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The more things change the more they stay the same.

Someone once said that, “Only a fool does the same thing twice expecting different results;” and by the seem of things we must be doing somethings foolishly. 
What I’m worried about is the outcome of the current public transport hype and this unrealistic policies being touted by NTSA. We had a similar situation 12 yrs ago in the public transport sector. Our industry (matatu) has had to come through a very rough trend to finally reach where we are and thanks to millions of our faithful customers who have stuck with us either because we have helped them meet their transport needs or for lack of a better option.

For those who did not know what michuki rules meant to us in the industry, then know this. Soon after the NARC government came to power in 2003 after 24yrs of single party rule. Those who came to power were determined to transform this country and leave a legacy. Public transport was one of the areas that was targeted due to it’s direct contact with majority of Kenyans, Being a new government, the leaders were determine to win the confidence of majority. Under the disguise of bringing change in the transport sector, ending corruption, road carnage and other misgivings, the government under the ministry of Transport punched on the privately owned public service vehicles using its three main institutions previously used in fighting crime namely; The police, the Judicialy and the Prison. But what came out of the much touted change was a whole new wave of high level corruption and gross human rights violation.
A traffic cop could flag down a 51 seater bus, check the tyres: they are okay. Check insurance sticker it’s valid. Check the driver’s license and its okay, he is in uniform; but unfortunately, he forgot to hang his portrait on the windscreen of the matatu. Now that was very bad:, all the passengers had to seek other means of transport to wherever they were going because the driver would be arrested and the bus towed to the nearest police station. He would then be locked up at the police station until the following day when he will have his day in court.

Now these is where the trick was {and still is}; according to the laws that we operated under, once you are brought before the court and your charges read. The magistrate can only give you two options, it does not matter whether what you are charged with is true or not, To avoid being locked up, you have to pay a bond of between 20.000–100.000 depending on what the cop writes no the charge slip.If you can’t raise the amount you will have to spend fourteen days at Nairobi industry-area remand prison. When you return to court after those two weeks the cop who arrested you fails to show up and you get another 14 days. Eventually, the cop will not show up, the judge will release you after some months.
The next time the same cop flags your matatu down you better give him what he wants or the same fate befalls you ll over again.

With the signing to law of the new constitution and a new government, we were very upbeat about the future of our career hoping that somehow or perhaps, we could turn these most hated jobs into a respected public service profession. There was nothing mentioned about the matatu sector in the Jubilee manifesto.And according to how the cabinet secretary for transport is acting; we can say this government want nothing to do with Matatu madness; Jubilee is talking about standard gauge railways, trains and airports; but whichever way, they will have to work with us for the time being before the tracks are marked and railway lines laid.
Our appeal to the government is to protect us from those who abuse states power to harass and extort money from us; it is insane to force over 60.000 matatus to be fitted with specific speed governors that costs 40.000Ksh a piece only a few years after we had fitted another ‘government specified’ set of speed governors under the same circumstances. How can a  serious cabinet secretary not seek legal advice from other government institutions before passing decrees only to be faulted by the Court after we have been forced to pay some people billions of shillings.

I hope our leaders will start to seriously scrutinize and really consider the bills brought before them and see if they will be beneficial to us the citizens before passing them into law.. It was quite a shame that not even one political leader in the national assembly or even the Senate is talking about improving the Matatu sector. All they care about is bringing in new competitors.

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2016 in Its life, Matatu matters

 

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PARTICIPATE IN RESEARCH TO IMPROVE MATATU SAFETY, AND BE ELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE FREE NEW TECHNOLOGY

