Bonfire Adventures CEO Simon Kabu has refuted allegations that he used famous street couple, Virginia Njeri and Sammy ‘Blackie’ Githae, for publicity before abandoning them to struggle for survival.
Virginia and Blackie underwent remarkable makeover after a city photographer picked them from the streets in February 2018, took them for aesthetic transformation, including hairdo, make-up and providing them with new clothes; and, thereafter, took pictures of them, which went viral online.
The virality of those pictures caught the attention of Mr Kabu, who gifted the couple a trip to Kenya’s South Coast, Diani.
One year later, the couple is back in the streets, with Kenyans putting Mr Kabu to task to explain just how he offered the couple a holiday package without giving them a long-lasting solution to their financial woes.
“We had only promised to offer the couple a Valentine’s Day gift, which entailed flying them to Diani. That pledge, we kept,” Mr Kabu told EDAILY.
“As to whether we should have given them life-changing jobs, it wasn’t in our agreement, though, we tried helping them the much we could; our assistance to them was out of goodwill and not obligation-driven,” said Mr Kabu.
“I, nonetheless, paid house rent for Virginia and Blackie separately for eight months; that investment was to take them up to October, 2018. Luckily, they got job offers in Bomet. Virginia was to work as a cook and Blackie a gardener at a school in the Rift Valley region. While Virginia took the offer, Blackie declined to grab it, saying he couldn’t go out of Nairobi. He, however, did not give any valid reason for his stance.
“After a while, I was told that Virginia returned to the capital city in unclear circumstances.
“Blackie, on the other hand, kept on asking me for money – all the time. I always gave him. Most of the time, he asked for cash in the range of Ksh2, 000 and Ksh3, 000 per occasion. I provided him with the amounts he asked for for almost one year, as he would show up at my office with claims of a problem or the other.
“I gave Blackie Ksh10, 000 to start a mitumba business in Githurai, but he didn’t put up the project. Mark you, he was the one who had made that suggestion.
“Later, a job opportunity as a driver at Bonfire came up. I asked Blackie if he had a driver’s license, and he said ‘yes’. However, when I asked him to show it to me, he would evade that topic.
“I offered to take him to a driving school, but he insisted that he was already a trained driver. I lost hope on him and gave the job to Wilson Mutura, the groom in the Ksh100 wedding which went viral in February, 2017.
“Blackie only wanted handouts; he never wanted to work. Sometimes he would come to my office, and when I told him that I did not have the money he wanted, or I was in a meeting, he would stay around till evening. I wasn’t impressed by that.
“On the claims that we took advantage of their fame to gain publicity, that wasn’t the case as nearly every media house carried their story. My wife and I only wanted to help the couple. I now feel bad that my efforts [to help] are being questioned.
“Blackie needs to be admitted into a rehabilitation facility; that is what I think he really needs. If somebody would take him to rehab, he would be helped. I tried the much I could, but it, clearly, wasn’t good enough. I tried reaching them sometime back, but I could not because they had sold their phones.
“What amazes me is that many Kenyans came out to help [the couple], and offered them several goodies. However, why is it that they feel I needed to do more? And, to those who donated goodies, is there any of you who ever reached out to Blackie after the [Diani] trip?
“I’m happy that this story has come out because he [Blackie] will, henceforth, not be able to face me for all the lies he has told. He knows I tried to help him,” said Mr Kabu.
The Bonfire Adventures’ boss’s statement comes a few days after Blackie told KTN that the Kabus used him and Virginia for publicity.
“I thought my life would change when I got into that plane [to Diani]; I thought I would be rich, but that was not the case. I regret hopping onto that plane because now my friends laugh at me, saying I boarded a plane and I am now back in the streets again,” said Blackie, who alleged that the Kabus only paid their house rent for four months.