Newton Kagira Mukuha is not one to shy away from a good fight. And, he says he is not about to give up his fight with his siblings for a stake in Naivas Supermarket.
Conflicts in the successful retail chain first emerged when Mr Kagira sued his kin claiming he had not been given his rightful inheritance.
In the course of the family feud, the 65-year-old’s image and personality have often taken a beating. So even before we sat down for an interview after 12 failed attempts, he was keen to set the record straight.
“Don’t think you will be meeting a broke drunkard who has squandered all his money and investments on alcohol,” Mr Kagira said on the phone before the interview.
“I am a family man who operates a business that generates money for me. I am neither poor nor rich, but I am not struggling either,” he said when we finally met for the interview at a small hotel on Accra Road, Nairobi.
“I want to expand Greenmart Supermarket. It’s small at the moment, but it has the potential to grow just like Naivas.”
The supermarket located in Nairobi’s Kayole estate has 25 employees and is the subject of an auction suit that nearly saw family members sell it to recover a Sh12.1 million debt said to have been advanced by Mr Kagira’s late mother to prop up his business.
He has obtained Court of Appeal order blocking the auction. But even as the case goes on, the two-year family feud has already cost Naivas a lucrative 51 per cent sale deal to South African retail giant Massmart after Mr Kagira obtained a court order blocking the transaction.
Massmart now looks set to enter the Kenyan market alone after it booked a space at the upcoming Garden City Mall on Thika Road, Nairobi.
Mr Kagira said he is not bothered by the lost opportunity pointing out that his idea is to establish his own outfit and exit from the family business.
And he reckoned that Sh250 million, viewed against the accumulated wealth since Naivas started operating 25 years ago is a fair compensation.
Mr Kagira said that family members have approached him with the view of having an out- of-court settlement to avoid public embarrassment to the family.
“Yes talks have taken place, but I was not satisfied with the directions they were taking and I decided that since the matter is in the public domain, let the law take its course and give the way forward,” said Mr Kagira.
He said through out his personal and business dealings, he has learnt not to trust people easily.
“I don’t trust people easily after many years of betrayal. I even dropped hiring lawyers to represent me in court. I decided that there is no need of briefing someone on a matter that I understand better,” said Mr Kagira.
Sacks of maize
Mr Kagira said Naivas was started from scratch by the family and that he had to sell 20 sacks of maize to raise Sh20,000 to secure a stake in the supermarket in the early 1990s.
The Naivas family includes Simon Gashwe (the Naivas chairman), David Kimani, Peter Kago, Grace Wamboi and Linet Wairimu. Mr Kagira has sued Mr Gachwe and Mr Kimani accusing them of taking over Naivas and leaving him in the cold.
He said the infighting started after their father died in 2010 and Mr Gachwe allegedly nominated himself as the administrator of his father’s wealth.
Mr Kagira lives in Nairobi’s Komarock Estate with his wife and maintains that his motivation comes from the Bible.