Poor collection of basic data by operators is probably the biggest challenge in effective management of Matatu business. Despite the numerous complaints from investors in the industry, Matatu Sacco’s often do not have sufficient information and a holistic understanding of their system in order to better advice investors on specific targeted improvements and growth of their resources.
Lack of professional and reliable management structures, tools, expertise and also failure by the institutions of the Government to provide guidelines on public transportation has hindered growth in this sector and has seen many investors lose millions of shillings through unprofessional business ethics.
Better information dissemination or sharing however, makes your business more efficient and easy to monitor. But most often, many a Matatu investor, ignore or don’t have ways or means to acquire the information they need or would wish to get in relation to their investments.
However, a group of researchers from the department of economics at the University of California, Berkeley {USA} is now testing a way to close this information void. The team is working together with Echo Mobile, a Kenyan technology company based in Nairobi to carry out a research in the Kenya public transport sector for academic purpose and with the possibility to make recommendations on optimal Matatu management.
The team has developed a phone app (SmartMatatu) that receives data from a a tracking gadget with the ability to monitor driving behaviors and vehicle’s location at all times. The device has been programmed to sends alerts to the vehicle owner/ managers of all unsafe driving behaviors like; over speeding, over braking, driving off-road and hard turning. The app has been designed to connect with the gadget and users can access it immediately to track their vehicle’s location, mileage and safe driving, among others.
Unsafe driving costs money either in court’s fines for violation of traffic laws or increased repair cost and also endangers the lives of passengers and other road users. By tracking your vehicle in real-time, you will be able to know for a fact how your employees behave on the road. You’ll know when drivers are unsafe and also track the productivity of your investment by getting firsthand information on the distance travelled compared to money earned}. You receive SMS alarms when the driver is unsafe and also {on request} get a summary at the end of the day on each driver’s safety record.
The program was started earlier last year in route 125 Ongata Rongai- Kiserian matatus. A total of 10 Matatu vehicles were fitted with the Tracking device and we have been monitoring, collecting and sharing the information with the owners and at the same time, making improvement to the device to accommodate the feedbacks we receive from participants on what is of importance and necessary information they would want to know about their vehicles. The program has been a success and now, we want to expand and offer more drivers the opportunity to be selected to receive the same services at no cost.
We are looking for volunteers to register for a lottery to be selected for participation in the second phase of this project which will run from January to April 2016 with approximately 40 matatus. We are also registering owners with interest in a lottery selection for participation in the full-scale trial, with up to 250 matatus through the end of the year. Of the owners who register, some will be randomly selected to receive a device and access to the SmartMatatu application for the remainder of the year. This will come at no cost, but in exchange for the submission of short daily reports on performance, earnings and expenses so that the research team can understand how tracking can be improved and made effective to optimize the Matatu business.
Other randomly selected owners will not receive the SmartMatatu app, but will receive a free mobile phone in exchange for having a device installed and for submitting the same daily survey submissions. All selected owners will also be paid a small amount for daily reports. Owners wishing to be considered for participation are requested to register for the lottery by sending an SMS with the title….OWNER to 20788… and respond to each question in the survey. Whichever group owners are selected for, any information shared or retrieved by system will be used for research purposes and shall not be shared or availed to a third party. Send an SMS now to register for consideration!

 
 

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Frequently asked questions on matatu investment 2015.

1. >I saw your blog post on matatu business and you mentioned that you were setting up a transport management company. I would like to know if you have achieved this and if so if you have more information for investors?

We are in the final process of registering the transport management company; we have identified most of the challenges facing investors and we have come up with the strategy to address those issues. We are currently working with other saccos within Rongai route as unit managers, we are targeting to meet the recommended 30 units to get a license from the NTSA. So far we have managed to get 14 vehicles which we have fitted with a fleet management system/ GPS tracking and Cashless system. We pay between 3000 and 3500 for a 14 seater van and between 8 and 9000 for a minibus provided it meets the requirement for the current market. email us for more information. guidancetravel@yahoo.com or call James- 0704 606730

2. >Thanx Wambururu for the good work you are doing and the responses you give. Am gonna be direct on this. I am set to join the matatu industry, i have a good manager who i believe will take my business forward . My manager has told me that we should focus on acquiring an ex tour vehicle, probably a DT Dobie Urvan. I have identified several on OLX , but my question is, How do i ensure that the vehicle is in a good mechanical position as the owners claim, what sort of inspection can i subject it to make sure that the engine, chasis and the body are in a good condition?
It is very tricky to get TLB for a 14 seater especially if the vehicle you plan to use has never been a matatu before- EX Tours are thought to be better but that is not a guarantee that they are always in good condition. Furthermore the choice of the make {Nissan /toyota} is very important and differs for different routes. Nissan is better and more efficient for short distance- town service routes while as a Toyota is best for long distance and hills. You need a good mechanic who is specialized in the model you wish to buy and follow his advice. A recently government -inspected van is an advantage.
3. >I have 2M .My home is in Ngong.I have been working outside country as a Mechanic and I am returning home.I can get financier and buy a 33 seater minibus I want the matatu to operate on route 111 or Kiserian route so that I can easily monitor it. I am mechanic and I can manage the repairs myself in my home. Kindly advice on whether my dreams are valid and the challenges I might face, and whether its advice able to take the risk.

