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Matatu operators call off strike, apologise to suffering commuters

By Standard Team | November 13th 2018
Police officer pushes a motorbike after arresting the rider at KFA roundabout in Nakuru Town on November 12,2018. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Transport operators have called off a nationwide strike that left commuters stranded.

An hour-long meeting yesterday between Government agencies and operators of public service vehicles also saw the setting up of a team to address problems in the transport sector. The operators apologised to the public for the inconvenience caused by the strike.

This came hours after a crackdown aimed at restoring sanity on the country’s roads kicked off. The operation was to ensure operators’ compliance to rules gazetted 15 years ago by then Transport minister John Michuki.

Thousands of commuters across the country were stranded after operators pulled their vehicles off the roads to protest at the enforcement of the ‘Michuki rules’.

The chairman of the Federation of Public Transport Operators, Edwin Mukabana, announced that PSV operators had resolved to call off the strike effective immediately. However, he said only PSVs that had complied with the rules would resume service.

“I would like to urge all who have complied to put their vehicles back on the roads so that we can start operating as we move forward. I would also like to send an apology to all our passengers telling them that we will be back on the roads as soon as we walk out of this place. We are sorry but we had to withdraw our vehicles from the roads so we could find a way forward,” said Mr Mukabana.

He added that the PSV operators had reached a consensus with the Government on how to move forward.

Rule of law

“From now henceforth, we will bring all the issues relating to the industry to the Government for negotiations, but most of all, we must follow the rule of law. We are in business and we shouldn’t be treated just like any other people. The Government has agreed to help us do business.”

Mukabana was speaking during the signing of a memorandum of understanding between PSV operators, the Ministry of Transport, the National Transport and Safety Agency (NTSA) and the Ministry of Interior in light of the ongoing enforcement of the ‘Michuki rules’.

The meeting, held at Harambee House, was attended by Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho, his Transport colleague, Esther Koimett, and representatives from NTSA.

Mr Kibicho announced that the Government, in collaboration with key players from the transport sector, had formed a task force to look into challenges.

The names of the members of the task force would be announced and it would begin operations in a week’s time.

The challenges presented by the federation included cartels at stages, unfair competition from private vehicles, compliance with the ‘Michuki rules’ as well as restoring sanity on the roads.

On cartels, the PS said they would be cleared from all stages in a couple of days. He observed that they made it difficult for PSV operators to conduct their business.

“People whose only business is to fleece legitimate PSV operators will be dealt with. The Government has resolved to commit them to the rule of law because they know that what they are doing is illegal,” Kibicho said.

He added that the Government had launched a nationwide crackdown on Probox and other private vehicles carrying passengers but not licensed to operate as PSVs.

“We have also been made aware of clogging in vehicle inspection centres but we will address that by enhancing capacity,” added Kibicho.

Yellow line

The PS said issues such as the yellow line, which had two contradictory laws guiding it, and the hiking of fares by matatu operators when it rained were still being deliberated on.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said the Government would not relent in the latest crackdown to streamline the transport sector.

Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed direct schools to use their vehicles to transport Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination candidates to and from school.

[Report by Josphat Thiong’o, Cyrus Ombati, Audrey Korir and Jean Ruhiu]

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