Sunday, April 8th, 2018
The matatu industry has grown from humble beginnings in the 1960s to become a dominant player in the transport sector. But it has not been without controversy, and has attracted headlines for rowdiness, disregard for basic traffic rules, harassment of passengers, and even sexual harassment.
The battle for the control of the multibillion-shilling industry has seen corruption reach unprecedented levels as police officers collude with matatu owners and saccos, as well the emergence of gangs that protect various interests.
Trade unionist and Cotu Secretary-General Francis Atwoli says cartels have long taken advantage of the industry as passengers suffer at the hands of gangs that have taken control of the unorganised transport system in the capital city.
“Some matatu drivers and touts have also been accused of drugging and robbing female passengers. Kenyans and workers have suffered iat the hands of gangs in unorganised and uncontrollable matatu transport system,” Mr Atwoli told the Nation.
Mr Atwoli believes that one reason why the industry has remained largely unregulated is because of the determination of the matatu owners, saccos and government agencies to control the billions of shillings generated by the industry.
“Once you enter a matatu, you lose your freedom and dignity. Some passengers have been sexually harassed by the conductors, who sometimes run away with passengers’ money,” he adds.
That is why many commuters were delighted when the National Youth Service (NYS) introduced commuter buses on seven city route last month.
However, matatu owners and operators opposed the move, saying it would drive them out of business and render hundreds of youths employed by the industry, jobless.
The 27 NYS buses — another 50 will be released later — charge a flat rate fare of Sh20 on all the routes, which is much lower than what most matatus charge during off-peak hours.
Matatus are generally associated with bad behaviour, notably reckless drivers and rude conductors, which sometimes leads to loss of passengers’ luggage. Indeed, there have been reports that some matatu crews collude with thugs to rob passengers.
In contrast, riding in the NYS buses is a pleasant experience, since passengers’ safety and comfort are assured.
In the past year alone, at least a dozen people have died on roads in the city centre as a result of reckless driving and speeding by matatus, according to government data.
NYS Director-General Richard Ndubai says that the bus project is a long-term plan to resolve decades of transport crisis in Nairobi, which aims at serving four purposes, namely to decongest the city streets, restore discipline in the commuter industry, stabilise fares and offer affirmative action to the vulnerable.
“We are guided by the mandate of offering voluntary service to the public. For instance, we have cleaned several slums, which fall under county governments,” he says.
The director-general adds that the project is meant to create jobs for the youth, and not to render them jobless as some people claim. Besides, it is not meant to compete with matatus, but rather to provide alternative transport or supplement the service offered by matatus.
“This project is designed to create jobs for the youth. We are also not in competition with them (matatu industry). We only operate during peak hours, and from Monday to Friday,” offers Mr Ndubai.
He says the project will primarily target Nairobi with the aim of returning scheduled transport to the city and also to enable commuters to predict fares.
To the skeptics who have likened the project to the failed Nyayo Buses of former President Daniel Arap Moi’s era, Mr Ndubai avers that the venture is different, because a feasibility study was carried out to ascertain its viability.
“We have an organised model, schedule, time and fare. Above all, we are guided by our mandate,” he says.
“We are acquiring 60 more buses, monitor the performance and take appropriate action thereafter.”
County governments are yet to receive full allocations of development funds for this financial year as the national government grapples with a cash crisis.
Though most have settled staff salaries, interviews showed that counties have been starved of development cash by the National Treasury.
Operations have been affected, with procurement and supplies being worst hit.
In Mt Kenya, a number of counties have suspended the implementation of some programmes as they struggle to continue paying salaries.
Others are only paying net salaries but have not remitted deductions to the National Hospital Insurance Fund, National Social Security Fund, pension, bank loans, sacco contributions and others.
Tharaka-Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki has proposed fiscal consolidation measures, including stopping all international travel and other avoidable costs in order to pay salaries.
He said just two months to the end of the financial year, his county has received only 50 per cent of its share from the Treasury, instead of 75 per cent.
