The debate on a Kericho guest house that threw out a legislator and her husband for failure to produce a marriage certificate still raging another one in Voi is courting the controversy.
Is she your wife?” This is a welcoming signature at Victory Guest House, a 3-star establishment in Voi CBD. Your answer to this question will determine whether you will spend the night at the facility or you be ejected to seek accommodation elsewhere.
The Victory House owner, Ms. Rose Rugendo says only married couples and singles are allowed into her guest house. To make sure that such conditions are known to all, a large plaque is nailed high at the reception.
“Please note that only married couples and singles are allowed in the rooms,” she reads part of the message on the plaque.
The debates on hotels and lodges’ right to admission erupted after Laikipia Woman Rep. Cate Waruguru threatened to sue a Kericho Hotel for turning her away for allegedly failing to produce a marriage certificate a week ago.
While the matter has raised more heat than light with some people backing the hotel owners’ right of admission and others supporting the legislator, Ms. Rugendo says such debates are nothing new to her. She has applied those rules for the past 17 years without much ado.
The two-storey guest house has cultivated a reputation of observing strict, almost puritan morality that has seen the owner receive a barrage of insults and ridicule in equal measure from angry lodgers who find themselves barred from the rooms at the dead of the night for failing to comply.
The proprietor who is also a pastor shrugs off the insults stating she would not compromise her religious standards to satisfy the whims of randy men explaining that hers is not just a guest house but a monument of a covenant with God.
“I made a promise to God while hawking bananas in Voi town to give me a good business and I will use half of the money I get to spread His gospel. He gave me this,” she said waving around at the guest house.
Her story is a motif of many false starts, struggle and the spirit of human resilience. In 1984 while working at Castle Hotel in Mombasa, a gemstone-prospecting tourist had expressed a wish to deal in the precious stones. Smelling a business opportunity, she left for Voi where she ended up living in squalor at one of the slums and had to hawk bananas and fruits to survive.
It was not until 1993 that a businessman she had prayed for gifted her with a small plot as a gratitude for her prayers. To Ms. Rugendo, this was God’s answers to her prayers. She would later build the two-storey building that became one of the most-sought after premise by business people due to its strategic location in the busy town. Despite making it big, Ms. Rugendo says she never forgot her promise to God.
“I cannot use dirty money to do God’s work. Half of what I get here goes to God’s work live evangelism, building of churches and helping widows while the other half is for my children,” she said.
However, unlike most she doesn’t demand to see a marriage certificate. She holds a man’s answer to the marital query as the truth and says she is absolved any blame if he is lying. “If he lies that the woman is his wife, that is a divine penalty he had attracted over his life,” she said.
But it is not just promiscuity, peccadilloes and other ‘sinful acts’ that suffer the brunt of Ms. Rugendo’s strict religious doctrines. Business operating in her building are not spared either. They are under strict instructions not to stock anything that offends her faith. Items like condoms, cigarettes, wines and spirits, beer and miraa are forbidden.
She argues that she considers herself God’s ambassador and as such her life, property and behavior should all reflect what she believes in. “Such stuff cannot be stocked here. I have a duty to preserve life,” she said.
However, she says that her rules are not discriminatory but are meant to help save marriages and help reduce spread of venereal diseases adding that some people she had turned away had often come back to thank her for ‘bringing them back to their senses.’
In mid-2015, an American tourist with a woman had raged for over two hours after he was denied entry into the lodging. “He couldn’t understand why I declined his dollars. He called me a stupid woman,” she recalls.
But it is the commitment to her faith that has made the tycoon an oddity in religious circles. In 2016, a rogue receptionist had allowed a man working at a local company to lodge with a woman. A week later, Ms. Rugendo came to know of the incident and fired her on the spot. She then took the money he had paid and embarked on a hunt for the man. She found him two days later and threw the money to his face.
“Don’t come back,” she told the stunned man and walked way. She says tainted money was not worthy to give to God.
Local residents are divided over her strict rules. While some says she is ruining her business, others support her stating that she was living her faith.
Ms. Anarose Mwashighadi, a trader in the town, said Ms. Rugendo was not hypocritical as she conducted her business the way she lived her life.
Mwashigadi said while most saved people didn’t care how their businesses were run, others were very careful to avoid bad impressions. “There are saved people who do corrupt deals and later take that money to church to atone for their sins. That is wrong and hypocritical,” she said.
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