You seem like a person who is set for matatu business and I would really encourage you to follow your dreams of owning a matatu or probably a fleet in future- You already have about 2million, a financer and a destined Sacco which is route 111 Ngong—Nairobi.
You also happen to be a skilled mechanic which is necessary and will reduce the maintenance cost; what you need is a crew especially the driver who understands the business and can safely take good care of your vehicles.
You also need a join a Sacco that has a fleet management system- GPS tracking and a cashless system. That way, you will be able to monitor your vehicle- know how many kilometers/ trips it has made- driving behaviors of different drivers etc.
4. >Hi Wambururu, am Kamau and much interested in owning a second hand matatu soon. I want to join a sacco whereby i would be saving 20,000 per month. In 7 months time i will have 140,000 then i would like to take a loan 5 times of my savings for me to have 700,000 to buy a second hand matatu. Now my question is does your matatu sacco offer such kind of services if not can you advice or refer me to any other matatu sacco.
Thanks in advance
Ours is a transport management limited company- we are registered under the registrar of companies act. However I work closely with matatu Sacco’s in Kajiado- Rongai Kiseria and Ngong; I know of one Sacco in particular that has been lending capital to drivers to buy their own vans as long as they remain with the Sacco. You need to first register for membership @ 5000 and then you start saving; they normally give 3 times your savings but I’m sure they can be very helpful in a situation like yours.

5. >I have been a good fan of your blogs. I would like to inquire about investing in the matatu business.
Is it possible for me to start with 00.ksh.. I mean, can I get a loan with the matatu as the security?
Thanks

Nothing is impossible though some things are said to be next to impossible; most banks will not finance a matatu no matter how much you are willing to deposit. Different banks and financial institutions offer different packages on asset finance. The best way to get the facts is to talk to loan managers. I have seen adverts from Equity bank where they claim to finance up to 105%. One thing I know is that you need at least a six months bank statement and in case of financing a matatu, you need to have a very active business account or another matatu already on the road.

6. > Hi,your blog is really helping. Anyway I’m thinking on acquiring 2 brand new 33seater Isuzu from GM and put them through githurai 45 route.
Will the returns be good?
How are the saccos over there?
Please advice
Minibuses are taking over the matatu business though they have to face a stiff competition from the larger capacity buses. Githurai is popular with 51 seater buses and since they are in large supply, they easily handle the flow of passengers to a manageable level which strikes a balance between the price, demand and supply. Since matatu business is a trade like most businesses; where the law of demand and supply applies Githurai route does not offer the best investment opportunity. However tides are changing and passengers are shifting to vehicles with fewer capacity which are quick to fill and more comfortable.

7. >I have been reading these article and comments and just trying to make sense out of everything, what i would like to know is what to include in a proposal for getting a loan from an investor ,i know most of these comments are a bit out of date and probably the market has shifted a bit ,kindly can you advice on these matter as i am interested in getting my claws in these business .thank you for your consideration.
I have tried to cover this in question 5 above; nonetheless, I have to agree with you that the comments are a bit back dated but not much has changed on the ground. You will need to talk with your bank manager and see what they are offering then compare with what Sacco’s are giving.
8. >Thank you for your article, I invested in second hand a 51 seater bus being financed by my sacco but upto date i have not made any profit from it,it have consumed all my money but am optimistic ill make it..my Sacco have been very supportive, they want to restructure the loan n be paying small installment, my question is?
1. my current job is not paying well and am not permanently employed, can i leave it and be going with the bus..am convinced i can get 8k per day.
2. Whats your take on repayment procedure.
You have not said how long you have had the bus and again which route you operate; this is very important and I believe it has a lot to do with your current situation. it is advisable to always keep the supply line open I.E. quitting your job might not be the smartest thing to do for now. There is a reason why your bus is not doing well/ making any profit- this may result from mechanical condition of the bus- crew- or even Sacco management among other factors. I would recommend you get a person you can trust to work with your bus and identify the cause of the problems.
If I got your second question correct- you want to know my take on the repayment procedure- I don’t know how much you owe the Sacco or whether you are paying a fixed interest or in a reducing balance basis. You can email me more details.. Wambururu@gmail.com.

9. > Hi Wambururu, thanks for the great information you are providing on your blog regarding investing in the Matatu industry. I’m 22 yrs managing my own food delivery business in Nairobi, i was a rongai resident before i moved to South c,i save 4500 per day and i want to venture into the 33 seater matatu business by the end of the year. is it possible to approach a bank and what r the requirements..
Congratulation for the good work you are doing and a profitable venture indeed. You have an upper hand in getting financing from most banks if you are operating a business account. With your savings which I would estimate to be over 120,000 per month, you only need a six months bank statement- a deposit of 969.000 Kes, call this number for more info- 0722 140 378 Yvonne Mengo- sales team leader ACMG authorized ISUZU Dealer for GMEA.

