It’s a new dawn for matatu workers.

I have heard people talk of the  GOOD OLD DAYS when things were different and presumed  better. That cannot be said about the matatu industry. There is nothing good about them days that we drivers would wish to look back to. It’s a reality that Change has come and with a lot of adjustments too; which we are happy to embrace. This is the best time to be a matatu driver. For most of us who are probably out of the game, we can only wish that these changes had happened much earlier. So much has changed for the better- overloading – over speeding- gangs- cartels- abusive language- untidiness- drunk driving- the list is endless; but all this is now water under the bridge. Anyone joining the matatu industry today especially as a driver can be proud to say he/ she is going to work.

It is quite amazing to see the number of women investors who have come on-board in this sector; we can say it is at an all time high- more women have become our new bosses and this should be an indication that the passenger transport sector is heading in the right direction. Barely ten years ago- this was not the case. matatu investment was a reserve for men and mostly the risk takers. Systematic managements by sacco’s and transport management companies have transformed the industry for the better. it is not very correct to refer the entire matatu industry as informal anymore; what we are seeing today is different- Drivers are hired/ Employed on permanent/ contract basis- given medical insurance cover- pension contribution- leave- and other benefits that most of us could never have imagined. the government has done a great job in securing jobs by forcing the matatu owners to take care of their workers.

Corruption has refused to let matatu industry be, and it is sad that some of these gains might be short lived. The National Transport and safety Authority has done a recommendable job in creating an environment that should secure employment for matatu workers; but some officers at the headquarters are colluding with corrupt sacco officials and helping them get licenses without  showing prove of employing the workers. I was interviewing the chairman of one of our Sacco in Kajiado north about the new regulations and he was not a happy man- he accused NTSA officials of engaging in corrupt deals where newly registered transport management companies that don’t even have the minimum 30 vehicles are allowed to operate and also poach already registered matatus from the other Sacco. according to the set rules,- Any vehicle that wishes to change route or join another Sacco must obtain a letter of recommendation from the current Sacco/ company and present it to the NTSA office at TIMES TOWER before it is given a license to operate under a different name. This is where corrupt officials are coming in and helping indebted vehicle owners to escape paying fee owed to these Sacco’s.

The introduction of cashless fare system is a good gesture but whose time is not yet. According to the National transport and safety Authority It was supposed to have started in July this year but it didn’t have the backing of majority. The idea was noble but the timing was not right as it was seen by many as a dubious way of helping some manufacturers get an edge in the matatu billions. Many in the sector and also a great number of users {passengers} had not been educated on how the system works and many felt that it was a violation of their privacy. The rates that the gadgets providers were charging was also on the higher side- for instance BEBAPAY were charging 5% per transaction. that is to say; a bus carrying 50 passengers for one hundred shilling per person would have a gross income of 5000 ksh- the cashless agent would take 250 shillings for that one trip; if the bus was to make five such trips, the agent would make a cool 1250ksh from one bus. Our Sacco has 60 vehicles; so, you can imagine the amount of money vehicle owners will be forced to pay to these companies in the disguise of fighting corruption. This idea as noble as we may be persuaded to believe is any obstacle and unnecessary burden.  Since corruption is in the traffic department of the police, we matatu operators should not be forced to go cashless in order not to bribe police officers.

We cannot say that we are in Canaan just yet but at least we have left Egypt. The conditions of employment are better, we have medical cover, pension- and for the first time ever,- a pay slip. Some of us have been employed in the management based not on our academic qualifications but proven experience.




Posted by on August 12, 2014 in Its life, Matatu matters


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what is the way forward for the matatu industry?

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During the recently concluded UNITED NATIONS ENVIROMMENT ASSEMBLY {UNEA} held at UNEP HQs in Gigiri Nairobi; which I must add} was attended by his Excellency president Uhuru Kenyatta and UN secretary general his Excellency Ban kin moon, I was honored to be part of what was going on. A Non Governmental Organization called SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT AFRICA had put a matatu in their stand and visitors and delegates from across the globe had an opportunity to ‘’STEP INTO THE MATATU’’ and watch a 25 minute documentary by Aljazeera on the life and times of this matatu driver.

This was the first time I was coming face to face with the upper class; {people who very rarely use or may have never used a matatu in their life although they live in Kenya.} Majority were local and foreign expatriates who came for the Assembly; although they may be working or studying in the country.

I had the opportunity to interview some of them on camera and also gave them the opportunity to share by way of writing their thoughts on public transport in Kenya; on the freshly painted 14 seater Matatu’s body.

By the time the exhibition was over, I had corrected over 50 signatures and hundreds of views from those who graced our stand{ although I could not read some comments as they were written in Arabic, Italian, Germany and Dutch among our languages.]
Here are some of the comments and my take on the issues raised.

Use bike and cars that use less fuel. This came from a non Kenyan- it is a positive pointer toward encouraging use of Non Motorized Transport {NMT} and a very economical view too. The problem with Kenyan roads and especially Kenyan Drivers is failure to observer, implement and understand the rights of pedestrians and other non-motorized road users.
A bike rider is more at risk than a passenger in a matatu. On using cars that use less gas, that’s for the matatu investors to make the switch and increase on the profits.

