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From Bank Manager to a Street Urchin: The Story of Ben Mwangi

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It is every person’s dream to grab the proverbial brass ring and become successful in their career. However, in some cases, people fail to leverage on their success and end up falling from grace to grass.

This is the case of one Ben Mwangi, whose story can only be visualised in a movie-style act. Once a very successful bank manager in the 1970s and having amassed wealth over years, Mwangi would later lead a life of solitude and eventually become a street urchin for 15 years.

The charismatic Mwangi, now 76 years old, once associated himself with the high and mighty in his heydays including the country’s founding father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. 

Mwangi first met Mzee Kenyatta through a meeting arranged by a friend on December 30, 1968 – just five years after Kenya attained independence.

The meeting would see then President write a letter to a local commercial bank located in Nairobi’s Central Business District recommending the employment of Mwangi.

The letter earned him an opportunity to work as the bank manager for eight years – an opportunity he would later squander. 

In 1976, Mwangi would be sacked by the bank after he was accused of theft. The unfolding of the events led him to seek help from the late Kenneth Stanley Njindo Matiba, who happened to be his neighbour in their rural home of Kiharu in present-day Murang’a County.

Relentless in his pursuit, Mwangi would occasionally pay Matiba – a powerful upcoming politician then – a visit in his quest to get a job. Matiba promised to get him a job in a week’s time and true to his words, he employed him as his personal accountant.

“If at all you are born a swindler, even if you try to do what, you will remain as such. I also stole from Matiba in 1978,” Mwangi confessed in an interview with The Standard on September 21, 2021. 

Mwangi narrates that a violent altercation ensued at Matiba’s offices once the politician got wind of his unscrupulous behaviour. 

“He (Matiba) slapped me and minutes later, I kicked him in the stomach. Two Europeans, who were in the office at the time, separated us and managed to stop the altercation,” he narrated.

Matiba would immediately sack Mwangi who later joined the dark world of crime defrauding banks for over five years.

This led to his capture alongside his accomplices and they would serve three years in custody. Upon release and still having some substantive savings at the time, Mwangi ventured into a lifestyle of extravagance, spending all he had on women, and liquor. “City Casanova” was his moniker at the time. He feared he would end up dead.

The lifestyle would later plunge the once-revered accountant into extreme poverty and see him do menial jobs to survive. The bad situation turned ugly with Mwangi becoming homeless and moving to the streets where he sought refuge for 15 years.

“I had money when I was a bank manager and also at Matiba’s place, life was great. Right now, I squandered all that money with women and on liquor,” he stated.

Mwangi is currently living at a rehabilitation centre in Nairobi where he undergoes counseling. 

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