Barriers to success; for a matatu worker.

15 Jan

Give this post a second reading and tell me what we need to do. What is your opinion?

 Before I Was somehow convinced that I could actually put words next to each other and tell a story, I was a vivid reader of biographies and personal journals; stories about how humble people who were probably the least in the society managed to raise to the top of the world. I know how Sherlock homes was founded; how Bill Gates built Microsoft; how Kalashnikov invented the AK47; Ted Turner and CNN     among other great men and women Today I’m not really interested in how so and so did what they did to be who they are; I want to find out what it is; that the majority did not do and the reason they did not do that; which would have made the difference in their lives.

  When I joined the transport industry over ten years ago, there were those I found already fully established in the sector. Those who lived the life I envied; they talked the talk and walked the walk. They seemed to have all I was dreaming for; they drove the newest Matatus, dressed in the latest fashion and dated the prettiest women.  They stayed in self-contained houses and ate with silver spoons indeed.

Ten years down the line, the same guys are peasants, old men with grey hair who hang around the bus stops looking for squads. They can be generally described as living on hand-outs. Nobody gives them much attention anymore. What went wrong? I shared my thoughts about this issue with some of my close friends also matatu workers like me. I sort their views on the matter.

We had a very lovely discussion, which ended up harming our pockets deeper than we could have budgeted for. It was during the weekend and we were not somewhere in a house taking tea. The topic was; Why would a man spend 20yrs of his most productive years providing service to the public and end-up living on handouts?

Jeff a conductor was convinced that the problem lies with the Industry itself and how it is run. He said that despite workers putting all their skills in performing the tasks; the employer denies them all the benefits that other service providers enjoy. Benefits like Medical cover; employment contracts; pension contributions among others, this leaves the worker with nothing to show for his contribution at the end. I could see the point he was driving at; but I was not fully convinced. I turned to the next person.

Elijah a fellow Matatu driver blamed individuals {workers} for failing to move-on. He said that many employees get satisfied with little and draw their budgets according to the little income. To them, paying house rent and school fee plus providing three meals is all it takes. They fail to see the importance of investing in property. Since the industry does not provide the securities as Jeff had mentioned above, their prosperity ends the day they fail to wake-up the next morning to go to work. Elijah seemed to broaden the topic; admitting that lack of those benefits was an issue but also blaming individuals.

In my opinion, I viewed the problem as having to do with peer pleasure and irresponsibility. I argued that, majority get carried away by drug addiction, prostitution and alcoholism. Irresponsibility in the sense that; many fail to build strong family foundations that they can fall back to. They fall prey to gold diggers and prostitutes because of the guaranteed daily cash income. They spend all their money with people who end up leaving them when they can no longer provide. This is a big problem especially to those who come to the city from the rural areas and leave their families in the village. Life in the cities is interesting and tempting as well. They cohabit with mostly single mothers and end-up supporting other men’s children while forgetting their own families back home. They later find they have no place to return in case of sickness or disability resulting from road accidents; since they are ashamed to face the people they abandoned.

Judy; the waitress who was serving us and was keenly following the debate begged to join in. she had a bone to break with my views. She defended women and distanced them from having taken part in a man’s failures. She said that; the so called gold diggers and prostitutes are also service providers and that these men need their services to be productive.  “We never ask anybody to leave their wives,” the bad news is that, many can’t afford to keep both ends burning and each has to choose who he wants to be with. Her boyfriend is a matatu driver and not the father of her children. Her views earned her a beer from my friend Peter.

Peter; who had not said a word since the discussion started joined in; He told us that our discussion was pointless as all we were trying to do is blame God for his creation. He warned us against judging other people and trying to find meaning in their life style. He said that every man’s future and outcome of his life is destined by fate and powers beyond our understanding.  Principalities and powers. That’s what he called them.

And Just like all talks over something intoxicating, we ended up precisely where we started; only minus a few hundreds.


Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Its life, Matatu matters



17 responses to “Barriers to success; for a matatu worker.

  1. mama watoto

    September 5, 2012 at 12:52 am

    Like your Journals. You are very talented. So what was your conclusion about why many men in matatu industry fail? Where do you stand as a family man?

    • wambururu

      September 5, 2012 at 9:08 am

      All of the above reasons; each has taken its toil but i guess lack of stronger family foundation is the major cause. I don’t see myself going that road,because I know i can count on my family for support.

  2. Mugure

    September 5, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    I strongly agree with Jeff that if the matatu industry was more structured, offering medical cover, pension, bonuses etc etc, life would be better, especially at retirement. Medical cover for any human being is vital!!! That paycheck that you get at the end of the day can be swallowed instantly by 1 child getting an ear infection!!!
    Pension comes in handy too… when I took golden handshake to start a life elsewhere, I got my package and managed to better my life in ways I wouldn’t have been able to, without that package. Matatu owners need to come together, form an organization that gets things structured and provide better services for their workers. Its great to have bigger dreams, but as long as the matatu industry is there, there will always be a need for workers!