Bring Eco-friendly Matatus.The industry itself is still informal; we are still strangling to learn how to organize ourselves into groups, companies and Sacco’s. This will become an option when the government declares war on black carbon emissions and pass laws to caution the same.

Bring better conditions in Matatus. This I can promise you, we are working on; the Sacco’s and management companies are all geared to bring order and structural management in passengers transport including comfort.

We need to ensure we do not leave our youth jobless in the process.This comment was one of the few positive one’s. This came from a Kenyan who knows that change always comes with lots of adjustments. As we push for change in the matatu industry, we should also bear in mind that the industry is the major employer of mostly those who have no credible academic qualifications. The industry should be given time to evolve and for the workers to adjust gradually.

Stop the madness on our roads.Matatu madness has been with us and it has refused to go no matter how many laws we pass in parliament. The problem has to do with individuals who for one reason or the other, decides to ignore traffic regulations and lack of proper training. Corruption has played a very big role in fueling the so called madness by allowing dangerous drivers on the road despite accidents records and convictions.

Reduce Radio volume.I agree with this comment and a know 80% of passengers would want to see the volumes governed. Matatu workers, especially the souped-up manyangas can be even health hazardous to be honest. Sacco’s and management companies must do something or else the government can enforce the existing law barring load music in public service vehicles.

Please work For the earth; from the heart and for no heat.An Australian advice: clearly stated. We should really be concerned and work hard to make mother earth a better place; we must do this from our hearts; come up with ways to reduce heat/ global warming.

Please matatu drivers and conductors respect other road users; the road does not belong to you.I don’t know if this was a request or a reminder, but this writer [a female Nairobi motorist] must have seen enough madness and arrogance from matatu drivers and only wish that matatu workers could at least show respect to other road users.

POLICE to stop taking bribes and enforce order.Corruption is to blame for the slow progress in the transport sector’s advancement and in obedience to traffic rules and regulations by matatu drivers. It is not surprising to see a conductor asking passengers in a fully loaded 33 seater matatu for loose change to give to a police officer. If the police did their job and prosecuted the guilty, we can hope the magistrate would punish them by application of the law. If only the fines were realistic. Setting high fines encourages corruption; lets punish drivers by withdrawing their licenses.

Avoid over speeding.Point noted! Although I would like to add that; Matatus don’t normally over speed since they all have speed limiters/ governors, what they do is drive carelessly / dangerously within the permitted speed..

If you change everything but not your attitude, it will be all in vain. Change your attitude.This is meant to reach all the stakeholders, government, operators and passengers; if we- all- have positive attitude and willingness to bring the change we want, nothing will stop us. But as long as we have the same attitude we have had all along, all efforts will be in vain.

Take hygiene matters seriously, especially makangas and reduce rudeness.The idea of introducing informs for matatu workers and dustbin in all public service vehicles was designed to address hygiene in mass transportation but unfortunately it did not achieve the desired goal. Personal hygiene should come from individuals and saccos and management companies should ensure tidiness in their vehicles. Workers should also be given some training on public relations to enhance interactions between providers and users.
The use of moneyless payment.(from 1st July 2014)is a violation of my private data. personal opinion/ concern. i don’t have the facts so, no comment.

The matatus should be safe, should be taken for service like any other car to avoid emissions which affect even the ones walking. Sound maintenance of motor vehicle should be insisted and inspections conducted after six months instead of annually. Any vehicle that emits more that the allowed level should be grounded and registration number retained by the police until the vehicle is repaired and certified by the relevant body.

Clean, neat, good uniformed matatu touts; No torn clothes, No bad language. Matatu touts are constantly pointed for untidiness. They seem to care less about their public appearance and also belittle their uniforms. You can find a makanga wearing two pairs of clothing’s- a neat civilian cloth set and a dirty maroon uniform on top. This is a tell sign that the wearer does not value his job and bad mouthing customers cannot be ruled out.

We need eco-friendly transport. Yes we truly need eco-friendly transport; Kenya being a developing country has a chance to putting this measure in place. It should be one of the vision 2030 goals.

Kenyans roads will be safer with more training for drivers and conductors. I share the same thoughts with whoever wrote this comment. Education is the key- and training matatu drivers through seminar and workshops would go a long way in changing the current game plan used by matatu operators. Most of us have never had any kind of training before we joined the industry.

We need bigger matatus which respect other road users. Bigger matatus are coming soon in urban centers since the law does not allow new registration of 14 seaters. The problem of violating other road user’s rights still stands with the drivers. Let’s hope the new system which requires drivers to be permanent employee will tame them.

Light rail, pedestrian’s path. This probably came from a visitor in the country who might have seen how effective light rails have been in other countries and wish we could do the same. I wont comment of that but as for pedestrian’s walks; this should be given top priority. We continue to lose hundreds of pedestrians every year through accidents. Building a safe area for walking while we are constructing our roads can greatly reduce these casualties.