10. >I have developed great interest for the matatu industry. And from the previous advise you’ve given other people I have decided to buy a second hand 33 seated instead of taking a loan. My route of interest is githurai 45 and I would like you to manage it for me. How much should I expect per day?
I’m not familiar with Githurai route; so, I can’t promise you how much I can raise in a day and also the condition of the second hand 33 seater minibus. If we estimate that you will get the vehicle at around 1.8M, I can approximate the same to bring home between 5—6,000Kes. This might not be the actual figures, like I said earlier; it will depended on the condition of the bus. Instead of a second hand minibus, I would recommend you buy two 14 seaters approximately 1.6m. They will each give you a minimum of 3500 Kes Daily that is 7000 per day.
11. >. I live in Kisumu and My most burning question is how much does a brand new 33 seater cost visa vis a second hand. I have 1.2M and am spoilt for choices to go for either a 33 seater or 14 seater, that is if am able to acquire the loan from NIC bank.
Secondly, am thinking of kisumu – busia rout (400/= one way, about 120km apart). Please show me some real (not ideal) calculations so as not to raise my hopes so high on profit margins.

Price for NQR 33 seater brand new and payment plan is as follows. The selling price for a 33 seater Isuzu NQR is ksh4,827,000.You are required to pay a deposit of ksh.968,400.The bank finance upto 80% at 8.7 flat rate. The monthly installment is ksh.135,265 for 3years.So the total interest adds up to ksh.1,007,000.
See 16 and 17 below for an actual {not Ideal} breakdown.

12. >Thanks a lot for such informative n educative thread….am planning to venture on matatu business but second hand.
Kindly advice the best matatu, Nissan to buy coz i hear kuna Toyota caravan n shark..And others..Which is best…all in all what one has to check to find if the matatu is good..coz i hear my friend bought one but after had an issue with number plate with kra.
There are two models of 14 seaters that are currently in the market and have been approved by the governing Authority. The Toyota 5Litre engine, diesel and Nissan caravan. Toyota 5L model is the most common even though it is no longer registered. The last of its type was manufactured in 2003 and that is over ten years ago. Our laws on importation of used vehicles limits up to ten years. This model is now replaced by a more modernized Toyota 7L Diesel: and custom made Nissan {box}.
As for issues to do with proof of ownership; you should first do a check/search at NTSA/ KRA- if you have any doubts, don’t buy.
13. >Hi Wambururu! I hve 1m cash and am interested in owning a 33 seater Minibus can i get a finance option frm a bank, which is the best Bank or institution ? Pliz advise.
Yes it is possible to get finance from banks as long as you can assure them that you are able to pay back the loan and also if you can afford the deposit. Most banks finance up to 70%. The tricky part is that you have to have operated a business account for minimum of six months showing deposits equivalent to the monthly installments. What I mean is; for a bank to give you a loan to buy a public service vehicle, you need to have an alternative income that can continue paying the loans in case the matatu breaks down.
14. >Thanks 4 wonderful teaching God bless u.my question it is a good idea to buy 14 seater Toyota second hand about 250k to 300k replace with new egn + gearbox so that i can be on safe side in terms maintenance and how much do i need plz?
A new 5l engine for Toyota shark costs around 350,000 and the gear box costs about 50,000 – 60,000.If you were to give it a fresh coat of paint and probably some interior work, seats covers.\, belts, music system etc, you will need about 60—80,000. In total you will require approximately half a million shillings. Add this to the purchasing price and you end up spending about 850,000 KES.
15. >Hi Wambururu,
I really like your honest and informative answers.I would like to know how much (minimum] one may need to go for a loan for a 33 seater mini bus and where to start, is it GM or a particular Sacco or bank?
If I am new in Matatu business and i want to learn is it advisable to start with a second hand 14 seater or a 33 seater on financing?
For your first question on cost of a 33 seater, see answer for question {11} above.
And again i think you should start low. What I mean is, start with a 14 seater, run it for six months or so and understand the business, then you can decide whether you wish to invest in a 33 seater.

16. >I’m interested in investing in transport business. Toyota 5L used is my target, currently I can raise about 800k. My concern is, First I’m out of the country for a period of time and the management of this venture is dreadful to say the least. Second, my view is a long term investment by ploughing back the proceeds into the venture.. At certain point you mentioned about registering a venture to manage this profitable but highly risk business. Now in the view of these circumstances, what assurance do I have from you personally as a manager and confidant regarding safeguarding my interest..
It might appear like a high risk business but it is not such. Matatu investment is a public service provision business that has very good returns. Below is monthly review for a 14 seater.
JANUARY 2015
KAY —–X. ———————————— 14 SEATER

REG.NO.
  1st   2nd   3nd     4th         5th         6th          7th           TOTAL

