Conductors bitter fight for passengers ‘threat to public’
By Faith Kutere
| October 4th 2021
Hawaii, an estate in Kimumu, has a huge number of unemployed youth who earn their living from the matatu sector.
At a junction separating the road to Munyaka, the Eldoret-Iten road, and the Hawaii-Kiplombe road, a group of youth gathers at a matatu stage waiting for passengers heading to Eldoret Town.
The tens of jobless youth help passengers cross the busy roads. They also block matatus from other routes or rival ones from picking passengers.
Here, one receives Sh10 for each passenger that he hands over to the matatus. Sometimes getting passengers to board the matatus is a collective responsibility and once handed the money, the more than five young men have to share the amount equally.
David Rono, a fruit vendor at the stage, says he has witnessed many fights, in some instances getting harmed, or sometimes being forced to intervene to save a life.
“There is a day they were fighting over Sh10. They fought for a very long time. One of them, who was given the money, was beaten and his dreadlocks pulled out,” he said.
According to Rono, when some touts are given notes, they swallow to avoid sharing. They later vomit the note once away from the group.
The money given to them by matatu drivers or conductors is unknown to the vehicle owners. “We use the youth in some bus stages to get passengers for us. If you do not give them something small, your matatu will be blacklisted, and you cannot stop there, even when dropping a passenger,” he added.
According to Chepkoilel Chief William Sang, most touts come together with a motive to steal from passengers or plan rogue deals.
“Whatever they do is prohibited. There are reports that most people pretending to help touts get passengers to steal items from the public. We have been trying to disperse such crowds and even arrest some idlers with the help of officers from the county government, but they still come back,” said Sang.
Sang says a number of those involved are victims of drug abuse and sometimes are caught intoxicated. He has been offering guidance and counselling to the youth, giving them other self-employment options.
The administrator claims the spike in the number of youth in this illegal business is because of tough economic times occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic and unemployment.
Others who engage in the business were once drivers or matatu touts with known Saccos, but were later relieved of their jobs due to their behaviours.
Passengers have suffered in the hands of these men, as most of them are abusive and would not take it lightly if one boards a matatu they did not choose.
“The problem is that people do not report incidences of theft. It is challenging when dealing with such people without a complainant who will be willing to appear in court if the suspect is arraigned,” Sang added.
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