Wednesday, 5 March 2014
MATATU CRISIS IN NAIROBI GOVERNOR IS IN TROUBLE !
Public Service Vehicle operators in Mount Kenya and Nairobi have warned of a nationwide strike should the Nairobi County government fail to reduce the high levies.The matatu operators also accused Dr Evans Kidero of betrayal by failing to honour a gentleman's agreement he had with the players on Monday during a meeting in his office.Mt Kenya Matatu Owners Association Chairman Mr Michael Kariuki and his Nairobi Metropolitan PSV Saccos Union counterpart Mr Peter Kige warned that travellers could be forced to walk to work in the coming days if the Nairobi county government does not agree to negotiate with the operators to arrive at a more reasonable parking levies.“The governor has betrayed us but we will still seek to dialogue with him but should that fail then we may hold a nationwide strike beginning tomorrow (today),” cautioned Mr Kariuki.However, the Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero said he was willing to negotiate with striking matatu operators over the parking fees, but vehicles blocking roads must first be removed.Nairobi commuters were Wednesday morning forced to walk to town, after the matatu operators blocked Thika road near Pangani footbridge with stones to protest the high levies.The matatu operators also blocked Jogoo, Ngong, Langata, Donholm and Mombasa roads, with police clearing some of the roads later in the morning.
LEVIES 'TOO HIGH'
Speaking Wednesday during a press conference at a Nairobi hotel while flanked by over 20 leaders from more than 100 matatu Saccos, Mr Kariuki said they were not opposed to any new levies but were against them being too high.He also said the operators were “not yet on strike” but were on “a peaceful protest” adding that a nationwide strike would be the last option but “we do not want to get there as everybody will suffer”.Mr Kariuki said the operators, despite being key players in the Nairobi County economy, were not consulted when the new levies were being decided yet the constitution demands so.He added that the operators met the Governor on Monday and agreed they pay an interim levy but that was contravened later by the county government.
A 14-seater matatu is currently being charged Sh5,000 up from Sh2,200, while one with a capacity of 42 passengers which was previously paying Sh3,000 is now being charged Sh8,000. A PSV with a capacity of 45 passengers is now being charged Sh10, 000.“On Monday, we agreed with the Governor that we pay an interim fee of Sh3, 650 for a 14-seater, Sh4, 500 for a 42 seater and Sh7, 250 for a 45-seater as we awaited further negotiations but we were disappointed that an official at the county government offices declined to accept the agreed payments,” said Mr Kariuki.
“We have cheques worth Sh10 million from our Saccos which was supposed to be paid but that official declined to accept them demanding we pay the new levies,” he added.Commonly known as season tickets, the levies are paid monthly and each matatu issued with a sticker indicating payment has been done.The operators said the levies were a huge burden to them as they had to contend with other expenses like bank loans, wages for their crew among others.On his part, Mr Kige said the operators would hold a peaceful demonstration and present a petition to Dr Kidero asking him to reduce the levies.
He said the increase of between 150 and 200 per cent was unreasonable adding that the industry had employed over 20,000 people who were at the risk of losing their jobs.“We have over 12,000 matatu ferrying people from the city centre to the estates and another 3,000 taking passengers from rural areas to Nairobi,” he said adding that the nationwide strike was looming due to the defiance of the county government.Meanwhile, traffic was disrupted within the city centre Wednesday as demonstrating matatu operators blocked major roads especially the area around City Hall where they had converged demanding an address with the governor.