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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Matatus new woes:Where are the activists?

I’m writing this article hoping it will go beyond the blog and probably get the attention of one of the three institutions that would have {if only they are willing} made a very big impact on solving some if not all of the problems affecting our industry. There is an institution called the Kenya human rights commission– another one called The law society of Kenya– and finally the Kenya anti-corruption commission. It seems there is no hope relying on the judicially as it is proofing not to have the will if not the facility to end this madness that has been causing us so much suffering. The Kenya human rights commission is a well respected institution but they seem to have forgotten the humans who toil day and night to provide transport to millions of Kenyans. I have never in my over ten years on the road; heard anybody from the human right watchdog came forward to fight for our rights. Despite the many times our woes have been hitting the headlines in the local media.

I recently joined or say I was incorporated in a transport management company and so far we already have five vehicles under our belt- four buses and one Nissan matatu. Over the past one month alone I have paid court fine amounting to over twenty thousand shillings-and as I’m writing this article, one of our drivers is in custody and will be in court later in the day. He was arrested yesterday and denied bond; the cops said they have orders from above not to give cash bonds to matatu operators. It has been a tough month and I can’t say I’m glad it’s over because the way things look, it can only get worse.

It started with the new changes announced by the police department where all the traffic heads were transferred and later the PPO Nairobi ordered a crackdown on traffic offenders. While we thought it was an all inclusive traffic regulation that would affect all motorists we were shocked to find that the whole idea was targeting matatu workers. The daily papers reported that many offenders were arrested and taken to court; well that part was very true; the only problem was that, most of the said traffic offenders were touts who were not wearing the right color of the shirt as Michuki laws require.

One of our conductors was arrested in the morning; spent the whole day and night at the station and then taken to court and charged for not wearing  uniform- although he had his red marron trouser and matching half-coat. He was fined ten thousand shillings. The following day one of our drivers was stopped as he took the vehicle for regular servicing [he was not carrying passengers}. Upon inspection, the brake lights were not functioning on one side. He was arrested and locked up and also the vehicle impounded; he spent the day and night at the station then taken to Kibera law court the following day. He was fined five thousand shillings. As though that was not enough two days later another driver got a ticket for obstruction-. I went to the station to complain about the ticket since I felt it was not justified seeing he was at the allocated bus stop but got a rude shock from the traffic police when they told me I should thank them that they did not impound the bus. Another ten thousand shillings awaits to exchanged hands.

And just when I was thinking the bad omen had passed, another driver from our company called me yesterday and told me to go for the bus at the station since he had been arrested and locked up. When I went to the station to bail him out, I was told no cash bill for matatu drivers and I would better be in court at 8am if I want to get him out. He will be charged with obstructing other motorists although there is no one complaining of being obstructed. I guess I will have to pay his fine which I’m sure will go beyond ten thousand shillings. He had requested me to get him out on bond and let him sweat it out in court with the cop but I feel this will put our business on the black book with the cops and risk more arrests. I don’t honestly think that this is the right way to go about it. That is why I’m calling on the Kenya human rights commission to intervene and also the law society of Kenya to issue us with lawyers or rather give us guidelines on what to do and how we can reach them for assistance when incidences like this happens. The Kenya anti-corruption commission must wake up and do their jobs as this corruption I’m talking about here is not done secretly; we have the hard evidence if that can help since the police issue us with tickets to appear in court during the day and at the evenings we take them back to the station and have them withdrawn. We can even make copies of the tickets if it will be useful. Please somebody do something.

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2012 in Matatu matters

 

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Why do good people die in accidents?

The past one week has really puzzled me and actually made me think about the reason why people die in accidents and the reason some of this accidents although quite predictable are too hard to prevent. I was even persuaded to believe that; most of the road accidents that are classified as fatal {where lives are lost} are just a means to a destined fate. Whether accidental as the name indicate; or pre-arranged and made to look like real accidents, they have costed us too much.

Kenya is a country that has existed for over 49 yrs as an independent nation. Over the years we have lost quite a number of very promising leaders. People like Alex- Muge, Kip- kones, Bonaya Godana, Ahmed Khalif and many others. Their deaths still remains a mystery to majority of Kenyans who would like to get to the bottom of this mysteries or curses and know what really happened.  It then beats all logic to imagine what was going on in the minds of our intelligence officers when they allowed the minister of internal security professor Saitoti and his assistant Hon. Ojonde to fall for a very obvious security lapse.our two most senior intelligence heads were riding in the same helicopter. Could this security measure if adhered to, saved one of them? My bet yes.