Check the Jamaican Public Transportation System, . One of the delegates; a logistics Assistant from Jamaica/ working with United Nations took me a side and we held a lengthy discussion about how kenya can transform our transport system toward sustainability the same way Jamaica did.

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Posted by on July 28, 2014 in Matatu matters


Your Questions on matatu investment.

1)      In one of your blogs you said the government is no longer registering new 14 seater matatus. From my observation I have seen the new 14 seater Toyota matatu models having new number plates i.e. KBX, KBY, KBZ… though most of them function as shuttles carrying 11 passengers. Is this what you were referring to as it leaves me confused?

You can still import a newer Toyota, but only for long distance routes; and mostly a shuttle. The facing-off of 14 seaters was aimed at decongesting the cities especially Nairobi. Short distance routes/ saccos that operate within Nairobi and surrounding areas are not allowed to register new 14 seaters.

2)      Is the income from a matatu operating as a shuttle between let’s say Nairobi-Nakuru/Nairobi-Eldoret/Nairobi-Thika same as matatu operating as town service within Nairobi ?

It is tricky but the sums do add up in terms of income per month. What I mean is-A matatu plying the Nairobi- Ngong- Kitengera- Rongai or Ruiru route makes about 4000 shillings daily, while as, A shuttle makes three return trips in a week and makes a net of between 8000 and 10.000 per trip.

3)      Which one would be more preferably, in terms of vehicle maintenance, minimal wear and tear, profitability between a matatu covering long distance lets say Nairobi-Nakuru/Nairobi-Eldoret/Nairobi-Thika and one operating as town service within Nairobi?

A matatu plying a town service route is more expensive to maintain since it spends more time on the road. In most cases once you start the car in the morning, in will run from 6am to probably 10pm. But for shuttles, the flow is controlled and they have systems in place on how they regulate their operations.

The longest a trip can take is 4hrs- Nairobi to Eldoret. Meaning, less wear and tear which is = to low maintenance cost.

4)      Apart from the costs involved in importing the new matatu Toyota model and having it registered at the port (i.e. getting number plates) what are the extra costs that I will incur to have it run as a shuttle supposing I want it to be managed may be under North-Rift Shuttle/Eldoret Shuttle/Mololine Shuttle.

Once you import the vehicle, it must be registered before it leaves the port: you may probably change things like battery, Rims and tires, Fit the recommended seats depending on the route of choice- 14-11 and, you must have joined a Sacco or a transport management company which will cost you between 10 and 150.000 shilling registration fee.

5)      Are there scenarios whereby a rogue shuttle driver/the shuttle company remove/steal new parts from a new vehicle e.g. oil/fuel filters, tires, music system, plugs and replace them with old spare-parts thus in the long run I end up spending more on servicing and maintaining the vehicle?

This is just a myth and if at all it happens, it is in very isolated cases and most likely a collision involving a trustee or a manager who is most likely a relative of the vehicle owner.

As for company managed vehicles, there are various avenues to get some extra cash from a clients car and we try to keep the vehicle on the road most of the times.break-down means less revenue for the company and that is what we try to avoid.

6)      How much money would I dedicate per annum for servicing the 14/11 seater matatu and comprehensive insurance?

The insurance will depend on the value of the car, the number of passengers on board and things like that.

Servicing is per kilometers covered and like we said earlier, it will depend on the route. 6.000 Ksh per week is the maximum you can spend on servicing and that is enough to keep a town service vehicle on the road at all times. You might spend more at a single servicing {8.000} but in the long run you will equally spend less.

7)      What is the approximate payback time to recover my initial investment when I import the new matatu Toyota model and have it run either as shuttle or town service.

We approximate about 2.3m as the amount you will need to fully comply with all the requirements to put a new Toyota 7L on the road this include buying, importation, registration, fittings and all the necessary papers and also Sacco membership. If you would say, make 3500 every day, you can clear the loan in two years.

8)      I want a SACCO/Company to be managing the day to day affairs of running the vehicle, which one would you, recommend?

I can only vetch for the one I work with- Ongata Line transporters, although this is a town services provider- otherwise you need to make a date with your preferred Sacco and see what they are offering. Some companies like Mololine are more established and sell shares for membership. Although this is not to mean they are more profitable.

9)      I also have the option of teaming up with my friend and approaching General Motors for financing of the 33 seater NQR Bus. I have confirmed from GM that it’s going for 4.7M inclusive of branding, seats, seat belts, speed governor. You had mentioned in your blog that on top of this I need 500,000 comprehensive insurance and 200,000 for extras like TLB, Music System among others.

Going with this, at what point do I pay for the number plate?

Number plate is paid for by GM as the law only allows selling of registered vehicles. The price GM quoted include registration and inspection sticker valid for one year. General motors’ sells you a fully complied vehicle ready to start transporting passengers. The additional expenses are for optional, you can choose to just insurer your ride -as is-. This are just marketing tools we use to attract customers.

Are there any other government taxes?

Yes there is the advance tax which goes at 720 per seat. You multiply this by the number of seats in your vehicle. As for brand new 33 seater; I guess this tax is paid for by the seller either at your expense or part of the purchasing price. Confirm with General motors.

