PANGS OF ILLICIT BREWS

By Joy Wanja jwanja@ke.nationmedia.com
Posted Friday, September 10 2010 at 22:00

Suleiman Mbatiah | NATION Miss Grace Wanja,  18, with a picture of her mother Bretta Musangi who died on July 26, after taking an illicit drink laced with methanol in Kibera slums, Nairobi.

Miss Grace Wanja, 18, with a picture of her mother Bretta Musangi who died on July 26, after taking an illicit drink laced with methanol in Kibera slums, Nairobi.

Just as the dust rises and settles, so do the emotions of this teenager every time she hears that Kibera residents have consumed an illicit brew.

For her, the fear of a friend, neighbour or relative going blind is rife, more so as the drinking dens increase by day and edge closer to her home.

It was not until two months ago that the devastating effects of the illicit brew and misery hit her.

Her mother, Bretta Musangi, was among the 23 Kibera residents who died after taking a brew suspected to have been laced with methanol.

When the Nation visited Grace at her grandparents’ home in Kibera, she was running the family shop. The room behind the shop serves as their house.

The last few days, she says, have been difficult despite friends and well-wishers streaming in to offer their condolences.

“The most affected is my grandmother, and she cannot talk due to shock,” says Grace.

Grace describes her mother as a habitual drinker who did not fail to pass by her favourite pub every morning, despite several warnings from her.

“I constantly pleaded with her to stop drinking but she only promised to do so after I gave her Sh20,” Grace says.

Her parents separated a decade ago and Grace and her three siblings sought refuge at their grandparents’ house within Kibera.
Before the break-up, Grace says, her mother was a church member who was also part of the choir.

“My mother was devastated by the separation and she tuned to alcohol,” Grace says as she wipes away a tear. Her father remarried and lives in Kibera as well.

So young, so early, Grace was forced to take up protective and nurturing duties for her brothers.

She vowed to study hard to avoid living in abject poverty, like that which she had been brought up in. Many a times, she warned her mother against imbibing drinks whose source she did not know.

She says her mother, when sober, was remorseful and incessantly vowed to quit drinking.

Grace now has a twin burden, taking care of her siblings, aged between nine and 16, and looking after her grandparents.

Though her grandfather works at a hotel in Westlands, she is now faced with the task of assisting her grandmother run the kiosk.

Grace completed Form Four at Shiners Girls in Nakuru last year and scored a B- (minus).

She hopes to pursue a degree in law. A sponsor had offered to see her through university, but that now seems bleak as her mother is not around to look after her brothers and sisters.

Bretta is remembered by neighbours and friends as a hardworking woman who strove to feed and provide for her children but was frustrated when her marriage failed.

“Though she lived separately from her children, she never failed to visit them and her parents,” a friend, who only identified herself as Nduku, says.

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