3500   3500   3500   3500     3000     ——        2000         19.000
  8th    9th    10th    11th      12th        13th      14th
  3500   3500  3500   3000     3500       3300   3000         23.300
15th   16th   17th    18th      19th        20th      21st
1000   3500   3300   3500   3300       3500      2000        19.900
22nd   23nd   24th   25th     26th       27th       28th
    3500   3500   1000   3500   2500   3200      3000        20.200
29th   30th   31st.
….  2900    3500                                                          6 .400
TOTAL = 88.800
EXPENSES.
FULL SERVICE. {OIL/FILTER/PADS/ DIESEL FILTER/ ELEMENTS/ GREASE.}= 5.300
ALIGNMENT.= 1200                                REAF SPRING.=1500
BUSHES.=600                                       LABOR.=1500
NEW MID-RANGE SPEAKER.= 3500      INSURANCE.= 7800
WELDING REPAIR. = 1000                    WIRE/ COMPENSATION = 4000
PARKING KAJIADO.= 1500                    NOZZLES SERVICE .= 3000
PARKING NRB.= 3600

TOTAL .= 32.500.00
GROSS INCOME .= 88.800.00
LESS EXPENSES= 32.500.00
NET INCOME= 56.300.00.
As your manager, I will be sending you a bank slip for the net income and also give you the breakdown. Alternatively, we can agree I be depositing a flat rate of 50.000 kes per month and take care of maintenance and all expenses, insurance parking, servicing and replacing minor parts.
17. >Thank you But is it a guarantee that they can pay up the loan on themselves because I have seen banks repossessing some of these buses and that might be a problem.. And on another note, is it advisable to take two 37 seater buses or put a deposit on a bigger bus and which Company/sacco would you advice..
Buses have high capacity and yes it is true they carry more passengers; but in matatu business especially short distance routes, they don’t attract more customers-pasengers still prefer low capacity vehicles that fill easily and are faster. Fare price also differs and by large margins.
A 51 seater bus plying nrb Rongai routes make four return trips in a day at an average fare price of 40 kes.{ 50 passengers X 40 Kes X 4 trips X 2 {return}= 16,000 Kes.
Fuel is = 4500-5000. Sacco contribution + police, touts, etc= 2,000, salaries= 3,000. Net income is about 6,000.
A 33 seater{ MANYANGA} minibus does 7 return trips at an average of 60 kes, ={ 32 passengers X 60 kes X 7 trips X 2 {return}= 26880.
Fuel is= 6,500—7,000. Sacco contribution+ police and normal expences = 4000. Salaries= 4000. Net income is between 10—11000Kes.

18. >Pls am from Ghana and i want to start a matatau transport business in Kenya. Pls i want to know if it is possible for a non Kenya can invest in the business. And how much is the Kenya shillings to one US DOLLAR. Thank u
I don’t think it would be a problem to invest { although I’m not sure about what the law says; but I know some foreigners who have bought rental houses and public service buses; as long as you are not the driver- you can surely invest in the industry and get your money at you bank just like anyother investor. One US Dollar is exchanging @ 90 KES. To put a brand new 33 seater minibus that meets the current market on the road, you will require about 59.000 US Dollars.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2015 in Its life, Matatu matters, Spiritual wisdom

 

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What are the Barriers to success; for most matatu workers?

2015 is a new year for everybody and this is one good thing we all have in common. There are those who are happy to turn a new leaf because it means more to them most probably as a reflection of their lengthily experience in their jobs or field. There are still others who are wishing they could tamper with the hands of time and slow the pace. those that are worried about their future.

When I was a teenager, there was nothing I wanted more than to grow up;-grow big and become independent. I was looking up to becoming my own self; not dependent on anybody. And sooner, I turned twenty and got the independence I so much yearned for; That was twenty years ago. On January 12 2015 I will be turning forty} Yes, 40yrs in planet earth. They say life begins at this age and I am surely looking forward to begin life. I guess I have been living too much and need to begin life.

I have a very good feeling about turning this page and beginning a new chapter. The time has come for me to give back, share what I have learned in the past 39yrs, A time to take full responsibility to right the wrongs; I have seen it all and done most of it. I know what is beneficial and what isn’t. looking back , I can honestly say I have no regrets. What had to be has already been. Now this is a new beginning, it is not starting all over but rather choosing which way forward.

I am 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.

One thing has bothered me over the years, and Today I want us to look at what it is; that the majority of us don’t do; and the reason we don’t do that; which can make the difference in our lives.

