PSV operators call off strike and pledge to comply with Michuki rules after talks with government officials
Kenyans yesterday woke up to matatu-less roads without the early morning shouting, banging, blaring music, honking and the dangerous overlapping.
They were, however, faced with the reality of a tough day ahead, trying to get to their places of work, businesses or markets to buy groceries.
But united against the impunity that has visited misery on many, they walked in their thousands, jumped onto boda bodas and hang onto overflowing trains.
Last evening, PSV owners and operators faced by resolute commuters and a tough-talking Interior Cabinet secretary Fred Matiang’i and his Transport counterpart James Macharia, caved in.
They called off the strike — but not before apologising for the misery they had caused Kenyans and pledged to comply with the so-called Michuki Rules.
The decision to call off the strike came after a heated closed-door meeting between matatu operators and regulators led by Interior PS Karanja Kibicho.
The announcement was a relief to millions of commuters who had either trekked for long distances to their places of work or paid exorbitant fares as the operators withdrew vehicles.
Operators, under the umbrella of Federation of Public Transport Sector and the regulators led by Kibicho, said they had reached a deal.
“Some of the issues that we have discussed require immediate action that will see us come up with measures to address them,” he said.
Edwin Mukhabana of the Federation of Public Transport Sector called on all matatus that have complied with the regulations to resume operations.
Present at the meeting was Matatu Owners Association represented by Simon Kimutai, Matatu Welfare Association, Kenya Matatu Owners, Housing PS Charles Hinga, Transport PS Esther Koimet and Traffic Commandant Samuel Kimaru.
Kibicho assured operators who had complied with the regulations of maximum protection. Further, the two sides agreed to have a consultative forum with players from both sides. Mukhabana promised to have all illegal and unlicensed vehicles removed from the road.
Kibicho further assured the operators that in the coming few days, the government would clean up matatu stages where most cartels operate.
The meeting came hours after Matiang’i and Macharia threatened to revoke licences of striking PSVs.
Speaking during a tour of the National Transport Safety Authority(NTSA) Motor Vehicle Inspection Unit at Likoni Road, the CS dared matatu operators to continue with the strike.
Macharia has meanwhile instructed the NTSA to review licenses of Saccos that had withdrawn their vehicles from the road.
“NTSA will immediately review all licensed PSVs that are not operating as at now. By them not being on the road, they are giving a message that they do not require those licenses,” the CS directed.
He also warned the operators against arbitrarily hiking fares saying those who do so will face punitive measures. “When we have a shortage of PSVs, it is not a license to increase fares. We’ve noted in some cases fares have been tripled. That is not acceptable,” the CS warned.
Matiang’i added: “When you are licensed you are supposed to do a business not blackmail people.Let us stop these monkey games where everybody thinks they can get their way around. We all must go back to order and we are not relenting on this matter.”
Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet, who accompanied him, said by noon yesterday more than 2,000 traffic offenders had been arrested.
Matiang’i also said the government would take stern action against Saccos increasing fares. “Some of those vehicles doubling fares on their routes will lose their licenses today. I can assure you of that,” he warned.
In Nairobi, town service vehicles doubled while others tripled fares. PSVs operating from Umoja to Central Business District charged anything from Sh250 up from Sh80, Pipeline,
Sh130 from Sh60, Ruaka, Sh150 from Sh70, and Kangemi, Sh100 from Sh50. The hardest hit route was Rongai to Nairobi CBD where commuters were forced to part with Sh300 from the usual Sh100.
Upcountry passengers also grappled with exaggerated fares. At Luanda, Mbale, Majengo, Chavakali and Gambogi bus termini in Vihiga County, hundreds of passengers fought for the few buses available.
Passengers paid Sh 2000 up from Sh800 from Luanda to Nairobi. Fares from Kisumu-Homa Bay rose between Sh550 and Sh600 from Sh350 while Homa-Rongo fares doubled to Sh200 from Sh100. In Embu, passengers traveling to Nairobi were forced to pay between Sh700 and Sh800 from the normal range of Sh350 and Sh400.
In Mombasa, County Commander Johnston Ipara said by midday yesterday they had arrested 184 traffic offenders involved in breaching a range of traffic flaws.
Meanwhile, Matiang’i dismissed concerns that the crackdown is a knee-jerk reaction and would not stand the test of time. “We are not doing this campaign for a month or two. We are there for the long haul,” said Matiang’i.
“These laws have been there. There is nothing we have invented,” he added. Matiang’i said cartels that swindle investors must be eliminated.
“We want to do away with faceless individuals who collect money from matatus ostensibly to offer protection. It is not logical in a country with police,” he said.