Is Sonko justified in cancelling Chandarana Supermarket licences?


Is Sonko justified in cancelling Chandarana Supermarket licences?
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko (L) has cancelled business licences for Chandarana Supermarket (R). PHOTOS/COURTESY

In Summary

  • In a statement to newsrooms on Sunday evening, Sonko revealed that he had ordered his county officers to ensure enforcement of the shutdown starting Monday.
  • While some Kenyans praised the move, others including legal experts have questioned the validity of Sonko’s actions, wondering whether it could present more harm than good.
  • Uasin Gishu Woman Representative Gladys Boss Shollei termed the county boss’ move as one that could have serious consequences.

Questions of legality and procedure have arisen over Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko’s decision to cancel business licences for all Chandarana Foodplus Supermarkets following claims of racial bias.

In a statement to newsrooms on Sunday evening, Sonko said he had ordered his county officers to ensure enforcement of the shutdown starting Monday.

While some Kenyans praised the move, others including legal experts have questioned the validity of Sonko’s actions, wondering whether it could present more harm than good.

In an interview on Citizen TV’s morning show Day Break, Uasin Gishu Woman Representative Gladys Boss Shollei on Monday morning termed the Sonko’s move as one that could have serious consequences.

“The decision to revoke the licence of a huge company like that has very serious repercussions. You could end up being hit by a huge bill for damages,” said Shollei.

“The most important thing is to first prove that there was, in fact, racism.”

The legislator further urged the retail giant to ensure their employees learn how to use the correct terminologies in their pursuit of different marketing demographics.

“I think the one who wrote the email did not use the right words but maybe it meant that they want to deal with a particular target market. They must learn to use proper terminologies,” she stated.

Shollei further added that, despite being an internal communication, the email could be used to ask the company to account for its policy and to give an explanation on whether or not they intended to discriminate against people of a certain colour.

“You can use that as a basis to ask the company, not to shut down the company. Because, remember that the rate of unemployment is extremely high in this country. You don’t want to take chances shutting down a company until you’re sure that they have actually committed an offence that warrants shutting down,” stated the Woman Rep.

Nairobi County Assembly Speaker Beatrice Elachi, on the other hand, noted that she hopes the governor consulted his advisers before making the decision.

“The question also is, who hacked and leaked the email. The company has to ask itself if they intended to practice racism and if that is why their mail was hacked and leaked,” said Elachi.

“Maybe the workers within felt that they were being persecuted.”

Taking to Twitter to air his opinion on the matter, the Daily Telegraph’s Africa Correspondent, Adrian Blomfield said, “Does Sonko have the jurisdiction to shut down Chandarana in Nairobi? Given the collapse of Nakumatt, this would be a crippling blow for the retail sector, hit employees of the chain disastrously and help push up prices of supermarket goods because competition in sector vanishing.”

Radio Africa’s Digital Editor Oliver Mathenge said, “Chandarana is on the wrong and should be punished by following the due process. Sonko is on the wrong for his knee jerk and populist reaction.”

Some of the Twitter users who jumped to Sonko’s defence include Eric (@amerix) who said, “We are the same people who attacked Kiraithe for failing to whip the racist Chinese. We are now the same people attacking Sonko for whipping racist Chandarana. What a pretentious people.”

Public policy expert Washington Makodingo also said, “In other countries, nobody would be debating the action taken against Chandarana. But here, we are so used to being treated like second class citizens by these establishments that we can sit and discuss legality. It’s time somebody acted! Kudos Governor Mike Sonko.”

Chandarana Supermarket came under public scrutiny after a leaked email between the company’s staff portrayed an image perceived to have implied that the retail chain was only interested in white clients. This elicited anger from Kenyans on social media with most of them vowing to boycott the supermarket’s outlets.

In a screenshot of the email to managers on Friday, the retail giant’s Marketing Specialist Rima Patel says, “We are delighted to inform you that our supermarket chain, would like to give you free vouchers to winner/raffles/best performer/runners-up candidate in upcoming events. As we are now focusing on white people to attract our supermarkets.”

Chandarana Supermarket, however, issued an apology for the perceived racially insensitive email, terming it as an error committed by “one of our very new and recent hires in the marketing department.”

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Story By Ian Omondi
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