10)   Suppose I commit the maximum possible monthly income towards loan repayment is the bus able to fully service the loan or at times I will need to top up from my pocket.

If we are talking about a brand new minibus, the soaped up type {manyanga} the income is more than enough to service the loan and give you a monthly salary after paying for servicing and spare parts. At an average of 8000ksh per day which in this case is the minimum, you make around 240K in a month. The income can only be higher than this up to 270—300K.

11)   How much money will it cost to service the 33 seater per annum?

The first service is on General Motors- so there you have 11 months left maintenance cost will Depend on the distance and the trips the vehicle makes in a day. Some buses are serviced after 3–4 weeks while others may go for 6 weeks or 2 months. The recommended mileage is 35000Kilometers.

Regular servicing [brake lining, greasing, alignment etc.} cost around 15—20K but normal is around 10.000. ksh.

12)   I want a SACCO/Company to be managing the day to day affairs of running the 33 seater, which one would you recommend?

Come to us; pay us a visit at our office in Rongai and see what we are offering. A management company is not a Sacco, so we give you full control of your money. As for a Sacco, you have to be a member contributing and saving with the organization plus lots of paper work but, it also has its advantages for those who want to be financed after some times.

13)   What is the approximate payback time to recover my initial investment when running the 33 seater?

Two years is the longest- if you are fully dedicated. Suppose you buy a minibus worth 5.2 million and it brings home 10.000 ksh per day; you keep it on the road for 300 out of 365 days in one year; it will have made 3.6 million. That means you can recover your initial capital in less than 2 yrs.

14)   Between the 2 options above i.e. the 11/14 seater matatu and 33 seater buses, which one would you recommend as a viable business/investment?

I would advise you to buy a brand new minibus, it requires more capital but the returns are good and they have a long life span. 33 seater Minibuses will soon take over the matatu business as they are cleaner, comfortable and safer.

15)   What is your opinion between investing in the matatu industry and investing in car-hire business?

Car-hire is more of probability unless you give your car to an established tour and travel group. Most of the taxi companies gives you a fixed amount for unlimited use of the vehicle while as, you can control where a matatu goes and be assured since the income is guaranteed as long as it is on the road.

16)   In your opinion, what is the future of the Matatu industry in Kenya, especially with the upcoming railway projects within the Nairobi metropolis and the Standard Gauge Railway project?

The demand is still high and it is not going down anytime soon. The railway can only ease the demand but will not be a blow to matatu industry.

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Posted by on July 14, 2014 in Its life, Matatu matters


