By Nicholas Waitathu
KENYA: Matatu drivers, who are routinely pulled over by police at checkpoints, claim they must pay bribes equivalent to several seat fares, even when they have not committed a crime or – in a racket that the Transport Commandant is now urging Kenyan citizens to bring to an end.
“If I don’t please the officers with cash, the traffic police officers will keep on harassing me every other moment I am passing that road and even when I have not committed any offence,” said a driver who operates along Nairobi-Nyeri road, and pays out Sh1,000 a day along a chicken run of road blocks.
Officer at roadblocks
A driver who operates from Nairobi to Nakuru says in every day, he has to set aside between Sh1,000 and Sh2,000 to give to the officers manning roadblocks.
The fare for the route is Sh300 to Sh350, meaning the ‘bribe slice’ accounts for as much as 20 per cent of his fares, across three trips and assuming every seat is full.
“If I don’t give the amount, which in most cases is in parts of Sh50, Sh100, Sh200, and sometimes Sh3,000 depending on the offence nature, I will be sought, arbitrarily arrested by a contingent of traffic officers and arraigned in court to answer unclear charges,” the driver said on condition of anonymity.
His fear is that the new higher fines with the Traffic Act may mean this ‘bribe slice’ may even rise above 20 per cent of all his takings. “Instead of a driver or conductor being taken to court for any traffic offence, he or she will negotiate with the officer to pay a big share, though less than the stated fine in the Traffic Act,” he said.
Under the new Act, a driver or conductor arrested for obstruction can be fined up to Sh50,000, but is likely to pay half, or around Sh25,000, as a bribe to be allowed to continue operating.
Samson Mwangangi, a matatu driver along Nairobi-Mombasa road says, however, that it is the Matatu industry workers themselves to blame as they fail to observe traffic rules.
“Through their insubordination culture, the driver and conductors have continued to operate as if the country does not have laws, hence increasing criminality in the road transport,” he said.