Matatu driver by day, gun seller by night
By day a matatu driver, by night one of the county’s most notorious gangsters.
The double life of criminal mastermind John Mwangi is revealed today.
Aged 37 he lives in the crowded Mukuru kwa Njenga slum, and heads the gang called the Black Chinese.
And like many top criminals he prefers to keep his own hands clean, making a living by renting out his arsenal of illegal guns to others who do the dirty work for him.
With John’s weapons in their hands they conduct a reign of terror throughout the slum and out into the city with carjackings and armed robberies.
The guns he rents out include an AK-47 assault rifle, with a deadly fire rate of 10 shots a second, plus a police style Czech-made Ceska pistol and three revolvers.
He rents out the AK-47 for Sh2,500 for five hours.
Mukuru has become known as the area where criminals get their guns. John’s Black Chinese gang has 50 members and he offers residents protection in the third largest slum in the country.
“Before the Black Chinese was formed people around here used to complain a lot about the level of crime in the area. There were a lot of kidnappings, rapes and other small crimes and for a long time the police did nothing about it,” he said.
He claims every house in the slum pays him Sh100 a month for protection — and that the gang also offers protection for a fee to politicians visiting the area.
Along the crowded streets of Mukuru, which he claims he controls, people fear him and rarely talk to him. A scar on his left cheek identifies him. He says he got it falling down while drunk.
John said: “The government has never minded us. We can provide our own security around here. Just ask around, people here are very happy.”
However, on the streets, the residents say they are actually very unhappy. They say the Black Chinese have increased the level of crime instead of reducing it.
Shopkeeper Richard Muga said: “They came to my wholesale shop one evening and robbed my employee at gun point. They took all the money we had made on that day, which was roughly 30,000 shillings. They also took some mattresses that were on display outside the shop.”
And taxi driver Martin Njenga said he was almost carjacked after receiving messages that some gang members wanted to use his car for a job.
He went on: “A neighbour of mine who owns a taxi was kidnapped on Mombasa Road and was found the next morning at Pipeline with his hands tied.”
John’s headquarters, where he keeps his guns, is a permanent three roomed house, with a toilet and a bathroom. The door has been fortified with a steel grill. The room where the guns are kept has no light.
John said: “Only five people can access this room. This is to avoid people from knowing how many weapons we have and it is always dark for the same reason.”
The Black Chinese target motorists in the CBD, Industrial Area, South B, Donholm and Embakasi.
They have spread terror there for more than four years. Yet they claim they do not rob people within their home area.
Instead they allow gangs from other slums to commit crimes there while they go to those gangs’ areas to kidnap, rob and kill.
“It’s a kind of criminal exchange programme,” noted the authoritative Kenya Arms Survey published last year.
But most agree that crime does not, in the long run pay.
Four of their members of the Black Chinese were shot dead at Mukuru Kwa Reuben and neighbouring South B just a month ago.
And John Kiriamiti, a reformed gangster and author of My Life in Crime, revealed that a gangster’s life was “always being on the run and issuing hefty bribes to police officers to get protection.”
He said: “Crime does not pay. You work for women who hide you, police officers who are after you, and rival hardened criminals.”
And he added: “All gangsters die poor, either at the hands of the police, irate mobs, suicide, or in jail after being sentenced to long terms.”