When I joined the transport industry fifteen 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 of; 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, much older men with more grey hair; they 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 lively discussion, which ended up harming our pockets deeper than we could have budgeted for. It was during the weekend and we were seated in a pub. 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; most investor don’t really care about their employees; their main concern is the money this people makes for them. That was one reason- 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. This was another way of looking at the problems Although the pay is not guaranteed it is not to say that there is not money in the service. There are those who started out as touts then drivers and today they are vehicle owners.

I viewed the problem as having to do with little education; lets call it illiteracy; for lack of a better word. Ours is an industry that’s only qualification is an ID card and a driving license for those who want to take up more responsibility. The industry is open to everybody who has the courage to face the consequences that comes with the Job. And Since most starts as touts in their early 20s, they are introduced to what they consider easy money and are easily lured to peer pleasure, majority get carried away in drug addiction, prostitution and alcoholism. Irresponsibility in the sense that; they misuse the earnings, many fail to build or maintain strong family foundations that they can fall back to. They fall prey to gold diggers and prostitutes because of the guaranteed daily cash income. Life in the cities is interesting and tempting as well. 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 the men’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.  “They never ask anybody not to get married or 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 everyman’s future and outcome of his life is destined by fate and powers beyond our understanding.  Principalities and powers. He said the job is reserved for those who are guilty and everybody should brave his punishment; anyone who wish to get out should first seek forgiveness and look for another job. some very interesting views and also an indicator that the alcohol was taking it’s toil. And Just like all talks over something toxic, we ended up precisely where we started; only minus a few hundreds.

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2015 in Its life, Matatu matters

 

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Our persistence is proof that we have not been defeated.

Working in the public sector for the number of years that I have served in the Matatu industry has taught me very hard life’s lessons that I’m sure would have earn me a certificate in an institute of learning. I have talked about gross violation of almost everything about our job. Extortion; detentions; long working hours; low wages; Violence and myriads of other problems faced by operators of this very important public transport industry.
Since complaining is not the only thing I do in my service to my country, I joined other like minded persons from different counties for a three days seminar sponsored by the International transport federation ITF/FNV EAST AFRICA NORTHERN CORRIDOR STRATEGIC CAMPAIGN SKILLS SUB REGION SEMINAR. It was a great experience and quite encouraging even imagining that matatu workers are recognized and qualified to enjoy benefits enjoyed by drivers all over the world.

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The matatu fraternity which was represented by two independent unions benefited with a lot of attention from all the participants including top-level ITF officials who contributed ideas and possible partnership in resolving some of the issues and also advice on the best approach and possible tactics for addressing them.

The seminar helped to bring together different players in the transport sector in Kenya, {including Kenya LONG DISTANCE TRUCK DRIVERS AND ALLIED WORKERS UNION {KLDTDAWU}- MATATU WORKERS UNION- PUBLIC TRANSPORT OPERATORS UNION {PUTON}- AND TRANSPORT WORKERS UNION.{TWU}. It served as a catalyst for the formation of new network and partnership arrangements among the participating organizations for effective collaboration and support.

The matatu industry is probably the largest informal sector in this country; employing thousands of workers; sadly; with very little systematic management for employees affairs. The introduction of matatu Sacco’s was seen as pointer to the right direction in terms of, creating some form of employment/ job security for matatu workers but the results tell a different story.
Individual Worker’s hardheadedness, gangs and cartels controlling different routes and also corruption by higher authorities has been the biggest hindrance to bringing meaningful and beneficial reforms in this sector. Workers in this industry have had to put up, and for a very long time! Accept harsh working conditions and exploitation, in return, the industry has become a reserve for a special character of players; THE RELACTANT OUTLAWS.
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Unlike other workers in the wider transport industry anywhere in this country, matatu workers have never, at any time in the past been unionized or represented by workers unions like COTU and others. The absence of shop stewards and other relevant officers to campaign for workers rights and privileges; has also opened avenues for gross violations of labor laws.
The seminar was aimed at equipping transport workers unions with skills and strategies on how to approach various issues and the right tactics including campaign materials. Under the stewardship of international federations like the ITF; http://www.itfglobal.org matatu workers will soon see strong unions coming up to campaign for better working conditions, better pay, reduced working hours, paid leaves etc etc. Public transport operators Union. {PUTON}; has already started recruiting matatu workers to the union and has opened the way for other matatu workers based organizations and other civil society groups to follow.
The biggest challenge that these matatu workers unions with have to overcome is convincing their members that they indeed have a right to what pertains to their working environment and deserve better than what they are getting. For many years, matatu industry has been viewed by the majority as the black sheep and has enjoyed a lot of media attention although most of it negative.
With an estimated 30.000 Matatus that server Nairobi and its environs every single day, we can approximately put the number of workers; “drivers and conductors” at around 100.000 for the capital city alone. The number can rise to up to 300k if we include stage workers/ managers/ mechanics/ call boys and loaders. To win such a large following, Workers Unions need to work closely with the government, private sector and the media in carrying out civic education.
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Currently there are no defined structure/ mechanism to communicate with workers across the country. We will need to develop and implement a joint user awareness program for members to work with and engage with other members from every part of the country to sensitize and educate them on issues and benefits of trade unions. For a sustainable urban mobility, we need a defined job description for public service vehicles drivers. We need to remove the name informal and create permanent jobs for these very important drivers of our economy. It’s time for Kenyans to work together and bring the change they want to see in the public transport sector.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2014 in Its life, Matatu matters

 

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It’s a new dawn for matatu workers.

