From Dining With Jomo Kenyatta To A Street Urchin – How Thievery Destroyed Ben Mwangi’s Career

Ben Mwangi went from a bank manager, to a prisoner then found himself homeless

In Summary 

  • As a young man, Ben Mwangi got to rub shoulders with founding President Jomo Kenyatta who connected him to a well paying bank manager job.
  • However, in his own words, Mwangi thought one is only a thief if he is caught. He was involved in fraudulent schemes that got him fired.
  • Fortunately, he landed another job as a chief accountant for Kenneth Matiba’s hotel. He was again fired after he stole and even fought with Matiba.
  • He also masterminded a fake cheque scam that got him behind bars. His family distanced themselves from him. He ended up homeless and found himself eating from trash cans.

The story of Ben Mwangi is a startling reminder of the importance of honesty and integrity for any young man who is keen on building a prosperous life. Currently aged 74,  Mwangi stays and lives in a rehabilitation center called Greater Life Concern (GLC). He is currently homeless, divorced and his children don’t want anything to do with him.

Born and brought up in Kinyanjeru village in Murang’a County, Mwangi had a protracted luminous future. He studied at Alliance High School between 1963 and 1966. Through the intervention of then President Jomo Kenyatta, he landed his first job as a bank manager for Barclays Bank, Moi Avenue Branch. According to Mwangi, it was Kenyatta who wrote a recommendation letter to have him hired in December, 1968.

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He served for 8 years but it was his desire to feather his own nest that got him fired in 1976. Staring at joblessness, one Friday afternoon, Mwangi reached out to veteran politician Kenneth Matiba who owned Brunner’s chain of hotels.

I told him: Kenneth, as I come here, I have no job and I’m a learned person. He told me to come on Monday promising to get me a job,” revealed Mwangi.

Without any application letter or interview, he was fortunate to secure another employment opportunity as a chief accountant. However, Mwangi confesses that he was inherently born a thief, so he carted away with some of the hotel’s earnings.

“If you are born a thief, no matter what you do, you will still steal,” he told the Standard in an interview.

Mwangi’s proverbial fortieth day came only two years later when Matiba discovered that some funds were missing from the hotel’s coffers. He immediately sent him on a one week compulsory leave as he (Matiba) worked on garnering enough evidence.

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After seven days, Matiba, in the company of two caucasians questioned him on why he had been stealing from the hotel. Mwangi distanced himself from any wrongdoing but Matiba went on to show him the evidence.

He showed me the vouchers and slapped me. I kicked him on the stomach leaving him on the ground. Those two Europeans separated us. Matiba told me that my job was over,” he narrates.

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Bank Cheques Fraud and Separation With Family

As he was now jobless, one of his acquaintance brought in an idea of defrauding people through fake bank cheques. Having served in the banking sector, Mwangi would collect cheque papers from industrial area and made imitated cheques which he signed as they embarked on this daring crime.

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However, they were arrested and sentenced to 3 years in prison. Things went south when he came out of prison as he was forced to do manual labour to make an earning.

However, he squandered the little money he got in chasing after women. His wife wouldn’t forgive him and separated from him. To make matters worse, even his children wanted little to do with him. Depressed, Mwangi took to stupefying alcoholism and found himself living in the streets.

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The former banker, stripped bare of his flamboyance spent 10 years in the streets as an urchin. He tells of his regrets as he recounted of how he had wasted his life.

“I was through a lot. Imagine dining with prominent people like President Kenyatta and Matiba only to end up eating from trash cans,” he said as quoted by the Nairobian.

It took the intervention of an organization called Greater Life Concern (GLC) who took him off the streets and sent him to a rehabilitation center. Currently, Mwangi has stayed 5 years without alcohol and lives in the organization’s facilities.

Though he expresses remorse, he yet to reconcile with his family. The fish-out-of-water moment has taught him life lessons that he hopes any young can listen to him. His simple words are: “Make hay while the sun shines.”

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