The wisdom or lack of it; behind the matatu strike

01 Dec

The on-going /just concluded strike by matatu workers that started three days before the new traffic acts comes in force had one very important lesson to Kenyan citizens; we are far from vision 2030 and it might take much longer to achieve those goals.  Kenya is still at the mercy of organized groups, and now they have economical implications as well. No one has claimed responsibility for the strike but the fact is, it did come to pass and rongai among other towns suffered economically.
The three days that I, and my fellow matatu workers in route 125 downed our tools, we did not expect much to come out of the strike, we knew it would be a miracle to  have an act that had already been signed by the president taken back to the parliament to be amended.  But we also knew that somebody needed to do something.  The traffic acts are not new, this are the same laws that we have been operating under, The problem with this new bill is not the entire law as many would want to imagine but only a small section that many workers will fail to note for now; but will end up swallowing majority of them and sending them to prison. Touting which has now become a crime/offense takes care of approximately 60% of matatu workers. The gap that this people fill is sooo wide, that it has created thousands of jobs in every major bus park and in all towns where matatus end their trips.

Photo The new traffic act has criminalized this vocation and sent most this people home. Anybody caught doing that will cool his butt in prison for several years or pay a hefty fine if caught again. What we are afraid of is based on the nature of the Kenya police; and how we have been dealing with them in the last 8yrs or since the michuki decree. And Since nothing has been done about corruption in the police force, this will not be the solution to road carnage but another vehicle for the police to enrich themselves. I believe that the minister of transport wants more than anything else is fame and popularity; that will help him secure his political stand in the coming general elections.

I fail to see how a servant of the people, can watch hundreds of your subjects, sleep in the cold and ride dangerously on trains and uninsured motor cycles and not spare a minute to listen to the reasons that matatu workers are presenting. But the problem is not even the minister but the entire government and all the law makers. The parliament went ahead and enacted the traffic amendment bill 2012- not because it had passed through all recommendations and found the surest way to end road carnage, but because the member of parliament who tabled the bill also happened to belong to the party with the majority in parliament. We did not go on strike because we don’t want to follow the law or because we want to kill innocent Kenyans.
A section of the the new traffic laws talks about driving a vehicle where you don’t have the employer’s badge. If we were to look at the nature of our business, this alone will render thousand of us jobless {which I believe we are already affected} most of us work on casual arrangements with the vehicle owners, we are not permanently employed. The traffic amendment bill which was enacted by the parliament of Kenya. states that;

1 a person who while not being the designated driver of a public service vehicle, drives the vehicle, while not being the autholised to do so, commitis an offense.

2 the driver of a public service vehicle who lets an unauthorized person drive the vehicle commits an offense.

3 a person who is convicted of this offense shall be imprisoned for a term not exceeding ten years or a fine not exceeding 500.000.

Why then go on strike if all the government is asking is for you to have special badges? Blame the same government. WHY? The government failed to pressure the Sacco/matatu owners to employ us permanently so that we could be limiting part of our earnings to the Revenue authorities and pension as well as NHIF and NSSF.  This has left us to the mercy of backdoor deals with vehicle owner where we hire their vehicles in the morning and pay a fixed amount at the end of the day. The vehicle owner has the right to hire anyone in the market if he/she is not satisfied with the first clue. There is no contract or job description. Most of this matatus and matatu Sacco’s are run by questionable people; some are serving government officers and mostly police.

I also find it selective in the sense that it has discriminated between motorist. SECTION 44 Cap. 403. subsection {1} A person who when driving or attempting to drive or when incharge of a motor vehicle on a road or other  public place, is under the influence of drink or drug to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the vehicle commits an offense;and shall be liable upon conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or a fine not exceeding 500.000.

In SECTION 45 of the same Cap 403. subsection{1} A person who when driving or in charge of or during any period of duty, in connection with the driving of a public service vehicle, drinks any intoxicating liquor, commits an offense and shall be liable upon conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than ten years or fined not less than 500.000. Our cries are based on the nature of our vocation, but sadly, no one in our circles can raise high enough as to get the attention of the policy makers and perhaps buy as more time to put our house in order.

It could have been possible if the ministry was ;but who cares about matatu people? The ministry did it{gave more time} for other motorists: section 12 of Cap 403., had warned motorists in general that they would be liable to a fine not exceeding 30.000 shs if the fail to return the number plate to the registrar of motor vehicles; thirty days after the expiry of insurance cover. But the ministry later separated the section from the others and suspended/extended the period of implementation of this amendment to sometimes next year. but all the amended traffic act related to public service vehicles were to be implemented immediately.

The professionals or whoever drafted the bill forgot that the people laboring in the public transport sector are also Kenyan citizens. I did not see in any amended section where it says the insurance cover of all public service vehicles to also include the driver. As is the current situation where Matatu drivers are not covered by the insurance of the vehicles they drive, many of us who happen to be involved and injured in a motor vehicle accidents ends up either permanently disabled or heavily in-debt.

The strike might be over for only a few days but when we reach a point where we feel that the government doesn’t care, then you should hope for the best but be ready for the worst. If they don’t want listen to our side of the story, then they should service the guns and do the only thing that this reign is good at. use brutal force and shed blood.


Posted by on December 1, 2012 in Matatu matters



7 responses to “The wisdom or lack of it; behind the matatu strike

  1. Maureen Jepchumba

    December 3, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Hi James,

    I did not realize that the strike and the new traffic rules were this grave. I have seen a number of police on the road this weekend enforcing the rules and a number of people have been affected.

    Appreciate the honesty in this post. Leaves me in questions, what can be done – what should be done? My hope is that we can really handle the issues that face mwananchi. Too many times we focus on the politics of the day and forget the daily struggles. We are all responsible for the change we hope to see on the roads.

  2. lisa

    January 28, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    It would have been best if the government together with the persons in charge of this industry and also the employees(matatu drivers and the touts) would have been involved in decision making. gone are the days where decisions are made and people merely just comply to them as unrealistic as they come. Although at the end of the day, you as a matatu driver has to understand that some of this laws might have been put in place out of some emotional response due to all the chaos that are caused on the roads by this matatus. The government should have considered some of those unrealistic charges as this is already an ailing country.That law was already signed and has to be enacted somehow, so what do we do? do we ignore? do we promote more road rage? do we continue with the insanity on the roads? NO…… we make the industry better ourselves. The Rongai matatu welfare association is such a good idea and i wish you well.

  3. moha

    July 3, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Please i wanna know the price of engine TD27

    • wambururu

      July 3, 2013 at 3:20 pm

      TD 27 Engine is costing 150.000 Ksh. Call me– 0724-384676 I know a guy who has sold me an engine before.
      He can be trusted, straight imports.

  4. Captain T

    May 29, 2014 at 6:16 am

    Nice blog…I just want to know is it viable to buy a scania 74 seater KAJ for city services?Please email me

    • wambururu

      June 3, 2014 at 10:22 am

      since you have asked,i will tell you-NO! don’t even look that way. that’s my honest opinion. why go oldskool? buy a new smaller bus- the aim is to make money. unless you are in the school transport business.


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