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NTSA wants Swvl boss prosecuted

Tuesday February 18 2020

SWVL shuttle

Passengers board a SWVL shuttle in Nairobi on August 30, 2019. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

COLLINS OMULO
By COLLINS OMULO
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App-based shuttle-hailing service Swvl could be headed for more problems after the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) called for prosecution of the firm's co-founder and CEO Mostafa Kandil.

NTSA wrote to the Inspector General of Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions to prosecute the firm's managing director as well as compel the company to cease operations in the city.

The call for prosecution comes after NTSA said that the firm has been operating illegally in the capital.

According to NTSA, the online-based public transport operator has not been licenced by either the agency or City Hall to ply the routes it is operating in.

“Traditionally an operator is licenced to operate at a particular route but Swvl wants to operate in a manner that they can go anywhere," said NTSA's licencing manager Jackson Mutua during a Nairobi County Assembly Transport committee sitting.

On Friday last week, NTSA impounded a number of vehicles belonging to the Egypt-based firm for operating without a PSV licence.

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This was after the agency asked the police to impound Swvl vehicles and charge its crew and owners, accusing the company of using a tour service licence for public service vehicle operations which require a different permit.

However, Swvl CEO Kandil said the arrests had been based on the status of operating licences of the firm's partners, and not Swvl’s own compliance.

Spelling more doom for the ride-hailing firm, City Hall also confirmed that they do not recognise its operations in the city.

County Roads and Transport Chief Officer Engineer Fredrick Karanja confirmed that Swvl had tried to apply for licencing from the devolved unit.

However, he said, this was not possible as the firm was not willing to operate on designated routes.

“They (Swvl) tried to apply and as a county we advised them that they have to follow the designated routes. They cannot operate how they want on the routes they had requested,” said Mr Karanja.

The chief officer, however, said the county had no issue with the technology bit of Swvl, but with its licencing.

"The problem is that Swvl want to operate everywhere ignoring that the PSVs in Nairobi operate along routes that have been licenced. Once they get licenced they will have to follow the existing routes,” he said.

An Assembly committee member called for the two institutions to tax Swvl a bit higher if they want to operate in more than the designated routes.

"If they want to use more than one route then I suggest that the county to charge them higher," said nominated MCA Mary Arivtsa.

However, Mr Karanja was of a different opinion, stating that the way forward for Swvl is to apply for the right licences and to understand designated routes.

"There cannot be an exemption and since they are just like PSVs, only that they use technology and other things, they should follow the routes available," he said.