    • wambururu

      September 6, 2012 at 4:19 pm

      Thank you Mugure; Your views are very encouraging. I always hope and pray that those in the government turn their attention to the rights of Kenyan citizens who labour day and night to keep the country running.
      Its a very embarashing that the only way our leaders know about dealing with issues related to matatu workers is using police force. courts and prisons.
      Thank you; on-behalf of all matatu workers.

  3. peris waruiru

    September 5, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    Am so impressed by your journals.May God guide your footstep.

    • wambururu

      September 6, 2012 at 4:21 pm

      Am so happy you like it. I hope to keep it running for a very long time, I will surely need God to guide my footsteps. And yours too. Thank you

  4. mama watoto

    September 6, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    The Employers need to offer better benefits for their employees. However, the matatu drivers and makanga need to take responsibilitie. Every single penny they get 95% they use it on bangi and beer instead of taking unga to there children. the wifes of the matatu workers suffers tremendously. Another problem with the industry is poor management. Living day by day….what about saving some money for rainy days? family support can be there but if you are not supporting them back then the family breaks.

    • wambururu

      September 7, 2012 at 2:47 pm

      I agree with you on the part of a great number of workers, if not majority, spending their money on drugs and alcohol; We too have cases of some who started as touts and today they own fleets. What worries me is the majority who would not have wished to end in miseries but all the same didn’t know how to go about it.
      A friend told me that it was a requirement at their company for employees to see a medical specialist {Therapist} at least twice a year. Why do you think the employer pays for that?
      However We cannot dismiss the workers as merely being irresponsible before we look at other factors that could have contributed to this end.
      I guess our debate only covered 3 would-be reasons; but if we were to conduct a proper research, we can be able to not only know what is causing the problem but also how best we can fill the gap.

  5. mwenda andu

    September 8, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    Have just watched the documentary online on Aljazeera tv. Thanks for good work brother. Your journals are superbly good. Now what do you think can be done to get rid of the marauding gangs, so that matatu industry can be sane, unlike the current situation which is horrible, full of corruption, flouting traffic rules etc? Ngai akurathime na akuaramirie mihaka.

    • wambururu

      September 9, 2012 at 4:19 pm

      Thank you Mwenda Andu– Your name tells all about you in another language. To answer your question, Not much needs to be done really; the tread is wearing off over time as more and more civilised/ educated people are coming to the industry. It was a problem before because we did not know our rights. Now with the new consititution and a reformed Judicialy – the good days might be very close than we think.
      It is only when we have good roads and uncorrupt overseers that the rule of law can bring reforms.

  6. fidelis

    September 17, 2012 at 11:59 am

    Free your self from all of the above by trusting in your maker who has all of your best intrestes,for you and your workmates who feel they are in the wrong place there could be a reason for this.

    • wambururu

      September 19, 2012 at 9:36 am

      Pray for us that we will find a solution once we know the reasons. I hope everyone plays their individual part and we could all stand to gain. Thanks Fidelis.

  7. Mwaniki

    September 18, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Good article. How will the introduction of light rail affect you and are you readying yourself for such competition?

  8. wambururu

    September 18, 2012 at 11:25 am

    Welcome> The light rail i guess is introduction of a railway line that operate more like a bus i.e between towns near the capital. I remember we had something like that on Dandora and Kikuyu routes, but the trains are always overcrownded and passengers riding on the roof of the cabins. Kenya has been ready and waiting for this move for a very long time. I don’t see the introduction having a major effect on the industry. The supply is still very high and that is evident with the cost of bus fare. Most of the times passengers have no option.

  9. Mwangi

    October 11, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    Keep up the good work! A little savings here and there goes a long way. As they say haba na haba hujaza kibaba. Financial literacy is something that needs to be taught nationwide especially in schools. That way we can raise a nation that knows the difference between wants and needs, expenditure and income. Can you please let Peter know that man makes his own fate. Progress is inevitable suffering is an option.

  10. lisa

    January 28, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    As earlier stated, the industry lacks interest in the ‘welfare aspect’ so to speak; of its employees-medical benefits, pension plans, even lunch where i find its the responsibility of the owners to have some kind of arrangement on that. its the responsibility of the employer to make sure that their employees are well taken care of and that in turn can be a motivating factor for the employees therefore generating good returns for the employer and providing some sense of stability to the employee. And also, avoid having such a money structured perception of life. Instead of always running to the government for change or support then I truly believe that we as Kenyans can come together and make a huge difference in these industry. I know i want to do that.

    • wambururu

      January 30, 2013 at 12:39 pm

      The will is there, but the mechanism is lacking. Most of those who end up in the service sector especially public transport service are mostly those who don’t have other qualifications. Majority are primary school drop-outs or those who did not score good grades in high school. The employer takes advantage of their illiteracy level to use and abuse them. what we need is new investors to come to the industry/ if we can get more companies like Easy Couch, we could start to see positive change.


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