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I Have been burning midnight oil late in the evening after a tiring day behind the wheels of a matatu, trying to find a workable solution to most of of the problems that makes my job so hard and not to mention quite risky. Most of the times I’ve come across stories to do with road carnage or recklessness on our roads, it can not end without matatus and the people who work with them taking most of the blame.
Kenyans are very good at complaining and playing “the victim” role in most situations. Majority use the social media to air their dis pressure and are heard always calling on the government to come to their rescue, “TUNAOMBA SERIKALI”. what most of them are forgetting is that, even the ones they call for help are also Kenyans who are also calling on the government.
I came up with some points that i believe will help the new cabinet secretary in charge of transport to bringing down the number of accidents on our roads, reduce if not; eradicate corruption and also improve service delivery in the transport sector.
1. Abolish Kenya police traffic department.
This will definitely not go down well with a good number of the corrupt side of the police as, it has been a source of wealth for many of them. The corruption within the police force especially the traffic department has become a normal occurrence in our daily life and even on national television. The media has tried to expose them but it all ends there. even those who are suspected to be the architects of corruption are so daring to an extent that there is a case still pending in court where some traffic policemen stationed at a weigh bridge has sued the Inspector General of police for recommending their transfer to other areas that are not as lucrative as their current position. The corruption in this sector can not be easily eradicated as it has involved some- if not most; of the top cops in this country and probably 99.9% of the junior cops.
But there is a solution. The Government through the ministry of transport and any other concerned ministry can abolish the traffic department of the Kenya police and replace them with the NATIONAL YOUTH SERVICE personnel. The NYS has been around for many years and i have reasons to believe that it has well disciplined force that can take up and perform traffic duties. The Government needs to train this youths on traffic control and give them the power to prosecute traffic offenders in the courts of law or alternatively, the judicially can set a side a special magistrate court and judges who will only handle traffic cases.
2. Abolish TLB Licence
This will also not be well received by the perpetrators of corruption in the matatu industry; but, If it was to be tried out, It will be a blessing to matatu operators {drivers and owners} especially those who operate, within Nairobi. TLB Limitation is one of the Michuki rules that did not achieve its objective as it was grossly abused and used as a tool for corruption and is also responsible for deliberate traffic snarls ups.
Police can cause heavy traffic jams in order exhaust the patience of matatu drivers because they know through experience that matatu drivers will use alternative roads not within their TLB limitiation and are willing to part with money if only not to burn gas and waste time caught in traffic jams.
I still don’t know why it is a crime for a matatu plying route 125 Rongai—– Nairobi to use Ngong road to access Langata Road through Mbagathi way. It is also a traffic offense for a matatu to use bypasses even if the road is completely blocked. The only option for a matatu to use a connecting road {not described in their TLB application} is to drop the passengers and drive a empty vehicle. The ministry concerned should look at this and allow fair competition in the public transport sector. This would also be beneficial to passengers as any Public service vehicle can take passengers to any destination across the country which in the other hand will increase the supply of our services and lower the demand which translate to lower prices or lower bus fare as with the transport sector.
The government can then re-introduce Road license which was very helpful in identifying vehicles. Today all you need to drive a private car on Kenyan road is an insurance sticker which is not even issued by a government agency. This has fueled theft of motor vehicles.
3. Lower Traffic offenses Fines.
This will be very tricky to explain to majority of Kenyans and the media because they have come to believe that jailing or putting away matatu drivers or making them pay hefty fine is the best punishment they deserve. many a Kenyans believe that matatu drivers are only after making money by what ever means necessary including hiking fares, refusing to give change and killing people in road accidents.
You would be surprised {but we would not} to see a factory employee, who has worked for 30 yrs, in a company situated in Industrial area; 21 kilometers from where he resides,The same person will be heard Calling on the government to ban all matatus; while as; he has never owed a car in his life and never missed a day to work. This attitude of –hate them anyway– is the same law-makers had when they drafted the 2012 traffic amendment bill which raised court fines for traffic offenses and recomnded longer jail terms for “specifically” matatu drivers.
I can witness to this; that, corruption in the Kenya police traffic department has reached a level we have never seen before. This has been caused by hefty fines in courts and encourages traffic offenders to seek for out of court settlement with the custodians of the law. If for instance you are a matatu driver and you are caught picking a fare paying passenger in a not designated area, wouldn’t you rather give the cop a whole 1000 kshs note he is asking for than pay 10.000kshs at the magistrate court? It makes more cents to settle out of court.
If then; one matatu, can part with 1000 bobs for a small offense like that, how many thousand will the cop have made by the end of the day. If the fines where affordable, most of this cases would end up in courts where the magistrate would have the power to cancel licenses for repeated offenders, but unfortunate, most of them never get that far.
The idea of having M/V registration centers at county level is to discourage theft of motor vehicles. If for instance all vehicles bought in Nairobi had identifying number plates with initials like; “NRB 001A—-Z” and those from Kajiado county had “KJD–001A—-Z” and so on, it would be easy to recognize vehicles from other counties and the police would have an easy target if they were to track the vehicle. it would also be hard to register a stolen vehicle or use it in a different town as questions will surely be asked. This would also give county commissioners control over the security of their jurisdictions where theft of motor vehicle is concerned.
Another advantage is in drafting traffic laws and enforcing them. It is not reasonably possible for a Kajiado drivers to be submitted to the same laws governing Nairobi Drivers as their area of operation differs in very many different ways. For instance, there is probably two or three pick up tracks that carry residents of Ewaso Kedong from their village to Ngong township. The journey is about 80 kilometers with no clear cut roads, The drivers have to keep on changing tracks after every rainy season due to damaged bridges and other reasons. I don’t think any investor would buy a minibus, put all the necessary papers, put safety belts , not carry excess passengers, not allow animals to share the ride with passengers and submit it to the mercy of the jungle. Some of this mode of transport can be allowed to continue in some hardship areas but not in the cities. Every county would be allowed to evaluate the traffic acts and decide on which would be beneficial to their jurisdiction. That is to say, there are things you can do in kajiado but you will be arrested for the same if you are caught doing them in Nairobi.
This will receive a lot of criticism from the multimillion shillings body builders industries; court battles will surely make headlines in our media houses but, if we were to put the interest of the consumers first; which in this case are the operators and the passengers, we will have prevented many accidents which are caused by mechanical failures.When the engine power cannot sustain the weight of the body or the load it’s designed to carry, thus the brake system might fail to respond to the drivers intentions.
we have buses which were assembled locally a few years ago; but due to wear and tear, the buses can no longer carry the same weight they did when they were new without endangering the passengers or other road users. There are also other injuries; cuts and bruises which are caused by loose screws on the seats or the car body. Public service buses and minibuses should be assembled or imported custom-made to carry passengers and also specifically made to operate in particular areas; depending on the structure of the roads and the size of the vehicle. And thus the need to have registration at the county level.
MITSUBISHI minibuses {the ones we call ROSA} have few cases of being involved in accidents as compared to other minibuses with locally assembled bodies. A ROSA minibus is different. Its spacious, comfortable and easy to control for the driver as the vehicle is customarily built for passengers transport. This bus has been assembled for this very purpose; the engine can handle the weight, braking will not require extra measures, the seats comes fully with safety belts which are firmly mounted, tested and proven to handle the task; unlike our local assemblers who fits the gadgets because the law requires them.
The government should take it as a crucial responsibility; to protects it’s citizens from unnecessary deaths and injuries caused in roads accidents and also save hundreds of lives;lost because of human error.
One way of approaching this is, to be sure that only competent drivers are allowed on the road. Driving schools are known to train drivers in groups and then apply for their licenses in bulk; this is where corrupt trainers are aiding, third parties who have not been properly trained to get this vital driving tool; at an extra cost; hundreds of Kenyans are got their licenses through this avenue.
Kenyans are said to have peculiar habits and bad driving seems to be one of those they all have in common. About 60% of the drivers have no idea that they drive badly. You will find a motorist breaking the law, right in the eyes of a traffic police, and when he is stopped, he/she claims that kenya police are corrupt and all they want is cash bail. The new regime should look at this particular area with great interest and recommend and go as far as implementing measures aimed at sealing all loopholes in all driver’s licensing departments. A unqualified driver is more dangerous than a terrorist; much worse than a suicide bomber. He can kill people en-mass and get away with a fine or a short sentence.
The ministry of Transport should look for ways to work with county governments and re-introduce government owned passengers service vehicles. This will help to control bus fare as passengers will have an option or an alternative means of transport in-case of matatu strikes and also exploitation by matatu crew.passengers across the country complain of hiked fares whenever there is a down pour or heavy traffic; this can be tamed if passengers had an optional means of transport that is fixed. It will also help those who are employed at a fixed salaries to plan their budget at the end of the month. this will be healthy competition to privately owned matatus and will improve service delivery.
I have witnessed several cases where passengers get injured, especially during rush hours when they have to scrabble for a seat in the few matatus. Matatu passengers also fall in the category of NMT{ non Motorized transit]. This group of road users is very common on our roads every morning and evening and contribute to about 20—30% of accidents victims who are hit while crossing the roads or just waiting for a matatu on the roadsides. The recently completed Thika super highway has proven that it is possible to reduce this incidents if, passengers and the buses had specific locations or area of operation. Matatus are forced to stop on the roads to pick thousands of passengers who require their service every morning and eve to get to work and back home respectively.This contribute greatly to slow movement of motor vehicle on the roads. A separate lane should be included in major towns where the demand for matatu services is high.
For as long as we still have untrained and illegally acquired drivers and licenses, we will not be any safer on the roads. One way of making sure that we have the best hands behind the wheels of our public transport is to weed out the bad ones. We can achieve this in just under three years as all those who currently have PSV drivers licenses will have to renew them in the next 12 months time. All this drivers will go to the revenue authority at one time or the other and at varied dates to get renewal. The government can take this as an opportunity to retrain and test public service drivers on their competence before allowing them back on the road.
The objective is to have an audit of how many drivers we allow to carry passengers and how good they really are; verify the licenses they are currently using and issue them with new certificates of competency.
within a 3yrs period all matatu drivers will have the new licenses and all the fake ones kept out of the roads.
Over to you Cabinet secretary. Ministry of transport.


