Matatu operators think technology is their enemy


Kenyan matatu operators are well known for their defiance when it comes to anything that to them, seems to have any kind of effect on their fare prices or anything that seems to have them spending any amount of money. Just three weeks ago matatus’ were on strike, protesting the Nairobi county government’s refusal to cancel the increased parking fees that took effect in February. This did not come as a surprise.

Earlier this year, according to Standard Digital, matatu operators were opposed to the BebaPay — a cashless payment system for commuters.

The platform, launched last April by Equity Bank in conjunction with Google, is facing challenges. The Standard Online goes on to cite the reason for this as being that matatu operators do not like BebaPay since it denies them that extra cash that they would have otherwise not remitted to the owners of the vehicles, with those who Standard spoke to saying that the system is denying them ‘their fair share’ of the day’s proceeds.

With these sorts of example of retrogressive behavior from the ‘matatu community’, it should not come as a shock that after being given a 3-month deadline (that came to an end on Monday March 31) for them to fit their vehicles with digital speed governors, the operators are asking that the deadline be moved ahead claiming that the devices are not available. The gadgets after installation and registration to a Matatu Sacco will be able list all accidents that the vehicle has been involved in, along with the kind of speeds the driver is driving the vehicle while ferrying passengers.

The installation of these devices is part of the of the new PSV traffic rules, and the government insisted that it will not extend the deadline for this installation.

Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Eng Michael Kamau who was speaking in a meeting he held with the traffic law enforcers said: “From Monday, anybody caught over speeding will have brought himself to us and we will just have to deal with them.”

A countrywide spot-check by K24 also revealed that most matatu operators have either not installed the digital device or have placed orders but were yet to receive the device due to a shortage that has been brought about by the last-minute rush.

This seems like the making of another shortage of matatus, as the law stipulates that if a matatu does not have the device installed, it is deemed as a traffic violation. And with most matatus having not installed the devices, if the government chooses to insist on this deadline, there might be very few matatus on the road.

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