New regulations to crackdown on pimped up matatus in Nairobi
With just hours to the deadline for matatus to adhere to rules meant to restore sanity to the public transport sector from Monday, operators have raised concern that police could take advantage of the situation to crack down on the industry, causing a crisis.
The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) has, nevertheless, said it will make good its threat and ground any vehicle found violating the rules.
“We cannot allow Kenya to run amok because if you allow some of these things, we will not have a country,” the authority’s chair, Lee Kinyanjui, said.
“We have received a lot of complaints from hospitals, schools and from Kenyans who say some of the graffiti or videos shown in these vehicles is offensive.”
But while they agree on some of the issues NTSA has raised, matatu operators, through their lobby group, are adamant they will not remove extra lighting or artwork unless it is offensive as it will kill creativity in the industry.
“Although we are in support of removing noise pollution, this is our culture; we don’t have to be like any other country,” said Matatu Owners Association chairman Simon Kimutai.
“On the issue of lights, how can blinking bulbs cause an accident? They need to clarify this,” he said.
By Sunday, it was still business as usual as a majority of matatus in Nairobi had not effected NTSA’s regulations, signalling an imminent clash with authorities on Monday.
Among the demands by the authorities is the removal of offensive artwork, modified horns, noisy exhaust pipes and colours that are not on the vehicle’s logbooks.
NTSA also wants all PSVs to clearly display the name of the Sacco they belong to in letters which are visible from at least 275 metres and all tinting on windows removed.
These rules are contained in the National Transport and Safety Authority (Operation of Public Vehicles) 2014 Regulations that were gazetted after President Uhuru Kenyatta allowed the return of graffiti in matatus, which had been banned by the Mwai Kibaki administration courtesy of the “Michuki Rules”.
But, even with the existence of rules, matatu owners, in an attempt to woo the urban youth who are their biggest market, have continuously tried to outdo each other, leading to disregard of the regulations.
It costs not less than Sh600,000 to have colour decorations alone for a pimped matatu and up to Sh4 million for additions like music systems, flat screen television sets, Wi-Fi routers and, of late, VIP suites and even a fish aquarium on the floor of one of the vehicles plying the Nairobi Rongai route.
Mr Kinyanjui has, however, said NTSA does not have an issue with graffiti as long as it falls within the laid-down rules.
“Some of these laws are for the benefit of matatu owners,” he said.