Tag Archives: Rongai matatu welfare

The media is not doing enough.

The recent show-off between the Nairobi county leadership and matatu operators about parking fee was  bad publicity and not belonging to the digital Kenya we are so proud to embrace. It was a let-down to most of us who come from other counties and who were not informed about the protests and had to watch from a distance; wondering what all the noise was about.

If any body had a good reason to block roads, It was the outsiders who are most affected by the new exaggerated parking fees because we also pay parking fee in our counties of origin; but since we were never involved nor made aware of any negotiation between the Sacco directors and the Nairobi governor about reducing the cost, we had gone ahead and paid the new fee and issued with the sticker and corresponding  receipts. But when the stories started coming out, anybody would have thought the matatu fraternity had all gone nuts.

The Media had a busy day keeping Kenyans updated with the events as they kept happening. There was a lot of Matatu news televised live and in all bulletins and interviews throughout out the day. I watched technocrats from the ministry of Transport, senior traffic officials from relevant departments were also invited and were seen enjoying very lively discussions on TV; while pointing fingers at the MATATU PEOPLE. That day and also the days that followed, the industry Matatu was given the kind of airplay that would drive any advertiser to bankruptcy if an invoice was to be sent.

I must acknowledge and  “give it up for” the BIG five main Television channels in Kenya { NTV; KTN, CITIZEN TV; QTV and KBC CHANNEL ONE} for their up to date reporting of accidents and the number of people dieing -every year; and- every half year; and at -any given space of time within the year. But that is too little or as they say “a drop in the ocean”. With the kind of influence and loyalty that Kenyans regard our media, They can surely do better.

Our 4th estate has failed to keep pace with the rate Kenyans are civilizing and this has created a gap that still needs to be filled, this is in the area of educating the public/ and providing alternative source of positive leadership/mentor-ship and civic education. I can’t say they have not tried. Probably the lack of influence is because of the approach they use to create road safety awareness. We have become so used to seeing the commandant of Traffic Mr Kimaru and other transport official on TV everyday on talk shows; interviews before and after-every news segment, and any other time a fatal accident happens. We have come to know them to a point that, we can now easily recognize them everywhere even in the streets and supermarkets.You meet one of them and you are..aha.. Nilikuona waaaaapi? not sure whether he is the guy who plays Shilandula comedy; but confident he is a TV personality.

As much as the intentions of our journalist with their- fine toned, refined English- are good, these very valuable time is turning out to be wasted with -empty talks- words that remains just that. All we hear every day is “WE ARE GOING TO ARREST ALL THE OFFENDERS AND TAKE THEM TO COURT” I believe it is time now for our Media guys to” speak with actions” It is traditionally known that, action do speak louder than words. Their impact on reducing deaths and casualties on our roads has not been felt in the grassroots level where the deaths are happening.

There is a lot that has been happening across the world and even locally , NGO’s and Civil society groups are crisscrossing the country, educating motorists and visiting accident victims. Civil society organizations are doing much but the sad news is that, what they are doing is not worth the airplay. probably because nobody is dead just yet}, these reports ends up in some web portal in the internet for researchers or  proposals writers who refer to them hoping to get funds from donors and well wishers.

I got into an augment with a journalist friend who works for one of the mainstream media house over the role they are playing in reducing deaths in our roads. I was of the opinion that the media is not doing enough to improve the lives of millions of viewers who are so loyal to them and will do anything they {the media people} ask them to do. My augment was that; our Media houses have become corridors of power. They have taken over the role of the official opposition to the current government because ODM has is not yet sure where they stand.