Posted by on June 13, 2014 in Its life, Matatu matters


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useful, used and abused- matatu man.

It’s been four years since I started writing this blog; looking back, I can proudly say i have made a difference. I have convinced a number of Kenyans in the diaspora to invest in the transport industry and generate income here at home instead of sending handouts to relatives back home every now and then.This blog has helped quite a number of people find footing in the transport sector. This year alone,2014; I have met about five investors who came to OngataRongai and I have helped two to access asset finance from a bank and two have actually bought 33 seater minibuses cash at General motors. A doctor in Germany and a Kenyan working in Iraq have brought home over 10 million in cash; creating permanent employment to six persons and benefiting hundreds locally and not to mention thousands of shillings the government has made and will continue to earn in taxes.
One other thing I have learned through this forum is that, most people don’t wish to pay to get sound advice on investment opportunities; I really doubt if business consultants in this country do actually make any good money selling investment ideas. Not unless I’m doing things the wrong way or advising the wrong people. Of all those who have read and contacted me and those who have benefitted from my advice; maybe one or two has offered to pay for my transport to the meetings at the banks or to the car dealers despite the fact that I go to those meetings to introduce them to my connections who makes their dream of owning a beautiful Matatu on Kenyan roads come to reality.
Some, after accessing finance or actually buying the Matatu’s, marvel at their boosted financial ability and forget that there are those who stood in the gap, or as they say- those who helped them up the mountain.- What hurts me the most and I’m really saddened; are those who come to me as first time investors and very new in the matatu industry. We hold meetings in hotels and through one way or the other we agree to team up and shop for and buy a matatu.
As soon as I introduce them to the route and they get to meet other players,they are somehow tempted by the corrupt elements in the matatu sector with promises of security and police protection and unrealistic of higher incomes. They are introduced to shortcuts to evade paying taxes and getting away with traffic requirements and charges; the vehicle hits the road with fake Documents. The problem comes when the new owners realize they were taken for a ride and disagree with the cartels and they withdraw the cover and protectors expose them to the cops and hang them out to dry.
The other things I have noticed is how some influential people in our society take others for granted. I was taken by surprise and shocked at the same time; when an investor came to my office and asked me why I call myself James/wambururu on my personal and public profile and contacts while I use the name“Fredrick?” in my published articles. I told him I was not aware if I was using two names; wondering why he thought I can choose to drop my trademark “Wambururu” a name I have worked hard to build and I have had to explain the meaning and to spell countless times to foreign researchers and journalists for a common name likeFredrick!.
It was then that he pulled a copy of thePSV MAGAZINEPublished and owned by MATATU OWNERS ASSOCIATION {MOA} and went straight to the page and showed me the name of the writer of one of the articles which according to him, he had read previously in my blog. I could not believe that I was actually reading my thoughts and my writing pattern in a published magazine. To my surprise, the editor had not just used my article; he had actually published five of my blog posts in just one issue of their monthly publication. Unknown to this writer,the magazine has been publishing articles from this blog and selling it to the publicgiving those different names for each story but the content was purely my work-copied and pasted-even with my typing mistakes and grammatical errors.
When I called the publishers to find out how he just decided to publish “my articles without even a byline to point the readers tothe original writer,” He told me it was not his concern since he commissioned for all the articles and that he had bought the rights from the said commissioned writers to publish and sell the articles. I requested him to give me the contacts of the people he had paid for the articles but he decline and told me he would warn them never to do that again. It is called protecting the source.
They were lucky and got away with a warning for undermining me and my painfully sort and researched contents: I guess I should be thankful that what I write is worth something to somebody else. But I hope one day I will create a chance to meet the said Fredrick; and those others who were paid for my work.


