees approached Wafula with the same complaints and this prompted the investigation on the matter.
On inception, SGR had offered corporates, journalists and dignitaries a trip to have a feel of the services offered by the Chinese operator.
Being part of the passengers on this trip with two other journalists, Wafula suffered the maiden treat to lesser beings from the Chinese employees.
“We arrived at Miritini and we were to board a van, the three of us who were Kenyans went in and joined them in the van. All the Chinese nationals left the van. We did not understand what was going on. They boarded a different van behind us to the hotel,”
The following day, when Wafula sought to use the same vehicle when leaving the hotel, he was turned away by the Chinese nationals occupying it.
On noticing Wafula was intending to join them in the van, they all turned to him and signalled him to use a different one.
“It didn't occur to me at that point but when I started working on this story, I realised the this was something that was happening throughout since the launch of Madaraka Express,” recounts the journalist.
According to Wafula, all the Chinese working on the SGR are automatically seniors to Kenyan staff regardless of qualifications.
“The pay disparities are also shocking. For the same job done, you find a Chinese earning four times more than a Kenyan. Why would you do that, and even if the Chinese pay is not well recorded by KRA, why don't the Chinese pay correct taxes,” wondered Wafula in an interview on Monday.
CRBC has also used language barrier to make it difficult for Kenyans to operate the trains.
Wafula found Chinese doing even menial jobs as stamping passports, cooking, garbage collection and cleaning apartments while unemployed Kenyans looked on.
“Driving the SGR is not rocket science. Kenyans fly planes to London and all over the world. If you talk to meter gauge drivers, they will tell you that it is like moving from a manual to an automatic car, it not difficult for Kenyans to do this,” revealed Wafula.