My friend warned me that any freelance journalist {like me} who has no “connections, in the main Arena” could be committing a very serious career blunder if he finds fault with the few bosses who control the big houses. She told me that whereas i would really like to find fault with them, i should not give up hope that some day they will be the ones paying my house rent. I agree with her reasoning but at the same time i must point out at the -things they haven’t done; that they should have done; to help in reducing the number of casualties as a resort of road accidents

The TV stations can be a very effective tool in training competent drivers and enlightening and adding driving skills to hundreds of motorist in the comfort of their sitting rooms. Just ask yourself, If a kid can learn how to make  paper toys-boat-plane-box etc in a single TV programme; how much can an adult learn in a 15 minutes Driving lesson– live on TV presented by a qualified driving instructor- just after the 9oclock news???????????


Posted by on March 22, 2014 in Its life, Matatu matters


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what you need to know before you invest in the matatu industry.

Many investors are coming to the matatu industry with the wrong attitude and it is sad to see many going back the same way they came, and again, followed by debts. Below are some facts you need to know before you venture in the matatu sector.

1} A Matatu business is an expensive investment.

imax  Most people don’t see a matatu as a rich man’s game- Many associate matatu with the crew who operates them and assume that the ineptness is a sign of cheapness. But to get an edge in this sector, you need not less than half a million Kenyan shillings. This is the list you can start with, and  will take a lot of goodwill and lots of work to start going up the ladder.

With 1/2 a million shillings, you can buy a 7–8yrs old used Toyota. Chances are always 50/50 when it comes to buying a old car; especially one that has been on the Kenyan roads as a matatu for those years. No mechanic can perfectly predict the lifespan of an old engine; Take for instance; if you want to replace the engine of a Toyota 5l. it will cost you not below 350k. Other than that, there are other equally expensive parts like gearbox, complete suspension, differential etc.

Psyco front  For those interested in the minibuses category- the capital goes up to millions of Shillings. The good thing about this class of public service vehicles is that most of them are Brand new and Most banks are will to chip in the finances up-to 70% depending on the prove of ability to pay on the side of the borrower.

A 33 seater minibus complete with seats, governor, safety belts and all the legal requirement is selling at 4.7m at general motors. A further 500k is needed for a comprehensive insurance cover and about 200k for extras- this include, Sacco registration, decorations, advanced music system, trademarks and legal fees like TLB- County Governments parking fees and others. A serious investor in this category will be required to have not less than 5.2 or in-case of financing 2m is the minimum.

2} You need much more than money to succeed.

Many would have been successful matatu investors come to the industry with”joto ya pesa”  This wrong approach of thinking they are wise; is also a ticket that has sent many the way they came if not worse. The fact that you must come up with hundreds of thousands of shilling before you become an investor {as we have seen above to venture into the industry} gives some people the false illusion that they are better off that other small players in the sector. Many make the mistake of ignoring drivers and touts; rather than regarding them as important part of the investment many view them as slaves.

I get many calls from investors and one thing they all have in common is problems with workers. Majority of matatu owners never bothered to employ workers on permanent basis; they mostly relay on casual labor which is widely available at every matatu stage across the country. Casual is cheap as it leaves no string attached, the owner has the control of the vehicle but zero hold/ responsibility on the crew. here, they reach an off record agreement based on targeted income. The problem with this settings is that, no driver will ever agree to shoulder your burden especially in matters to do with police or accidents. Your vehicle will constantly be towed-because the crew took off and left it on the road in case of  police operations, hit and runs or worse hit and run accidents.

3} You are the CEO of your investment.

familiarMany investors lose millions of shillings to fraudster and corrupt government systems that control the matatu business due to their –hands off diplomacy– toward there investments. There is a kikuyu saying that says “kindu no mwene” {only the owner can take care of his property.}

Many people who don’t go far in this sector are those who, learns about the millions laying unclaimed in the passengers transport sector and ‘without’ doing a proper research} rush to make a kill. It doesn’t take much convincing to get somebody to buy a matatu since the demand for public transport in Kenya is obvious, especially in Nairobi due to the rural urban migration we have witnessed in the last 10yrs.The unprecedented hike in fares is an indicator that the demand is going up.

