Let me be honest folks. It is difficult to decide how to begin telling this story because it is such a sad and painful one; so painful so that I can personally feel it as I type away.
But fine. Let us begin this way, using a simple analogy.
Assume you are a young Kenyan of between 27 and 40 years, the age when you are most productive and aggressively pursuing your career dreams. You are probably on your second or third job, but all looks so promising. Your star appears to be rising pretty fast. In the recent past, your story has been on an upward trajectory. Achieving your career dreams appears so close ahead. In fact, your most urgent priority at the moment is to get an opportunity to move to the next level.
Perhaps, you are even earning some reasonable five-figure or lower six-figure salary, you drive an average car and live in some middle-class estate. But you still dream of the day when you will hit the jackpot, earn that higher six-figure or even seven-figure salary and join the top league of your profession, which everyone envies.
One morning, someone appears out of the blues, asks you to leave your current employer for his/her place, where they are offering that ultimate chance you have been waiting for. Would you hesitate to leave?
It goes without saying that you will definitely write your resignation letter that very same morning! And there is nothing wrong with that; it’s very much human.
Now folks, the above analogy perfectly captures the beginning of the tragic story of Slopes Media Ltd, which owns Mt Kenya TV and Iganjo FM, we are about to tell.
THE FAKE PROMISE IS MADE
It all has origins dating back to sometimes 2018 when, a totally new entrant into the media industry, Slopes Media Ltd started taking shape. The company, whose owners came to be later identified as controversial Kirinyaga businessman Andrew Ngirici and his family, which comprises among others, his spouse, current county Women Rep Hon. Purity Wangui Ngirici, joined the media world with unprecedented momentum. Hype, roadshows, billboards, paid adverts, social media buzz, name it. In fact, perhaps owing to the financial muscle of the owners, setting up their flagship stations, Mt Kenya TV and Iganjo FM, happened more quickly than a cock is on a hen – of course, the downfall has come equally quick!
And in their bid to get an instant audience, or so they assumed, the Slopes Media management went ahead to do what they believed would work best – Poaching the top brains from the three leading Gikuyu vernacular stations then, Inooro, Kameme, and Gukena FM. The formula was simple –Just look at the current payslip of the person you want to poach, then offer them a double of it. Magic trick. Isn’t it?
Definitely, few would resist such an offer. It is too enticing!
MIGRATING TO ‘GREENER PASTURES’
And so, the great migration to Mt Kenya TV and Iganjo FM began in earnest, perhaps the largest witnessed in Gikuyu stations in the recent past. The outcome is crystal clear when you look at the faces unveiled during the grand launch of the two stations in December 2018. Some of the best Gikuyu vernacular journalists had swallowed the bait. From Macharia Gachuru, Monica Kagoni, Njambi wa Njau, and Robert Kimani to Kihara Wa Gathua and Wanjiku Wa Njuguna, just to name a few, the mission had been accomplished.
As expected, the early days at the station were great, perhaps reflecting the grandiose witnessed at the launch. The employees were paid on time. There was even breakfast and lunch.
But that’s the farthest the good story goes.
SALARIES FADE AWAY
Not long after, things started going south when the much-hyped Mt Kenya regional tours commenced. It first began the usual simple way; salaries start getting paid in halves. Then, even the half salaries disappeared and instead, perhaps as a way to divide and silence employees, those considered as threats were paid while the rest would go to later the following month without any pay.
Eventually, all the salaries, even the half ones disappeared completely. One month became two and as I pen down this piece, I can authoritatively report that salaries have not been in sight since April 2019.
That’s a whopping four months!
Of course, those employees who were quick enough to read the signs of times realized all was not well and bolted out. Unfortunately, for those who decided to stick on, things are moving from bad to worse. Most affected are those who left Inooro, Kameme, and Gukena where they had stable jobs. They can no longer foot basic bills like food, fare, and rent.
THE CENTRE CAN NO LONGER HOLD
As every day passes by, a serious wave of despair is said to have hit the stations’ newsrooms with cases depression and suicidal thoughts being reported. I actually started following up this story a while ago, when a friend of mine, who worked there and who I thought was doing well, wrote me a text SMS one evening requesting for Kshs 200. Initially, I got shocked and then, I got angry when he explained to me he had not seen pay for months. The fellow had partly trekked to work that morning, eaten nothing whole day and now had nothing for supper. It was heartbreaking!
Even a crisis meeting called recently, at the Village Market Area-based media house, to sort issues, appears not to have solved anything after it turned out to be a lecture session with part of the management ridiculing the broke employees telling them that they should even be thankful they have been given a platform to market themselves (sic).
While gathering information for this article, I interacted with among others, two former employees who have since left the media house, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue and the fact that they had signed the oath of confidentiality while taking up the jobs, and their stories left me in tears.
“Not long after we joined, our salaries were reduced to half. We were then summoned to a meeting by the owners of the media house who told us that those who wanted to leave could leave,” one of the bitter former employees told me.
“At some point, we had a terrible argument with my wife which almost ended my marriage. She could not understand how our kids were getting chased out of school yet I went to work every morning. Before joining these guys, I had a good career. I have never had pending bills before at my house. I wish I remained where I was,” the employee lamented.
“Disgruntled employees are starting to disappear with the stations’ property they can be able to carry so as to try and compensate themselves,” said the second employee.
The pain and agony at Slopes Media is just too loud. Until when will these innocent and hardworking Kenyans be subjected to such inhumane treatment?
Can Slopes Media simply pay its employees and treat them well and we will be good to go?
To be continued ……..
COMING SOON ……. PART 2 OF 5 …..