Kenya is at war with terrorists and I’m not saying that they had a hand in the crash but whether they took part or not, this should not have happened. But, let’s forget the threat posed by the terrorists and see the possibility of it being an act of God. Over the years that I have been on the road, I’ve seen very many accidents; but when Saitoti died in that helicopter accident, I understood the pain of losing somebody I knew and also somebody I was closely attached to.

I’ve known Professor Saitoti for the past 10 yrs I’ve resided in Ongata Rongai Township. I voted for him in the last general elections as my member of parliament and I would have voted for him as the next president of Kenya if Uhuru Kenyatta’s name was to miss in the ballot paper. The news of his death was a big shock as it made me realize how much I loved him. I felt the loss personally and again for the residents of Kajiado North especially the Masaai community. The late professor was a man of the people who has been the shield to his constituents for many years and managed to turn his turf into one of the richest constituency in Kenya.

He might not have spoken openly about the Matatu industry but I’m positively sure that he was on our side. It is not once or twice or even three times that he has cut short his busy schedule to come to Rongai police station or Ngong to help free his people from the jaws of police harassment and bad politics. There are many a time that he has stood by his people and helped to bend some traffic laws that have seen his people continual to travel in open pick-up trucks to the remote areas of the greater Masai land. And like he said in Kasarani- There comes a time- A time to put the interest of our country before everything else. I believe that is what he lived for.

During his burial in Kitengera at the weekend, many leaders who attended the ceremony spoke of their personal relationship with the mathematics professor and what a good leader and a statesman he was. What I failed to hear is anybody taking the blame for the accident as it is obvious that human error contributed to the humiliating dismiss of our best solders. The country’s intelligence docket currently headed by a Man from central Kenya has of late been accused of not being tight enough to secure our borders.

Just the other day, we were treated to a very high level corruption TV series that involved drugs deals with some very senior government officials. We all held our breaths and waited for the government to arrest and take to court the directors of the TV station that made those allegations but to our amazement; the journalist had done his home work well and what we were watching were the true facts of what had transpired. It scares the hell out of ordinary citizens like me to even imagine that the same people who allowed a vice of such magnitude to take place and even interfere with our properties are the ones watching over our security. It is no wonder that we will never honestly believe that Saitoti and Ojonde and the four police officers died in a normal accident. We can only pray that God rest the souls of our dear countrymen in eternal peace.

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2012 in Its life

 

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The making of a matatu worker and the survival in the industry.

 I have been doing my observations and I have come to this conclusion that there are certain people who are meant for  certain jobs;  people who were made to follow or work in specific jobs. I will start by Taking a good Look at the men who work in the matatu industry. The black sheep’s of our dear republic; In majority of cases, these are the people who are known to have had a violated upbringing. Those we commonly refer to as the black sheep’s of the family. Many were forced by circumstances they found themselves in when they were growing up and managed to convince their minds that they are not loved either by relatives, guardians and even the society. In order to find acceptance, they expanded their circles of companionship by going out of their totems. The matatu industry becomes a very good starting point as there are no qualifications needed as long as you can shout the names of the towns along the route.

 Many start as tout and with the money, they manage to buy their own freedom from dependency on friends or relatives. But this is only the beginning of a long road that see many falling by the way and others surviving to tell the story.

The Criminals. I had one very good friend who used to be my conductor several years ago. This friend of mine after a number of years during the same thing every day; { waking up early in the morning to go measure the level of oil in the engine, then start the car and wait for the driver, then spend the whole day answering insults and even getting physical with the passengers and sometimes ending up in prison or locked up in a police station} got tired of the   routine.  My good friend decided to give the police a good reason to lock him up and he turned to crime. He started by harassing all the new faces that had come to the industry on michuki’s ticket and made quite some good money. He bought his first car and many of us were surprised; sometimes later he bought a second car and moved to a richer neighborhood.

