NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 16 – The Matatu Welfare Association has expressed concern over the current inspection crackdowns on matatus, saying the actions were hurting business, by disrupting efficient service to commuters.
The Association said it was prompted to lodge a complaint after a recent incident involving a crackdown mounted by traffic department officers and the Transport Licensing Board (TLB) in Naivasha left commuters stranded for several hours.
The association’s Vice Chairman John Katimbwa clarified that matatu owners do not object to their vehicles being inspected, but the manner in which the exercises are carried out.
“We are concerned with the current manner in which the traffic officers, TLB and vehicle inspection unit apply during the crackdowns meant to audit the safety compliance in the public service vehicle (PSV) transport sector.”
“The inspection teams should also take into consideration the safety of the passengers as well as their social economic welfare,” he added.
Chairman Dickson Mbugua raised the issue of excessive cash fines and stringent court notices placed on apprehended matatu drivers, saying that such measures were crude and farfetched.
“They normally demand Sh5,000 cash bail for the driver and Sh5,000 cash bail for the vehicle owner, who is not on the site. The notice to attend court bond should not be made for the following day because that driver may not be able to attend court. So it is natural justice that he be made to come to court in possibly a week,” he argued.
Mr Katimbwa also addressed the issue of TLB license suspensions and removal of number registration plates from matatus, arguing that it was a violation of the TLB Act.
“The current suspension of the non-compliant matatus is crude. The TLB act cap 404 stipulates that the PSV investor or owner should be warned strongly after repairing their PSV to the compliance standards. Only the recurrence for the violation of safety should be subjective to suspension,” he asserted.
He added that the association would take legal action or resort to stopping operations of public service vehicles if its matter was not addressed in a timely manner.
It is estimated that the matatu industry loses Sh1.8 billion in revenue every year as a result of corruption.
Launching initiatives like the Kitu Kidogo Out Project (KKOP) in response to corruption on the roads, Mr Katimbwa said has already started bearing fruit.
“We felt the industry was being fleeced of its hard-earned income hence the start of the KKOP. This business of council askaris arresting our crews any how is coming to an end. We are in talking terms where we are saying we don’t want that,” he said.
With close to 600 registered Saccos operating in the matatu industry, issues with extortion and in-fighting arise, fuelled by competition for customers and the desire to control certain routes.
Mr Mbugua said the industry has been adversely affected frustrating both owners and customers.
“The in-fighting like the one that took place recently in Garissa, is detrimental and retrogressive. Because once Saccos fight there is loss of income for the vehicles. There is a lot of inconvenience for the commuters. The economic activities for that region are stagnated. It is devastating and it should not happen.”