When I was young, long before the collapse of the original KBS, this was the story I used to be told about how we got into the mathree mess. Apparently, Jomo, instead of expanding public transport, told privateers of public transport: kanyoni wi hithahithe, na wonwo, nduri wakwa (little bird, keep hiding, but if you are seen/caught, you are not mine/I dont know you).
So basically, Jomo introduced hustling into the public transport sector. But eventually, the relationship was tipped in the hustlers’ favor when the SAPs struck. Now hustlers turned into vultures. They cannibalized KBS and Kenya Railways, and left Kenyans to the whims of young men who were desperate for an income. Those who are young may not now how humiliating mathrees were before Michuki. We used to be packed into mathrees, we used to stand two people next to each other in those tiny passages, and we were literally forced to sit on people’s laps. Imagine how humiliating it was for us women packed aginst the front of a man and feeling his you know who rise against you. There were even 2 manambas per vehicle: one to call out people to enter, and the other one to pack us. It was terrible.
So Michuki gave us a reprieve, but he didnt solve the fundamental problem , which was the humiliating way passengers are treated so that people make money. So come the neoliberal boom with Kibaki, those who could afford the credit bought cars. More cars meant traffic jams.
There is no way out of this. The capitalist mentality, with hustling as its coping mechanism, has to end. Public transport must be publicly funded. There is no other way to tame matatus. Not police. Not law. Not Matiang’i. Matatus listen only to money, and will only listen when we have a dignified, public funded alternative. Matatu owners are the ones, through their politicians friends, like Sonko, who sabotage public funded public transport.
This is 2018. Tribalist support for clueless, mediocre leaders no longer works. Switched off citizens, whose relatives and fellow taxpayers paid for their education, cannot work. We must grow up and mature as Kenyans, and stop believing in superman fixes from the ruling elite. We must have better public planning and public governance. Planning is not flashy. It has no immediate results. But we must vote for people with plans. Not people who entertain us with tribalist bravado and flashy PR.