I recall when the NARC government took over power in January 2003 and exuberant citizens decided to fight back rotten aspects of the system that they felt were retrogressive.
One such incident played itself out on Kimathi street. A matatu plying route 44 was stopped by an overzealous police woman. Typically, she demanded a bribe from the matatu crew but alas, the attentive passengers would have none of it. They pounced on the cop and instead frog marched her to the central police station.
Later, Transport Minister John Michuki struck a cordial note with Kenyans when he demanded strict adherence to the law with regard to public transport. As Michuki pointed out time and again, he was not introducing new law; rather he was enforcing age-old law.
Again, he received unprecedented support from Kenyans who were tired of being bundled in public transport like cabbages. Despite protests from matatu and bus operators, all PSVs were fitted with speed governors.
Lately, however, I could swear that those gadgets are as alien to Kenyan roads as lions are to Alaska. Not once have I driven towards Mombasa, Karatina or Nakuru and a matatu zooms past me as I maintain a steady 100kph. But listen to this; Matatu Welfare Association Chairman Dickson Mbugua says their drivers are getting psychologically unstable for driving at 80kph. Please don’t laugh….please, hold back that laughter.
Mr Mbugua’s organisation is proposing that PSV governors be tweaked to cap speeds at 100kph.
In the past four days, more than 22 people have perished on Kenyan roads with the main cause being speeding. I saw an official at the roads ministry saying on TV that the main cause of increased accidents is the fact that our roads have been redone. Really? So what happens to the argument that road accidents on Mombasa road a couple of years ago were caused by potholes?
Back to the speed governor debate, I think the issue should be debated widely and in sober forums. I have heard countless arguments from commuters that it is simply too tiring to travel to Nakuru in three and a half hours by matatu, yet it takes just two (or less) by private vehicles.
As long as we all agree that all vehicles (PSV and personal) MUST adhere to speed limits, we would be fine. But when I see passengers writhing in pain on a hospital bed while narrating how the driver of their ill-fated vehicle was speeding, I can’t help but wonder; why do we resign our fate to these road maniacs so?