Posted by on June 3, 2014 in Its life, Matatu matters


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Addiction and the chaos in the matatu sector.

When the matatu welfare association forwarded my name to NACADA for a TOT training on Alcohol and Drugs Abuse {ADA}. I felt like i was the wrong person for this training. I could not see any connection between Road safety and workers welfare which is my specification at the association and the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse{ NACADA }. If at all, I was partaking on one of the substance Nacada was campaigning against. More so, i did not think that going back to class was the best option considering the timing of the training and another meeting at KIPPRA where I represent hundreds of matatu drivers under the KENYA CIVIL SOCIETY NETWORK FOR NMT AND ROAD SAFETY. I had all the reasons to seek for an excuse not to attend the training but, I didn’t.

Come the day we were to report at the college for registration and i packed my learning gear and headed to Karen. I’m really glad i did; By the end of the week, i was so sure i know the reason we have all these chaos and mismanagement in the matatu sector. It had never occurred to me that Alcohol and Drugs could be responsible for most of the miseries workers in the public transport service sector had gone through and continue to suffer from. I listened keenly as facilitators skillfully opened our minds to the reality that addiction is causing havoc in the life’s of Kenyans,- affecting every area of our livelihood and our personal health.

I had always thought that chewing MIRAA, smoking weed and a few tots of whiskey was a cool thing and also a boost to our performance since our jobs require a lot of focus, determination and recklessness that can only be described as bordering insanity. This three substances have been the source of that courage for many a matatu driver to a curtain point that- they have become accepted as part of our lifestyle. But as i sat in that lecture room listening to expert talk about alcohol and drugs and their effects on the users, I could connect every explanation with somebody i know or have worked with in the matatu industry.

When the lecturer talked about Alcohol, i could see many alcoholics by name, the life they are leading, the consequences of their choices and the direction addiction had taken their life’s. when they talked about inhalants, i was finally able to connect the -teenage deaths- of many street children who come to collect plastic bottles from our buses with the glue they sniff. I had notice a certain pattern where many of the street kids die young or develop permanent mental illness. The issue of MIRAA chewing really surprised me and I’m still very deeply concerned about the effects of this substance that is legally available across the country with no restriction in producing, processing and sale.

Miraa {twigs} and muguka {the leaves} cause more damage to the user that marijuana  and  cigarettes combined. Like the bible writer had posed it; WHAT IS THE PROFT OF GAINING THE WHOLE WORLD AND LOSING YOU SOUL IN THE PROCESS? the same is true for those abusing these products of the evergreen CATHAEDUIIS tree. Many who innocently chew on the substance  to stay alert and work more hours behind the wheels are at the same time working their way to self destruction and endangering the survival of their species.Miraa is said to have grave and irreversible effect on the reproductive system causing impotence. This alone is reason enough to break hundreds of homes as is evident in majority of users. other effects included patched up sleep that catches up with the driver while on the road resulting to serious accidents.

Matatu industry has the highest number of drug abuser in all public services sectors in our country. In my 14yrs behind the wheels i have experienced and experimented on most of this substances.many of us chew miraa to work long shifts and like i said, our job description require focus determination and confidence. Marijuana is the drug of choice for many as it gives the user a sense of well being, bravely, confidence and allow us to exhibit recklessness that is next to madness. The false confidence and false bravely mixed with other long term effect of the drug like, sudden panic, poor judgment, and paranoia [ unreasonable fear} can be associated with hundreds of accidents that goes unreported where matatu owners agree to compensate the affected party to avoid involving the police as their driver is intoxicated and also the one to blame for the accident.

