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Matatu operators dare NMS boss to kick them out of CBD

By Hilary Kimuyu October 29th, 2020 3 min read

With just a few days shy of November, will Major General Mohammed Badi succeed in his efforts to decongest Nairobi Central Business District?

Nairobi Metropolitan Services will next month roll out an ambitious plan that if successful, might restore order in the green city under the sun.

But even before that can be implemented, the Matatu Owners Association (MOA) has dared the military man “to bring it on” and kick them out of CBD.

Like Governor Mike Sonko, according to them, he will fail.

“If he does not consult us. You do not wake-up and after having breakfast in the morning you come and thump your chest that you are going to throw the public transport out of the city. That is not acceptable,” said MOA chairperson Simon Kimutai.

Speaking on Thursday, Kimutai said they will support Badi’s plans only if their set of conditions are met, including being consulted on the ban on matatus in CBD.

“Involve us, we give you ideas on how to decongest the city.

“We are telling him to buy a Matatu and see the pain we undergo. Don’t issue statements without weighing them, you are hurting many people. We are ready to cooperate in decongesting the city in a manner that is acceptable by us but not what you push down our throats.”

A previous attempt by Sonko to kick PSVs out of the city failed due to lack of a proper strategy, according to transport sector experts.

NMS plans to construct strategic bus termini in all entry points of the city, where the journey for the Matatu will be terminate.

Speaking on Citizen TV, Badi was categorical the CBD will be freed of matatus, coming a day after matatu operators threatened to withdraw services next week.

The matatu stakeholders on Tuesday issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Ministry of Transport challenging the government to allow them to carry the maximum passenger capacity and lift Covid-19 restrictions on numbers.

The chairperson of the Matatu and Bodaboda Operators Federation Kushian Muchiri said the matatus had issued a seven-day ultimatum to the government.

“We are giving the government up to Tuesday next week to relax Covid-19 restrictions in the matatu sector just like it had done to other industries or matatus will also carry 100 per cent full capacity. We called off the strike yesterday (Tuesday) after consultations with the Interior Ministry and Transport and said this week we will have a meeting to sort out issues we are having,” said Muchiri.

The operators are protesting the requirement on 60 per cent capacity imposed in March by the Ministry of Health to help contain the spread of Covid-19.

“Either we carry full capacity or we take all our vehicles to the police station by next week Tuesday, the Covid-19 that’s in matatus is the same in planes and trains and we are telling the government not to underestimate us,” added Jamal Ibrahim of the Association of Matatu Operators.

He said the sector had made numerous requests to authorities to no avail even as many public service operators have been defying the PSV Covid-19 rules.

In Mombasa, commuters and matatu operators were on Tuesday morning arrested after police launched a crackdown on those flouting Covid-19 regulations and more than100 PSVs impounded during the dawn raid.

Police said those arrested had no masks and the matatus had not provided them with water and soap to wash their hands hence they will be charged with flouting public health rules.

All public transport users are required to wear masks that must cover the mouth and nose as part of the measures announced by the Health Ministry to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Kenya.

In May, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe gazetted a list of hefty penalties against violators.

“Users of public or private transport and public transport operators shall wear proper masks that must cover the mouth and nose. They should also maintain a physical distance of not less than a metre,” Mr Kagwe said in the Kenya Gazette Supplement No 41.

“A person who commits an offence under these rules shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding Sh20,000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or both.”