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What you didn’t know about Matatu drivers

16 Dec

Sometimes back, I drove a Matatu to an exhibition during United Nations Environment Assembly; at UNEP headquarters in Gigiri, Nairobi Kenya. For the five days of the assembly, visitor from all participating countries came into a closer contact with the most infamous “Matatu”. It was quite an interesting moment for me to interact with people from across the globe and also to answer many questions on the structuring of the Matatu industry and my role as a Matatu driver.
The Exhibition provided the organizers with a rare opportunity to get feedbacks from people of different walks of life and from different regions of the world, on how they personally think of our ‘public transport system’ and ‘the people who provide these services’.
To make it easier for visitors to participate, we had a freshly painted white 14 seater Matatu; we provided ink marker pens for visitors to write {on the Matatu body} their thoughts on ‘what they think of the Matatu industry’ and also share ideas on ‘how we can improve the sector.

  This are some of the views expressed on just apportion of the Matatu. [zoom to read clearly]
Photo05111 .You gives big problems on the roads.
2. Train the Matatu staff more on road safety.
3. A public nuisance
4. Get Matatu out of the roads and introduce BRT like in South Africa.
5. If you change everything but not our attitude, it is all in vain, change your attitude
6. Can Matatu staff respect the passengers who give them income and jobs. E.g. reduce music..
7. Matatu drivers; don’t think the road belongs only to you.
8. Please Matatu; don’t kill more Kenyans, you have taken too many of us; yet you know we cannot do without you; Be good.
9. Avoid over speeding.
10. This is the worst thing on Kenyan roads.
image

I believe Majority of those who attended the Assembly; don’t use public transport frequently and probably, their only encounter with the Matatu’s is on the roads as motorist; {while driving their personal vehicles or in a company’s staff bus}. Most of the 100+ messages that we got at the end of the exhibition seemed to point at dissatisfactions in services provision directly or indirectly pointed to the Matatu drivers.
Although it is the noun in our Kenyan mindset to see Matatu industry as an easy getaway to blame for all our transport woes, {and the staff as the black sheep’s of our country,} it is wrong {not right} to judge the entire Matatu fraternity or put a blanket condemnation . There are men and women who work under very harsh conditions to provide these vital services to the citizens of our beloved country. We all know the drivers on duty -behind the wheels- and in most cases our encounter with them is brief depending on the distance and frequency of our travels.
We only see their public face and judge them by how they treat us, but; can you walk a mile in their shoes?
09122011706 Think of a MAN haunted by what he encounters and the horrors he see’s every day on his job. He has lost count of accident’s victims, {badly injured; bleeding, screaming; trapped in the wreckages;}he has freed, dressed their wounds. The unconscious HIT N Run victims {lying on the middle of the road} he has rescued and took to hospitals. He is not a cop but he has seen it all. The same man has had guns pointed at his head and even witnessed people been shot at close range by car-jackers.
He is the one guy who has slowed down to rescue a person being chased by muggers even helped penniless victims to get home or to a police station to get help. Finally I want you to look at a man who did time in prison because he could not bribe-a corrupt government officer/s. this man has a lot in common with your average town service Matatu driver.
When he wakes up every working morning, he reports to work in the Matatu industry; his job is to transport people from one place to the other. He is not a government employee despite serving the general public. Majority are not even permanently employed. They earn a commission at the end of the day depending on the income and the targets they get from the employer.
Despite their contribution and putting all their skills in performing their tasks; the employer denies them all the benefits that other service providers enjoy. Benefits like Medical cover; employment contracts; pension contributions among others.

He works in an industry full of criminals- thieves, pick-pockets, extortionists, you name it; those who prey on his passengers and also Matatu workers especially conductors.
The pick-pockets are the most common. They work in a group of 4-6 guys and are most tempting to conductors as they are in facts, passengers and pays full fare. They dress like college students and even carry back-packs and very large clipboards. They are most active during peak hours and end-months when the demand is higher than the supply and passengers are pushing to find space in the few seats available. Passengers don’t notice when their wallets leave their pockets and their handbags ransacked. Conductors also fall victims to these criminals although they are mostly blamed when the other customers discover their losses.
The phone-snatchers don’t actually get inside the matatu but all the same they steal from the same. There are a few isolated cases of this group actually robbing the crew but many a time they prey on passengers toying with their phone with the windows opened. They are very tricky, they mostly run along the Matatu knocking on the doors or even hanging on vehicles side’s steps pretending they are demanding something from the driver or conductor. They normally create a commotion or an argument attracting the attention of the passengers; some opening the windows to see what’s happening forgetting to guard their properties. This is when they snatch and run. They are also known to snatch money from conductor’s hands.
The muggers are the most vicious as their game plan is not only dangerous but also hurtful to the victims. This group of mostly 5-7 guys boards the matatu like ordinary passengers and somewhere between, they pick-up argument with fellow passengers and starts fights inside the matatu. Before the driver knows what is happening, everybody in the car is screaming for him to stop and throw the fighters out. Once the driver stops the criminals pull their victim out of the car and continue to fight on the ground. The other passengers demand to be taken to their destination leaving the muggers to mug one of their own.
IMG_0259 Then there is the corrupt element of the police; this is the biggest headache and the most expensive cartel to work with for many matatu drivers. As the legal custodians of the laws of the country, they have the power granted to them by the government to impound and detain those who by their judgment act against the law. And as the regulators in this sector, they see the industry as their cash cow. Like I said in my previous post; It would be unwise not to have a contact person at the police station especially those that man your route of operation. It is hard to survive in this business even when you have complied with all government requirements; however you may hate corruption;; there are some police officers who will look for reasons or even obscure offense and place it on the crew and this will cost you dearly.
At the end of the day, the same man/ woman goes home and becomes a parent. At least, he has something to take care of his family. It is a tough job just like most essential service providers go through, though littlest appreciated. Salute a matatu driver the next Time you come imto contact, you never know when you may need him/her.
Wishing all those who have kept this blog active for the last four years a merry Christmas and a fruitful 2016

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1 Comment

Posted by on December 16, 2015 in Its life, Matatu matters, Spiritual wisdom

 

One response to “What you didn’t know about Matatu drivers

  1. Elija Kathuri

    December 18, 2015 at 7:44 am

    say it mr.wabururu, as your close friend and fellow matatu driver am very much pround of you.

     

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