The problem for this “new comers” comes when the car hits the road and the owner starts learning work related vocabularies like, police crackdown, operation, kajo, wire, breakdown, break failure, music copyright, mung’iki, kamjeshi and hundreds of other payable institutions that don’t end up in the work sheet. In an earlier article “{ } I had said that, A matatu investor should be someone who is willing to spend money -legal or otherwise- to get more money. it makes business sense and cents to hire someone to do the dirty work.

4} The make; will make or break you.DSC_0419

The type of vehicle you chose to invest in; will have a lot to do with the success or failing of your investment. There are some brands that have dominated the Kenya public transport sectors for years. Isuzu-Toyota and Nissan have the lions-share in the local market. I have personally handled the three Brands in my many years behind the wheels and each has proven it’s worth.

Isuzu has the title for the most preferred minibus in Kenya’s matatu sector. This is on one hand, because of the availability of new spare parts and reasonable prices but also, because of a long durability record as is evident on our roads. Car makers like Hyudai and Mitsubishi have tried to build cars that can meet the NKR and NQR but they are not there just yet. Even the few ROSA’s we have on our sister routes have their engines replaced with Isuzu 4.3 imports from Uganda.

In the 14 seaters category, Toyota shark is the king of the road. this car has been tested and proven to operate on any road under any weather and ideal for long distance travels. The 5L engine has the power to handle the 14 passengers load with ease and still do long hours of continued driving. the vehicles is fitted with ABS braking system, fuel efficiency and more power as compared to it’s closest competitor the Nissan QD or TD 27. which comes second in passenger transport; the Nissan is easy to maintain and has a reliable backup in terms of spare-parts. It is ideal for short distance urban routes 10–15kilometers} that has less steep hills.


Posted by on February 16, 2014 in Its life, Matatu matters


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Long walk to Recognition. matatu workers welfare.

Some times late in 2012; I helped found the first Matatu workers welfare in Rongai-l. Many people who knows the industry will agree that this was an over ambitious endeavor. A very difficult organization that was next to impossible to network. Based on the mechanism that is the Kenya Matatu sector, Representing matatu workers is more like becoming a criminal lawyer where most of the times your client is guilty. whether you win or loose the case, it leaves you with a sour taste. Nevertheless we joined hands as matatu workers in our route and Rongai matatu workers welfare was born.

We started our journey of redemption as a legally registered Civil society group campaigning for the rights of matatu workers. We had set our objectives based on the way things are ; how they have been; and most importantly our participation or the lack of it.  we had reached at a draft manifesto and established the pillars that we were to build our organization on. This  is after several workshops and meetings, over the past months where we had debated extensively and discussed solutions to some of the problems affecting us as matatu workers in general. We set out to implement our first objective which was;TO PROVIDE SAFE WORKING ENVIRONMENT FOR MATATU WORKERS.

Our research had established that, conflict with law enforcers was one of the biggest obstacles that come up from  any matatu worker we interviewed. Cases of police harassment and corruption in the prosecution system was the worst threat to any matatu worker. The negative media  the industry had been receiving had also contributed to empowering perpetrators of this corrupt crimes by painting the industry to look like an almost; outlawed trade. Working in the industry had therefore become more of a crime.

Tackling corruption in the traffic department of the police was a hard nut to crack but armed with a backing of over 200 registered members, we were willing to try. Our first step was to woo our conceived enemies and establish a partnership. The police department  was  a big tree to fell and a complicated situation where we needed to be very careful since a fall out would mean more serious harm to our members. We decided to start the campaign from the top and try to find our way down the system.

We requested a meeting with the Kenya police representative and true to their slogan “service to all” we were granted a meeting with the police spokes person at that time Mr. Erick Kiraithe. It was a very tense meeting held at police headquarters at Vigilance hse. After close to three hours of- tell all and risk everything- We came out of the meeting with a straight approval and promised full cooperation from the police. We took the battle to the officers commanding police departments in our area of operations and received endorsements, same way with district traffic officers and junior officers.After that assurance, the ball was in our court, we had agreed that the police would not use the law to victimize us but it was up-to us to follow the law, Our members had to comply with the law. They had to possess original documents as required in the traffic act.

