Monthly Archives: June 2014


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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