The Pain of Losses And Sweat in Matatu Crackdown

The government yesterday vowed it will not back down on enforcement of the ‘Michuki rules’ as an estimated 2,000 offenders were netted in day one of the PSVs crackdowns.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said the government will not be intimidated by the boycott by a section of PSV operators.

“I have been told that some operators have decided to withdraw their vehicles. That is fine; they can keep them at home as long as they want because we are not changing our position. They are free to keep them away,” Matiang’i said during an inspection tour of the NTSA.

Known for his firm and unwavering positions on causes he picks to prosecute, Matiang’i was yesterday breathing fire at defiant matatu operators.

He and Transport CS James Macharia struck a hardline stance on the government resolve to root out impunity and lawlessness on Kenyan roads amid reports the ministry had revoked licences for 64 Saccos that had withdrawn their services.

Matiang’i who in charge of Coordination of National Government posed: “Do you know when you are licensed, you are not licenced to blackmail people. You are licenced to do a business and if you are doing so on the basis of blackmail, then you cannot continue doing that. Then it is time to relook at all those licences all over again.”

Most non-compliant PSV operators yesterday pulled their vehicles off the roads in an attempt to force the government to back down. The result was a major crisis in the public transport sector.

Read: Michuki Rules: Kenya back to square one

Thousands of commuters were stranded countrywide as the operators’ associations ganged up in a coordinated boycott.

The Matatu Owners Association estimates that there are some 200,000 registered matatus in the country with 20,000 of them in Nairobi alone. But NTSA had only licenced 53,629 in 2017.

According to the Matatu Owners Association, there are up to 439,000 crew in the Matatu sector who are paid on a daily basis, meaning that dependents could be weighed down by the hard economic times without such an income.

The industry generates over Sh200 billion annually in revenue with 70 per cent of Kenyans relying on public transport. Last year, earnings from road transport traffic hit Sh349 billion according to MOA statistics.

The disruption in the transport service is likely to cause huge losses to other sectors that rely on the matatu industry. These include agriculture, energy, jua kali, and manufacturing and hospitality.

After protracted consultations, the government had issued a notice to all public service vehicles to comply with the Traffic Act and legal notices by November 12.

According to statistics from NTSA, 85 per cent of PSVs are properly licensed, while 74 per cent and 68 per cent of drivers and conductors respectively are compliant with traffic laws.

NTSA says 15 per cent of Matatu Saccos has not complied with the regulations, which is said to have contributed to the high death toll on Kenyan roads.

About 8,000 people have died in road accidents in the last three years. Last month, 58 people were killed in a horrific bus crash at Fort Ternan near Kericho, raising the number to 2,585 deaths on Kenyan this year compared to 2,331 during the same period last year.

The crackdown has been times a month before the festive season when it is suspected defective vehicles are sneaked onto roads to exploit the high demand. Last December was the bloodiest ever, recording 358 deaths compared to 289 the previous year.

Speaking during a press briefing yesterday, Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinett said drivers, conductors and passengers who did not comply with the traffic regulations had been arrested around the country.

Private car owners and motorbike users also faced the crunch.

“The figures that I am receiving now is that close to 2,000 offenders have been arrested. These include matatu operators, operators of private vehicles and even users of PSV vehicles who had not fastened up,” said Boinnet.

As a testament of the government-wide resolve, Health CS Sicily Kariuki said 10 per cent of the patients admitted with non-communicable diseases in hospitals in Kenya are those with injuries caused by road accidents that can be avoided.

She said the injuries are either caused by boda boda or carelessness on the road which if avoided can save money for managing other non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cancer among others.

Among others, the Matatu operators want the government to relax the rules on graffiti on their vehicles, which they argue is a marketing tool.

The creative artwork on PSVs attracts the youth who prefer the matatus, commonly known as ‘Manyanga’, in addition to deafening music and the ability of the drivers to manoeuvre traffic jams.

In 2014, President Uhuru Kenyatta called for a relaxation of rules banning graffiti and artwork on PSV vehicles saying it allowed the youth to use their talent and earn a living.

“We will not remove graffiti and the police cannot challenge a presidential directive. Let them tell us how pimped matatus interfere with road safety,” said Association of Matatu Operators Nairobi CBD chairman Jamal Ibrahim.

It costs between Sh50,000 and Sh100,000 to paint graffiti on a 33-seater minibus and between Sh10,000 and Sh20,000 for a 14-seater matatu.

In response to the boycott by PSV operators, the government yesterday ordered the Kenya Railway — a public enterprise—to increase the number of commuter trains in the city from 12 to 18.

The trains will run from the Kikuyu, Ruiru and Embakasi stations as part of the government’s plan to mitigate the adverse effects of the paralysis in the Matatu transport.

However, the move is likely to benefit only a handful of city residents since many rely on public service vehicles and the trains can only penetrate a few areas.

Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia also directed Kenya Railways also ordered the corporation to reduce fares by 10 per cent to cushion commuters as many public service vehicles jerked up their fares.

“As the government continues to enforce the traffic law to improve road safety and management of the sector, the public is requested to support the government efforts in order to realise the long-term benefits for all Kenyans,” Macharia said in a press release at Kenya Railway Nairobi offices.

STRANDED

Kenyans in various towns across the country were forced to walk long distances as PSV operators kept off the roads to avoid being seized by the police for noncompliance.

Passengers not spared in State’s renewed plan to enforce ‘Michuki rules’

Up to 70 per cent of commuters rely on public service vehicles across the country and there were few alternatives.

Those who could not afford alternative such as boda-bodas and taxis either hitched rides on private cars or trekked to work.

Authorities mounted roadblocks along major roads across the country to enforced public transport safety rules. They had been prepped for the operation through a series of meetings last week.

Arrests for non-compliance were made in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Nyeri, Machakos and Eldoret.

The few PSVs in operation doubled or trebled their fares to various destinations causing a transport crisis in many parts of the country, especially urban areas.

On routes like Embakasi, Syokimau, Mwiki and Ruiru and Umoja where trains operate, passengers were seen scrambling for space due to the scarcity of matatus.

As police started enforcing the traffic regulation rules, in Mombasa law courts, more than 150 matatu drivers and their touts were charged and fined between Sh20,000 and 30,000 after pleading guilty to flouting the laws.

The crew face imprisonment of up to six months if they fail to pay the fine.

They were arrested at different roadblocks mounted around the county by police and charged with various offences under the Traffic Act.

These included lack of driving licenses or not wearing official drivers’ and touts’ uniform.

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