He went deep in the underworld and in fact bought a gun or acquired it however he did but my good old friend owned one and he  became a threat, not only to other workers in the industry but also to the general public. Many in the industry could be heard talking in low tones about how good life was changing for the young tout and winning for him some degree of freedom. These talks were expressed in the public and even the cops who collect protection fee from peddlers could be heard talking about him; but nobody dared to question him. It was after he was shot several years later that people told tales of how the young man had made their life a living hell.
The RELIGIOUS Majority of those who end up in religious groups are in most cases known to have joined the industry by fate and not necessarily by choice. Most of them either came aboard the ship by the desire to make a living or to overcome depression which could have been caused by their up-bringing or poverty. There are those who made the choice of becoming touts to support a family business but because of the evils that comes with the nature of matatu business.  They soon realize that they could not put up with the corruption and calculated theft that is part and puzzle of matatu business. After living with guilt for many years; some workers decide to change the course of their life with the recognition of, another power higher than man. By their newly found faith they ascribes beneficence and higher purpose to the power which is superior to themselves and envisions a higher destiny and noble attributes that encourages and stimulates them in their struggle for existence. Many abandons the trade and look for alternative means of earning their up-keep
DRUGSThe other group that finds comfort in drugs are in most cases known or referred to be in denial. They in vain try to seek away out of their problems by freeing the conscious mind that is aware of their difficulties and sinking in the pressure of unconsciousness caused by and depending on the type of drug and their effect on human chemistry. Among those who take drugs that have little effect on their reasoning ability e.g. marijuana and miraa, some choose to lock themselves in their own imaginative world and are known to adopt a religious lifestyle later in life.
ALCOHOLICS Among those who take alcohol and hard liquor, majority are known to find faults in everything and everybody most of them ending up committing petty crimes like stealing from their customers and close relatives. Some do recover but majority becomes dependent on relatives or making their homes in places where alcohol or those drugs can be easily accessed. This is the lowest group in the matatu circles and most of them end up in prison as the cops prey on them because of their easy to prosecute cases in court as majority are guilty of working under the influence of alcohol.

The untouchable.These are the well-connected and the educated among the matatu workers- they are the worst nightmare for any traffic cop as they are moneyed and well-informed. There are those who have scaled the ladder from rags to riches but many are those who have connections or are related to powerful and wealthy individuals like senior police officers, politicians or top-notch lawyers. They don’t necessarily follow any code of ethics as they are their own bosses. They mostly take advantage of their financial backing to sweat it out in courts of law with the cops and ends up winning their cases or causing by the influence of their cash the transfer of the prosecuting officer to other areas or being relegated from the lucrative traffic department.

To sum it up; criminals and touts are calved from the same stone. The battle for supremacy and control will take longer to decide and the relationship will continue just being that: one and the other. This is the amazing wonders of Kenyans and their peculiar habits.

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2012 in Its life

 

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The people behind a matatu driver.

The past few days has gotten the best of me and somehow made me think again about my career as a matatu driver. I’ve deferred with traditions and violated some religious and man-made obligations. Lied when I had to and even bribed my way out of probable arrests; I can’t say I have robbed but that does not mean I have earned every cent I spend on my family the honest way. I have been used and abused and hailed as a hero in the course of being a good parent. Humiliated and cheated,,,,,? Yes!!! But beaten? Never. When I look back at what I have achieved and how ready we are as a family to face the future, I can’t hide the smile in the corner of my mouth.

The new traffic laws which might take affect any time from now are causing me sleepless nights when I imagine how my family will survive with me behind the bars. Many people including most of my passengers customers and law makers don’t think we have anything to lose by going to jail or paying hefty fines in court. Like many others in my line of job; we have much to look forward to and honestly, I don’t think any matatu driver would want to be involved in an accident.  Here are the people who make  me sit behind the wheels of a matatu.

When a man and a woman decide to build a family, they soon see God’s hand when they are blessed with the young version of themselves.

George is the oldest, he is 11 yrs old. He was born the year I drove my first matatu. followed by his bother Adrian at 4yrs and then their sister Eve who will be 2yrs in July.  George is a day scholar at Jack ridge academy; he is in class six. His academic performance is okay; although he is not Number 1 – he has held his position among the top ten since class four. He talks of Aeroplanes and dreams of sitting in the cockpit of one.

Adrian is in nursery school at Strong towers academy; this is his second year in uniform and he is doing quite impressive.  He is learning the language and mathematics. He likes speaking English although most of the people he lives with just speak corrupted Swahili.{ Including his parents}

Eve is Daddy’s girl and does everything his father does; She takes her time to look through the bible and try to find out what is soo interesting in this book that her parents keeps on turning the pages. She likes to admire her face on the screen. I guess she knows she is beautiful. She will probably be on TV when she grows up. I pray she chooses Journalism and pray she makes it to the silver screen. I hope to have calved in a name in the entertainment industry and perhaps give her the foundation.

Talk about computers and my son Adrian just keep on surprising me; He gives the small machine too much attention and somehow manages to play his favourite games and also do some other stuff. I hope he grows up to become a judge or a law expert and fight for the rights of many like me who have to accept corruption as part of their job description. there is also lots of opportunities in the IT; I guess I will allow him to spend his time with the small machine.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2012 in Its life, Matatu matters

 

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