BY CASSANDRA MERCY
The ‘very busy workers’ at Times Tower have a very low opinion of my driving skills and until they decide otherwise, I am forced to use “public” transport. It has meant waiting for an hour because noise levels in most matatus are only for the prepubescent. I cannot budget on fare because they fluctuate up to 100 percent.
It is a good guessing game to play in the morning if you are into mental exercises. I no longer sit at the front because last time I did, I can swear I got some white streaks in my hair as we overlapped on a corner at an inclined steep. It makes one have morbid thoughts like wondering what the mortality rate for matatu drivers is; it seems like a really dangerous job to have.
Public transport, I believe should be a burden that the state bears. Like water and air, transport is among services that the government needs to handle. I would like it if the government took over transport. If I am going to get bad service from anyone, I demand that it is the government. There’s really nothing they can do that they haven’t done already so you’ll approach their services with low expectations. No one can dish out bad service like the government; they remain unchallenged in this category of awards.
The point is there’ll be some level of control. I am pretty sure the government won’t fit the cars with woofers the size of Mombasa and neither will fares fluctuate at an hourly rate. There’ll be a policy in place and that’s a good start.
Currently the matatu people have taken over the transport system. It is a scary thing. Remember the last time when they went on strike and it caused a huge impact on the times people had to get up to walk to work? The fact that we allow this kind of hostage-taking and our lack of willingness to diversify the transport system sends one message to the matatu industry; they own us.
The matatu sector is especially notorious for having complete control of its own actions. If I had a complaint about fares and reckless driving there’s no one to talk to. The Matatu Owners Association cannot help because these are the very people who demand crazy daily returns from their staff. They willingly fork out half a million to ensure the gradual deafening of the country so their interests are elsewhere, somewhere far from customer care.
Being a private entity means that the matatu industry can only be regulated minimally by the government. They know this so they feel no shame in hiking fares willy nilly and driving like Lewis Hamilton on crack. If the government got it’s act together and organised a workable bus schedule, not only would it make much needed money but the matatu chaps will have to do something over and above their current efforts or lack thereof in order to keep passengers. It’s a win-win situation. You have the option of public transport that you can actually complain about and a private sector finally striving to behave like decent human beings.
Mr Makwere has better things to do than bother with mere roads, so if anyone has Mr Michuki’s address kindly email this to him. He is already doing something about the noise levels and he isn’t even in charge of transport. He makes miracles happen and this is one miracle we really need.