I have heard people talk of the  GOOD OLD DAYS when things were different and presumed  better. That cannot be said about the matatu industry. There is nothing good about them days that we drivers would wish to look back to. It’s a reality that Change has come and with a lot of adjustments too; which we are happy to embrace. This is the best time to be a matatu driver. For most of us who are probably out of the game, we can only wish that these changes had happened much earlier. So much has changed for the better- overloading – over speeding- gangs- cartels- abusive language- untidiness- drunk driving- the list is endless; but all this is now water under the bridge. Anyone joining the matatu industry today especially as a driver can be proud to say he/ she is going to work.

It is quite amazing to see the number of women investors who have come on-board in this sector; we can say it is at an all time high- more women have become our new bosses and this should be an indication that the passenger transport sector is heading in the right direction. Barely ten years ago- this was not the case. matatu investment was a reserve for men and mostly the risk takers. Systematic managements by sacco’s and transport management companies have transformed the industry for the better. it is not very correct to refer the entire matatu industry as informal anymore; what we are seeing today is different- Drivers are hired/ Employed on permanent/ contract basis- given medical insurance cover- pension contribution- leave- and other benefits that most of us could never have imagined. the government has done a great job in securing jobs by forcing the matatu owners to take care of their workers.

Corruption has refused to let matatu industry be, and it is sad that some of these gains might be short lived. The National Transport and safety Authority has done a recommendable job in creating an environment that should secure employment for matatu workers; but some officers at the headquarters are colluding with corrupt sacco officials and helping them get licenses without  showing prove of employing the workers. I was interviewing the chairman of one of our Sacco in Kajiado north about the new regulations and he was not a happy man- he accused NTSA officials of engaging in corrupt deals where newly registered transport management companies that don’t even have the minimum 30 vehicles are allowed to operate and also poach already registered matatus from the other Sacco. according to the set rules,- Any vehicle that wishes to change route or join another Sacco must obtain a letter of recommendation from the current Sacco/ company and present it to the NTSA office at TIMES TOWER before it is given a license to operate under a different name. This is where corrupt officials are coming in and helping indebted vehicle owners to escape paying fee owed to these Sacco’s.

The introduction of cashless fare system is a good gesture but whose time is not yet. According to the National transport and safety Authority It was supposed to have started in July this year but it didn’t have the backing of majority. The idea was noble but the timing was not right as it was seen by many as a dubious way of helping some manufacturers get an edge in the matatu billions. Many in the sector and also a great number of users {passengers} had not been educated on how the system works and many felt that it was a violation of their privacy. The rates that the gadgets providers were charging was also on the higher side- for instance BEBAPAY were charging 5% per transaction. that is to say; a bus carrying 50 passengers for one hundred shilling per person would have a gross income of 5000 ksh- the cashless agent would take 250 shillings for that one trip; if the bus was to make five such trips, the agent would make a cool 1250ksh from one bus. Our Sacco has 60 vehicles; so, you can imagine the amount of money vehicle owners will be forced to pay to these companies in the disguise of fighting corruption. This idea as noble as we may be persuaded to believe is any obstacle and unnecessary burden.  Since corruption is in the traffic department of the police, we matatu operators should not be forced to go cashless in order not to bribe police officers.

We cannot say that we are in Canaan just yet but at least we have left Egypt. The conditions of employment are better, we have medical cover, pension- and for the first time ever,- a pay slip. Some of us have been employed in the management based not on our academic qualifications but proven experience.

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2014 in Its life, Matatu matters

 

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Addiction and the chaos in the matatu sector.

When the matatu welfare association forwarded my name to NACADA for a TOT training on Alcohol and Drugs Abuse {ADA}. I felt like i was the wrong person for this training. I could not see any connection between Road safety and workers welfare which is my specification at the association and the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse{ NACADA }. If at all, I was partaking on one of the substance Nacada was campaigning against. More so, i did not think that going back to class was the best option considering the timing of the training and another meeting at KIPPRA where I represent hundreds of matatu drivers under the KENYA CIVIL SOCIETY NETWORK FOR NMT AND ROAD SAFETY. I had all the reasons to seek for an excuse not to attend the training but, I didn’t.