Since receiving the training, i have been engaging my comrades into discussions on the effects of alcohol and drugs and to my surprise, many are those who are suffering in silence. it is extremely painful to watch a loved one or somebody you know very well destroy his/her life; but this is the position many of us are forced to take when a chemically dependent loved one or a friend denies having a problem with substances. If any, majority of us condemn the affected instead of understanding that addiction is a disease; we blame them for having a problem with morals.

Any government institution ,NGO or civil society willing to bring sanity and order on our roads especially the matatu sector must look at the issue of drug abuse as a contributing factor in the mismanagement of the trade and be willing to help and give hope to the affected. a calculated approach aimed at healing and reconciliation will go a long way in ending the chaos and confusion in the matatu sector and in the long run reduce accidents by a very big margin. Tackling the drugs and substances abuse in the matatu sector is not an easy task but that is not to say it is impossible. The reason being that majority of those using the substances are already hooked or addicted and have a long history of dependency on the drug unlike students or the youth in learning institutions. The national Government must look at the big picture and find a long term solution to this menace.

Another area that will require a closer look and more serious approach is the area of counseling for drivers who have been through tragic accidents. There are many who are suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and many take to drugs and or alcohol to seek reprieve. Once hooked to drugs dependency , it becomes very hard to come out. Recovery from addiction is a long road that requires almost the same treatment as chronic diseases; this is an expensive journey that most matatu workers will never travel. Recovery from addiction can only be achieved through a combination of self-management, mutual support and professional help. To accomplish this task we must stop looking at it as a problem affecting matatu workers and start looking at it as a problem affecting the society.


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The more things change the more they stay the same.

I didn’t come up with this words but somebody please, Tell the cabinet secretary for transport that; “If intelligence and reason must prevail, it is more reasonable and intelligent to remain open and listening for the voice of God or for any other voice than to shut up the eyes and ears and not even allow that there might be voices to hear?” 

Like i have always said. Only a fool does the same thing twice expecting different results; and by the seem of things we must be doing something foolishly. What I’m worried about is the outcome of the current public transport hype similar to a situation we witnessed 9yrs ago in the public transport sector. Our industry (matatu) has had to come through a very rough trend to finally reach where we are and thanks to millions of our faithful customers who have stuck with us either because we have helped them meet their transport needs or for lack of a better option.

For those who did not know what michuki rules meant to us in the industry, then know this. Soon after the NARC government came to power in 2003 after 24yrs of single party rule. Those who came to power were determined to transform this country and leave a legacy. Public transport was one of the areas that was targeted due to it’s direct contact with majority of Kenyans, Being a new government, the leaders were determine to win the confidence of majority. Under the disguise of bringing change in the transport sector, ending corruption, road carnage and other misgivings, the government under the ministry of Transport punched on the privately owned public service vehicles using its three main institutions previously used in fighting clime namely; The police, the Judicialy and the Prison. But what came out of the much touted change was a whole new wave of high level corruption and gross human rights violation.
A traffic cop could flag down a 51 seater bus, check the tyres: they are okay. Check insurance sticker it’s valid. Check the driver’s license and its okay, he is in uniform; but unfortunately, he forgot to hang his portrait on the windscreen of the matatu. Now that was very bad:, all the passengers had to seek other means of transport to wherever they were going because the driver would be arrested and the bus towed to the nearest police station. He would then be locked up at the police station until the following day when he will have his day in court.

Now these is where the trick was {and still is}; according to the laws that we operated under, once you are brought before the court and your charges read. The magistrate can only give you two options, it does not matter whether what you are charged with is true or not, To avoid being locked up, you have to pay a bond of between 20.000–100.000 depending on what the cop writes no the charge slip.If you can’t raise the amount you will have to spend fourteen days at Nairobi industry-area remand prison. When you return to court after those two weeks the cop who arrested you fails to show up and you get another 14 days. Eventually, the cop will not show up, the judge will release you after some months.
The next time the same cop flags your matatu down you better give him what he wants or the same fate befalls you ll over again.

With the signing to law of the new constitution and a new government, we were very upbeat about the future of our career hoping that somehow or perhaps, we could turn these most hated jobs into a respected public service profession. There was nothing mentioned about the matatu sector in the Jubilee manifesto.And according to how the cabinet secretary for transport is acting; we can say this government want nothing to do with Matatu madness; Jubilee is talking about standard gauge railways, trains and airports; but whichever way, they will have to work with us for the time being before the tracks are marked and railway lines laid.
Our appeal to the government is to protect us from those who abuse states power to harass and extort money from us; it is insane to force over 60.000 matatus to be fitted with specific speed governors that costs 40.000Ksh a piece only a few years after we had fitted another ‘government specified’ set of speed governors under the same circumstances. How can a  serious cabinet secretary not seek legal advice from other government institutions before passing decrees only to be faulted by the Court after we have been forced to pay some people billions of shillings.

I hope our leaders will start to seriously scrutinize and really consider the bills brought before them and see if they will be beneficial to us the citizens before passing them into law.. It was quite a shame that not even one political leader in the national assembly or even the senate saw this. I’m glad the judicially is not compromised.

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Posted by on April 17, 2014 in Its life, Matatu matters


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