Saturday, 1 September 2012

Comparison of ``Matatu`` Industry in Kenya and South Africa

Matatus at a bus stop in Kenya
By Stella Nyamokami

The vibrant transport industry in Kenya is a major employer for many people and especially the youths who eke a living from the  ``Matatu ``industry.

Matatus in Nairobi
All Matatu’s in the Kenya roads usually have a tout and driver, making it easy to coordinate services, but this is not the case here in south Africa, in the city of Johannesburg where am currently on a visit. Most public transport vehicles (PSV) are operated by the driver alone.

The seats are well spaced and it’s upon the passengers to open the door when coming or going out. If the door is open and there is nobody moving in or out, the driver closes it using a special rope that is tied behind the driver’s seat and hooked up with the passenger door.

Since there are no touts in this Matatu’s or Taxis as they call them, the person who seats at the front has the responsibility of receiving the bus fare from all passengers and returns the change to customers accordingly, he then submits the total balance to the driver.

During my first experience from Johannesburg to Vereeniging for the fear of getting lost I decided to take my seat next to the driver to get directions just in case, I was caught
in confusion to see passengers passing the money to me, I thought I was to pass it to the driver and I gave it to the him he spoke to me in some local direct that I was not able to understand, when I realized I was not understanding he passed the cash to the man seated next to me, later learnt from the young gentleman that the driver wanted me to collect the money on his behalf, luckily the young man took over and I was saved of the trouble.

When I arrived in Vereeniging, I told my hosts of my experienced and they really laughed at my ignorance, they informed me that you only seat in the front when you are ready to assist the driver to collect money, I was told that because the roads are busy and the driver has to be keen and he should not be interrupted, my host tells me that the vehicles in major highways go at a very high speed and within no time you get to your destination.

Because of the good road network and many interchanges there are no specific designed stop over’s for the Taxi or Matatu, all you need is to tell the driver to put you where you are.

During my first days I will hear people say “after the robot” and I dint understand what it meant, only for my Kenya friend to tell me that robot is the traffic lights.

Most Matatu’s here in Johannesburg are well kept, the Mercedes Benzes Volkswagen (VW) are the common models used for PSVs, the roads are also good and they are well kept to other outskirt towns like Vereeniging which is 45 minutes drive away from the main Johannesburg city center.

Despite the long distances between towns my host tells me that the fare differences are minimal, for instance my journey to Vereeniging costs approximately 70 South African Rands also many people drive for fan during weekends.

The scenario is almost similar in across neighboring Botswana, but in Botswana the vehicles are few and the driver can receive money or Pula the local currency as you alight, in Gaborone for instance Matatu’s or Kombi as they call them operate without touts.

In other routes small vehicles which are in form of taxis carry people to the estates, however if you are in hurry you can hire it to ferry you on what they call ‘special’, this one is expensive by some approximately 15 Botswana Pulas.

Here in Gaborone the use of coins is popular, for instance from where I stayed in Gaborone sun hotel to the city centre it costs three Pula and thirty Thebes an equivalent of thirty shillings and thirty cents.

In these two towns you rarely see traffic police officers controlling the lights, roundabout are known as cycle. The industry here is organized and the rules are strict, if Taxi picks you up and fails to take you to the agreed destination, you can call the police who will catch up with it, and also if the driver is driving at high speed a passenger can request for slowing of the speed and if the driver doesn’t heed, the passenger can call the police.

The use of fellow passenger to collect fare was strange and shows the honest of people here, and with this mode, it can be difficult for the operators to increase bus fares arbitrary or charge passengers as they wish, perhaps Kenyans should use this tactic to curb the exorbitant Matatu exploitation.

No comments:

Post a Comment