According to the report, those dishing out loans and benefiting through lungula are Maasai men who have recently ‘invaded’ the lakeside town where they hawk Somali simis, kienyeji medicine, shoes, belts and wallets, besides others who man homes and business premises.
Their target are needy women in Kondele, Migosi, Manyatta and Obunga slums all in Kenya, where the eros, as they are commonly referred to by residents, give unsecured loans of between Sh500 to Sh20,000 without the women necessarily surrendering personal identification documents or having guarantors.
The loans are payable within two months, at 50 per cent interest collected in bits every evening from agreed points.
These women have been forced to seek out the Maasai men for loans, since micro-finance groups in the area dish out loans at interest rates between 30 and 50 per cent, and will insist on guarantors and identification documents. Those who default have their properties auctioned, unlike the Maasais who do not need any collateral. Shylocks also lend money at exorbitant rates, and have limited payment periods hence the option of sex for loans.
Linet Awino from Migosi is yet to give in despite defaulting several times.
“I was surprised when one of them made a comment that I had a big body and could serve the four of them at once. They told me that in their culture, they believe it is the men who get tired, not women,” recalls Linet, who warned her friends of the ‘hidden charges’ on the loans which had forced her four neighbours to move houses after defaulting.
“The problem is that when you are getting the loan, you only deal with one person. But when you default and have to pay with sex, there are suddenly so many people. That is why some women have to flee,” said another beneficiary who did not want to be named for fear that her husband could get wind of the story.
While talking about the loan for s*x, she said they had little option since they are not subjected to “unnecessary vetting, unlike the alternative that have so many conditions, even for a Sh2,000 loan.”
However the s*x rider only applies for defaulters. The Nairobian spoke to four women who had to surrender their bodies for s*x for failing to pay their loans when it was due. They were unanimous that the experience is traumatising.
The office of Kisumu Central MP had to intervene in one case last month, and offered to pay Sh4,700 to save a middle-aged mother who had defaulted on her loan payment, but was not willing to offer her body to underwrite the loan.
Constituency Manager Nahashon Ng’wena confirmed that they paid the money after the woman visited the office and narrated her fears. But a woman nicknamed ‘Nyakisumo’ from Manyatta slums was not lucky as she had to render services to five eros in her own bed after failing to pay part of her Sh5,000 loan.
The trader at Kondele Market has since abandoned her vegetable business due to embarrassment after word of the romp leaked.
The market chairman, Sylvester Odhiambo told The Nairobian that he handled the case. “We used to see the Maasais come to the woman’s stall every evening, but we did not know what was going on. We thought they were her customers,” explained Odhiambo.
Little did Odhiambo know that the men had been visiting the mama mboga to recover their loan and after numerous visits, walked her home where they proposed ‘a friendly match.’ The mama mboga accepted reluctantly, thinking it was only one of them who was to take the ‘free kick.’ She was wrong. The case was not reported to the police.
“The women do not even know the names of the people they deal with. They are just called ero, hence it is even difficult to handle the case through legal means,” said Odhiambo, adding that the market management has sought funds from Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma who allocated them Sh100,000 to promote SMEs. Another Sh100,000 was raised through harambees which provided the Sh200,000 seed capital.
The Kondele Market traders then formed an organisation and registered all members who bought shares by contributing Sh20 a day. With Sh500, a trader qualifies for a loan three-times the share capital and payable at 10 per cent interest within three months.
In Migosi estate, Nelson Ochieng, who has also benefited from the loans confirmed that such incidents were common in the area, but since he’s a man his encounter was restricted to a near brawl with the Maasais
“Since I am a man, I have always faced harassment and intimidation any time I default. However it is women who mostly seek the loans and have had to face such ordeals,” said Ochieng who is currently servicing his Sh10,000 loan.
Contacted by The Nairobian, one Maasai who only identified himself as Joseph and who loans small traders, accused the women of playing victims, yet it is them who proposed the s*x for loans alternative.
“I have never been involved, but we have encountered such incidents. It is the women who lure our brothers to bed, thinking that if they give s*x, then they will not be subjected to paying the loans,” he said.
Joseph who has since decided to close business after collecting his pending interests has said the business was good until the beneficiaries introduced ukora of taking money and seeking to repay through s*x, or disappearing, since tracing them was an uphill task due to lack of proper identification.
“It is tricky for men who are not careful. You have to be smart not to fall prey to such women,” he said.
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