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Kenyans told to brace for transport hitch

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 3 – The Matatu Welfare Association maintains that the three day nationwide strike scheduled to commence on Monday is still on.

Chairman Dickson Mbugua said that the strike follows increased harassment of matatu operators by the police.

He explained that such harassment impacted negatively on the productivity of the operators and limited their right to earn an honest living.

“We are not saying that the matatu owners do not want to adhere to the Michuki (traffic) rules. That is not the issue, but it is the manner in which the law enforcers are carrying out the exercise,” Mr Mbugua stated.

“It is like a double edged sword… they have to make money and if you do not compromise, you have to face many false charges,” he said. 

He now wants the government to reign in on the errant police officers by enforcing strict disciplinary action against anyone found intimidating matatu operators.

“To the government we are saying that we still have time to resolve these issues, we are ready to consult based on the contentious issues,” he affirmed.

It is unfortunate that we had to go up to this level. If this thing had been settled earlier on from March it would have been much better,” he added.

At the same time, Capital Newsbeat caught up with Sammy Ngotho, a 25 year old matatu driver in one of the Nairobi routes and he recounted some of the ills he has been subjected to by the police.

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He explained that more often than not, he was forced to part with part of his earnings so as to avoid paying a higher amount of cash in court for trumped up charges.

“When there is a crackdown if someone does not have his documents in order, the vehicle is seized and other charges added on top of that wrong,” he said.

“Even in this strike, we as operators have also been affected, but we hope it will address the wrongs we are being constantly subjected to.”

He is of the opinion that matatu operators should be allowed to do their work without any harassment as it is hard enough as it is. 

“When you wake up in the morning you are always worried. You begin wondering whether the day is going to end,” he explained.

“When you get to the end of the day, and it is successful, you look at yourself and muse as to how you have survived that day.”

Meanwhile, operators of shuttle buses pleaded with the government to provide them with security since they planned to continue with their services despite the strike by matatu operators.

Easy Coach Supervisor John Ng’eny told Capital News that it was the responsibility of the police to ensure those who were willing to continue with their services are protected.

“We will continue with our services as usual, but of course we are appealing to the government to provide security because those who will be on strike may decide to interrupt or attack those who will be operating,” he asserted.

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He said many people were booking early enough to ensure they reach their destinations should the matatu strike go on.

“Today (Sunday), the passenger traffic is controlled, we have not seen an usual increase but we expect this starting tomorrow due to the bookings we are receiving for tomorrow, we will go on as usual not unless we are authorised not to operate or we are seriously affected by the strike,” he said.

Passengers flocked to different bus and matatu termini on Sunday to make it to their destinations after the New Year festivities fearing they would  be stranded if the strike goes on as planned.

One passenger said he had planned to travel to Kisumu on Monday but due to the looming strike he decided to travel on Sunday.

“Earlier I wanted to travel on Monday, but after matatu operators said they will go on strike, I was afraid I would not make it to Kisumu, so I have decided to go tonight to avoid the scuffles of Monday,” he explained.

But he complained of hiked transport costs.  “The last time I traveled to Kisumu I paid Sh900, today I have been forced to pay Sh1,100, I don’t know how much will be charged tomorrow if this is what I am paying today.”

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