By Waweru Wairimu
John Mugaa, a father of three from Kulamawe in the outskirts of Isiolo town, woke up last Friday and as usual prepared his two children for school and later left for his workstation in the town.
He has since last year been selling French fries (chipo) whose proceeds he has used to provide for his children and pay their school fees.
Unaware of the ongoing inspection of food hawking businesses by the county public health workers, Mugaa was pounced upon by the officers at around 10pm as he peeled some potatoes.
He was arrested and his cooking stuff seized by the officers for selling food in unhygienic conditions.
He was locked up at the Isiolo Police Station for three days before his arraignment on Monday this week.
When he appeared before Chief Magistrate Samuel Mungai on Monday afternoon, the man looked somehow troubled as his children, who had just arrived, gazed at him from outside the courtroom.
“The offence cannot be taken lightly as selling food in unhygienic conditions can result to poisoning and even cause deaths,” said Magistrate Mungai as he ruled on the matter.
Mugaa pleaded guilty to selling food in unhygienic conditions and sought leniency, noting that he was the sole bread winner of his three children.
“I beg this court to consider the lives of my three children who rely on me and pray for a lenient decision,” Mugaa pleaded with the court.
Tears filled his eyes as he waited in the dock for the magistrate to read out the ruling.
And when the verdict was read out, Mugaa was required to pay a fine of Sh20,000 or, in default, serve six months in prison.
Looking upset, Mugaa was escorted by the police officers to the court cells where he was required to pay the fine and be released but, unfortunately, had only Sh9,000 on him.
All this time, his three children wandered within the court’s precincts looking somehow saddened.
What saddened them more was the moving of their father to prison, about half a kilometre away from the law courts.
A court clerk bumped into the children and found one of them, 10-year-old Neema Kajuju crying.
On enquiring, the girl told him that they were disappointed that their father had not been released.
“We came here with my elder brother carrying our two-year-old younger brother hoping that our father would be released. We fear that he may be jailed,” the young girl told the court clerk.
The children vowed not to leave until their father is released.
This is perhaps what touched the court employee who went ahead and persuaded his colleagues to help the man raise the remaining money for his release.
And in about an hour’s time, close to 30 workers, including police officers working at the court, a probation officer and a prosecutor, had already contributed Sh11,500. The fine was paid and Mugaa was released.
Surprised by the gesture, Mugaa proceeded back to the court and asked to meet the staff who helped him raise the fine. With a smile on his face, thanked them for their kind gesture.
When the Nation reached out to the employee who first spotted the stranded children and who sought anonymity, he only said, “We are glad that we helped the disturbed man from the hard situation.”
Courtesy of “The Daily Nation” Newspaper