Come the day we were to report at the college for registration and i packed my learning gear and headed to Karen. I’m really glad i did; By the end of the week, i was so sure i know the reason we have all these chaos and mismanagement in the matatu sector. It had never occurred to me that Alcohol and Drugs could be responsible for most of the miseries workers in the public transport service sector had gone through and continue to suffer from. I listened keenly as facilitators skillfully opened our minds to the reality that addiction is causing havoc in the life’s of Kenyans,- affecting every area of our livelihood and our personal health.

I had always thought that chewing MIRAA, smoking weed and a few tots of whiskey was a cool thing and also a boost to our performance since our jobs require a lot of focus, determination and recklessness that can only be described as bordering insanity. This three substances have been the source of that courage for many a matatu driver to a curtain point that- they have become accepted as part of our lifestyle. But as i sat in that lecture room listening to expert talk about alcohol and drugs and their effects on the users, I could connect every explanation with somebody i know or have worked with in the matatu industry.

When the lecturer talked about Alcohol, i could see many alcoholics by name, the life they are leading, the consequences of their choices and the direction addiction had taken their life’s. when they talked about inhalants, i was finally able to connect the -teenage deaths- of many street children who come to collect plastic bottles from our buses with the glue they sniff. I had notice a certain pattern where many of the street kids die young or develop permanent mental illness. The issue of MIRAA chewing really surprised me and I’m still very deeply concerned about the effects of this substance that is legally available across the country with no restriction in producing, processing and sale.

Miraa {twigs} and muguka {the leaves} cause more damage to the user that marijuana  and  cigarettes combined. Like the bible writer had posed it; WHAT IS THE PROFT OF GAINING THE WHOLE WORLD AND LOSING YOU SOUL IN THE PROCESS? the same is true for those abusing these products of the evergreen CATHAEDUIIS tree. Many who innocently chew on the substance  to stay alert and work more hours behind the wheels are at the same time working their way to self destruction and endangering the survival of their species.Miraa is said to have grave and irreversible effect on the reproductive system causing impotence. This alone is reason enough to break hundreds of homes as is evident in majority of users. other effects included patched up sleep that catches up with the driver while on the road resulting to serious accidents.

Matatu industry has the highest number of drug abuser in all public services sectors in our country. In my 14yrs behind the wheels i have experienced and experimented on most of this substances.many of us chew miraa to work long shifts and like i said, our job description require focus determination and confidence. Marijuana is the drug of choice for many as it gives the user a sense of well being, bravely, confidence and allow us to exhibit recklessness that is next to madness. The false confidence and false bravely mixed with other long term effect of the drug like, sudden panic, poor judgment, and paranoia [ unreasonable fear} can be associated with hundreds of accidents that goes unreported where matatu owners agree to compensate the affected party to avoid involving the police as their driver is intoxicated and also the one to blame for the accident.

Since receiving the training, i have been engaging my comrades into discussions on the effects of alcohol and drugs and to my surprise, many are those who are suffering in silence. it is extremely painful to watch a loved one or somebody you know very well destroy his/her life; but this is the position many of us are forced to take when a chemically dependent loved one or a friend denies having a problem with substances. If any, majority of us condemn the affected instead of understanding that addiction is a disease; we blame them for having a problem with morals.

Any government institution ,NGO or civil society willing to bring sanity and order on our roads especially the matatu sector must look at the issue of drug abuse as a contributing factor in the mismanagement of the trade and be willing to help and give hope to the affected. a calculated approach aimed at healing and reconciliation will go a long way in ending the chaos and confusion in the matatu sector and in the long run reduce accidents by a very big margin. Tackling the drugs and substances abuse in the matatu sector is not an easy task but that is not to say it is impossible. The reason being that majority of those using the substances are already hooked or addicted and have a long history of dependency on the drug unlike students or the youth in learning institutions. The national Government must look at the big picture and find a long term solution to this menace.

Another area that will require a closer look and more serious approach is the area of counseling for drivers who have been through tragic accidents. There are many who are suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and many take to drugs and or alcohol to seek reprieve. Once hooked to drugs dependency , it becomes very hard to come out. Recovery from addiction is a long road that requires almost the same treatment as chronic diseases; this is an expensive journey that most matatu workers will never travel. Recovery from addiction can only be achieved through a combination of self-management, mutual support and professional help. To accomplish this task we must stop looking at it as a problem affecting matatu workers and start looking at it as a problem affecting the society.

 
 

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