I have been in terribly plain and tattered mathrees here in 254, but nothing can compare to those in Kampala. At least the few I took. Their PSVs, which are mostly 14-seater vans, popularly known locally as ‘taxis’, are completely uninspiring and boring to the sight. They are all white with a dotted blue line on the sides of the body.
I was riding in one written ‘Tya Allah’ on the windscreen, which the makanga said meant Fear Allah. The red seats were extremely worn out and hard to the bottom. Like the ones you could easily pick bugs from on your way out, but the kange assured me that wouldn’t happen. He was so kind and had a beautiful smile. He immediately knew I wasn’t Ugandan and asked what had brought me to Kampala. I engaged him for a while. Since I didn’t know where exactly I was supposed to get off, I asked him to drop me at a good spot in the city centre and he obliged.
Meanwhile, I kept the conversation going, seeking to know why their ‘taxis’ weren’t alluring like our matatus. This was his response; “I think people are more concerned about getting to their destinations more than what the vehicle looks like. Matatu owners are not willing to cash out so much on pimping their rides like Kenyans do. It’s not of necessity and so it doesn’t make sense to them. All they do is make sure the PSVs are serviced and able to bring in money.”
He had been to Nairobi before and was awe-struck by the flamboyance injected in PSVs here. A rare and cool sight, he said. I’ve tried to recall his name in vain. So, I will call him Sam. Sam thought it would be a cool idea for Uganda to adopt Kenya’s matatu culture, which could create many jobs. The only sounds in the jav were of him and I talking or other passengers coughing, but most of all, noise from the busy streets. No music.
After some time in traffic snarl up, Sam motioned the driver to pull up at a stop he thought would be good to alight. I did and took a random turn. Before long, I was walking up a path and below it, I saw hundreds of mathrees parked in what looked like a station. It was so expansive and there were so many of them. I had never seen so many 14-seaters crammed in one place. They were so close to each other and I wondered how they’d get out of that place. But I guess they are used to it and know how to go about it.