Our next step was to iron out our differences with the vehicle owners who had now teamed up and become Sacco’s. for a long time, we had related or worked on casual arrangements or backdoor employments which were target income based settings. it was more of a car-hire deals, where drivers hire the vehicle in the morning and brings it back at an agreed time with the agreed amount. many matatu owners had benefited from this arrangements since it guaranteed fixed income at the expense and expertize of the drivers. Due to various changes and increased competition, most of this targets are hard to meet and require the drivers to use extra tactics and tricks.

To find a lasting solution, we had to sit down with the employers and  revisit our terms. we approached The matatu welfare association; through Madam Lucy Mathenge; the national treasurer who is also the Marketing executive of Orokise Sacco; the majority vehicle owners in Ongata Rongai and major employers in our route. She has been very helpful in helping many of our members gain  employment at the Sacco as drivers and conductors and also in training on behavioral change. This cooperation had helped on our second Objective which was To provide legal back-up to members in traffic related cases. Orokise Sacco provide lawyers to represent their employees and our members who have landed jobs at the Sacco enjoy those benefits.

Other than being  an activist kind-of an organization, Rongai Matatu Workers welfare had also perceived the need to build the capacity for collaboration and participation in creating and managing development programs not directly related to matatu operations. our idea was to introduce members to alternative means of generating income as a group or individuals. we came up with the idea of  starting a car-washing business where our members would bring their vehicles for the service and the income from the business to supplement our daily contributions of 50Ksh which we had been contributing to pay for our office rent and other bills. We were able to do away with the contribution and managed to keep the office and the car-wash open. We have approached the Kajiado county officers and the olekajuado county council for license to open a vehicle maintenance garage. Which we plan to start anytime funds are available.

Our other objective was to enhance transparency, equality and accountability in mobilization of resources. we approached  this objective by encouraging our members to work-out, come-up and submit to our office, individual small micro enterprises business proposals- which they felt they can run and maintain or have them run and managed by family members.We then approached two local banks who gave us a special package which has seen some members get individual loans to start M-Pesa shops, Bars and other businesses from the banking institutions or from the welfare’s savings. we have not yet been able to fund most of the proposals due to lack of enough capital but it is an on going program and we are still seeking for ways to increase revolving funds.

Rongai matatu workers welfare has been engaging and networking with other civil society organizations and government institutions. we have enjoyed a close relationship with the NHIF and NSSF officers who have helped our members to start enjoying benefits like hospital insurance cover for the worker and immediate family members and also the pension scheme. We were recently included in The  KENYA CIVIL SOCIETY FOR NON-MOTORIZED TRANSPORT AND ROAD SAFETY. A UNEP supported umbrella body that has brought together civil society groups and other institutions concerned or involved in road safety  in the republic of Kenya. we -as – a welfare; intend to use this platform to  advocate for our rights and representation of matatu workers in decision making especially those involving our industry.

We also wish to participate in trainings and educational seminars aimed at increasing skills and enlightening our members on their rights and adherence to the rule of law. we plan to integrate and share road safety awareness messages among matatu workers and our  passengers {who form a greater number of non motorized transport users: {before boarding and after alighting from our matatu’s as pedestrians} through Posters , brochures, and any means of communication that can take advantage of our social space inside and outside matatu’s body.

It has not been without challenges; keeping the organization together has not been -a walk in the park- we have seen divisions and breakaways, some members have felt that the welfare does not have the capacity to tackle their issues; especially stage touts commonly known as Kamagira and stage cartels whose job description has been outlawed by new traffic bills. As we begin another year, we are glad we tried. and we will keep the spirit.


Posted by on January 6, 2014 in Its life, Matatu matters


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