Normalcy returns but many matatus still off the roads

Wednesday November 14 2018

Normalcy has returned on the roads after matatu

Normalcy has returned on the roads after matatu operators called off strike after agreeing to comply with traffic regulations following a day of chaos. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Many public service vehicles in Nairobi are back on the roads a day after a transport crisis caused by a countrywide strike that was called by matatu owners who were protesting enforcement of traffic regulations.

However, in Mombasa matatus still kept off the roads for second day running leaving commuters with no choice but to walk to work on Tuesday.


The matatu owners association on Monday called off the strike after a meeting with the Transport ministry and public service vehicle stakeholders over standoff on the regulations commonly known as 'Michuki rules.'

Monday was a tough day for passengers who were either forced to dip deeper in their pockets to pay fare or walk long distances to their various destinations.


On Tuesday, Police officers in Nakuru forced conductors who had increased fares to refund the extra cash.

Officers at checkpoints in Molo stopped matatus and asked passengers if they had been overcharged.

"We usually pay Sh100 from Molo to Chepsion but the matatu crews doubled the fare," Pastor Wilson Mwaura said after getting the extra amount he had given the conductor.


At the Molo Law Courts, drivers who had not complied with the Michuki rules were fined between Sh5,000 and Sh20,000.

Tens of boda bodas were arrested in Elburgon for flouting the rules.

In Nyandarua County, matatu operations were slowly stabilising following the strike on Monday.


There was no heavy presence of police officers on major roads, though residents complained of few matatus.

"Most matatus are yet to be fitted with the necessary gadgets. We are sure the situation will stabilise towards the end of the week," Mr Muchiri Wainaina, a PSV operator, said.

In Narok, more than 200 people were arraigned for traffic offences. They included drivers and conductors, touts, boda bodas and passengers.


County Police Commander Thomas Ngeiwua said 67 vehicles were impounded and their drivers taken to court. The crackdown also netted 113 boda bodas.

Mr Ngeiwua added that 51 matatu passengers were taken into custody for not buckling up.

Most matatus in Naivasha had resumed operations by noon.


Mr Vincent Mwaura, an employee of Molo Group, said the sacco did not experience any hitches.

He added that his sacco did not increase fares, saying passengers to and from Nakuru were paying the usual Sh200.

“A majority of our vehicles have complied with the National Transport and Safety Authority regulations,” Mr Mwaura said.


And in Mombasa, the Matatu Owners Association asked the government to clarify contentious issues in the traffic rules.

Operators said they lost nearly Sh150 million due to the boycott. Most PSVs had not returned to the road by yesterday.

Hundreds of matatus were parked at petrol stations as their owners ignored the decision to call off the strike issued by the association on Monday evening.


MOA Coast regional coordinator Salim Mbarak said operators do not know what kind of line to paint on their vehicles.

Though 25 per cent of PSVs in the region have complied with the rules, Mr Mbarak said crews do not want to go back on the road because their vehicles might be impounded.

“The Interior and Transport ministries should tell us if the yellow line should be broken or continuous. The driver and conductor uniform is another problem. According to the rules, the owner of the vehicle and sacco will be charged if crews do not have uniforms. It is not fair,” Mr Mbarak said.


Thousands of walked to work as police continued to enforce the rules.

Many candidates sitting the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination were taken to school in police cars.

Mombasa County police boss Johnston Ipara said teams have been deployed to strategic areas to enforce the rules.

He added that the operation would continue "to bring sanity to our roads".


Mombasa police on Monday arrested 199 people for going against the regulations.

Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa urged Kenyans to be patient after matatu operators withdrew their services.

The lawmaker said she fully supports the crackdown. She said the high fares were temporary and would end once PSV operators adhere to the rules.


Speaking to journalists in Kilifi town where she had gone to meet Governor Amason Kingi and discuss the problem of teenage pregnancies, she told locals the rules would reduce deaths and injuries on roads.

"I am confident that if the regulations are followed, unnecessary accidents will be history," she said.

Matatus from Kilifi to Mombasa increased fares from Sh400 to Sh1,500.


Fare from Malindi jumped from Sh200 to Sh500 while travellers from Malindi to Watamu paid Sh300, up from Sh100.

The crackdown on errant PSVs nearly turned tragic in Mumias when a driver “kidnapped” an officer assigned to escort his vehicle to a police station and attempted to throw her out.

She was among a group of officers at a roadblock in Lukoye, on the Mumias-Bungoma road, that had seized the matatu.


"I assigned the officer to take the vehicle to the station but the driver sped off with her," Mumias Traffic Base Commander Agnes Habbat said.

She added that other officers and boda bodas pursued the vehicle and caught up with it at Shitsitswi market, about 10 kilometres from the scene of the “kidnap”.

The officer sustained bruises on her neck and chest.


She was treated at St Mary's Hospital and discharged.

Area OCPD Peter Kattam said more than 60 PSV operators were arrested on the first day of the crackdown.

In Kisumu, there was little relief to passengers as few matatus resumed operations.


At the Githurai 45 bus terminus, commuters could not hide their joy as matatus returned to the stage and were charging normal prices.

“I am really happy unlike yesterday when I spent Sh300 to town. Today I have just paid Sh50. I really appreciate the move by matatu owners to bring the vehicles back to the roads,” said Ms Alice Omambi.


She said that she was forced to leave work early on Monday only to get stranded in town for lack of vehicles.

Things were not different as passengers travelling from Thika were asked to part with Sh70 as fare.

Mr James Kihara expressed his joy, saying that the move by matatu operators to call off the strike has eased commuters anxiety.


“Yesterday [Monday] was a disaster, at least today things are different and I can reach work on time,” said Mr Kihara.

Tuesday was a stark contrast to Monday when traffic police officers were on almost every major road leading to the city.​​

Transport on Chavakali-Kapsabet road is still paralysed after vehicles belonging to the largest sacco in the region, Sabatia, kept off the roads again. 


However, an official of the sacco Ben Muhando said they were complying with ‘Michuki rules’ but want the government to repair the road the Chavakali-Kapsabet road since it is in a poor state. 

"They should employ the same vigour they are using to enforce the traffic rules. The many potholes on the road are a major challenge to safety in addition to damaging our vehicles," said Mr Muhando.

Passengers have had to rely on boda boda operators for transport while others are waiting for matatus from Eldoret.​