“The disbursement of cash by the Treasury is poor and this has made county governments concentrate on priorities,” Mr Njuki said.
Laikipia Deputy Governor John Mwaniki said the administration has paid its more than 1,800 employees their March salaries but has not honoured the statutory deductions.
He admitted that the county government is facing problems paying suppliers.
“We will pay them almost three times the cost of commodities once the money becomes available,” Mr Mwaniki said.
“For continued supply of goods and services to the devolved government, we have agreed to pay a heavy penalty since we cannot settle the bills promptly.”
The situation is not different in Murang’a.
The construction of Murang’a County Creameries plant, which was expected to be completed this month has stalled, leading to an increase in milk prices.
However, the situation in Isiolo is different.
County secretary Ahmed Galgalo said the devolved government is offering all services.
In the North Rift and Western counties, services have almost ground to a halt.
Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati yesterday said counties have not received any funding since October 2017, derailing services.
The situation is the same in Uasin Gishu and Baringo counties where implementation of projects is down due to lack of cash.
Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago singled out completion of Kipchoge Keino Stadium as one of the stalled projects.
West Pokot County finance and planning executive Francis Kitalawiyan said completion time of some projects will be affected by the cash crunch.
“The delay has greatly affected operations. Health, bursaries, disaster management and public works, the public service and procurement are the most affected. It is hard to work within deadlines when there is no money,” Mr Kitalawiyan said.
He admitted that the devolved unit has been struggling to pay workers’ salaries.
Nakuru County employees told the Nation that they are yet to be get their March pay.
Those in Laikipia and Narok counties, the Nation learnt, received their salaries on Friday.
Kericho County last received its allocation in January.
The administration has resorted to using local revenue to run services, according to finance executive Patrick Mutai.
In Kisii, finance executive John Momanyi said the county received the last tranche of funds from the national government — Sh600 million — in November 2017.
“We anticipate nothing but a bleak scenario if the delays continue,” he told the Nation by phone.
Lamu Governor Fahim Twaha told the Nation that workers had been paid.
“Our biggest headache is how to finance projects. Construction of roads has stalled because we do not have money,” he said.
Kwale has paid its workers, suppliers and contractors.
Taita-Taveta County employees have not received their March pay.
“The inconsistency in disbursement of funds has crippled services and stalled several projects,” finance executive Vincent Masawi told journalists.
Mombasa County has also paid its employees while the devolved government in Kakamega is struggling to buy drugs for the referral hospital and many other health institutions.
In two weeks’ time, governors will be holding their annual devolution conference, which celebrates the milestones achieved by the counties since 2013.
The theme for the fifth conference, which runs from April 23-27 in Kakamega County, is “Sustainable, productive, effective and efficient governments for results delivery”.
The event comes at a time when the latest Ipsos Synovate survey shows that 84 per cent of Kenyans are supportive of devolution.
In 2014, just months after the first county governments started working, only 69 per cent of the population supported it.
But since then support has increased, with the highest previous level of support being 82 per cent in 2015.
This year’s conference will be different, in that it has adopted a sector-based approach in four areas: health, agriculture, trade and manufacturing, Infrastructure and urban development.
According to a conference concept note released by the Council of Governors, each sector will have breakout sessions with a guiding theme, and will address the relevant emerging policy and legislative issues.
“It is now time for county governments to overcome the initial challenges; build on what was achieved in the first term with the goal of delivering real-time results to their constituents,” the CoG note said.
“Counties have been regarded as the frontiers for economic and social development, and if well-managed, will transform Kenya into an industrialised, middle-income country providing a high quality of life to its citizens,” the note added.
The proceedings and presentations made at the conference will be synthesised and published as a report, and a final communication will be generated at the end of the conference.
“The respective technical teams shall develop a sector-based programme to guide the discussions within the sector for the two days of deliberations.
“The structure and content of the sectoral programme shall be approved at the main multi-stakeholder planning meeting and at the steering committee level,” the document said of the conference to be opened by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, who has asked Kenyans to turn up for the conference, said governors should focus on service delivery.
“To whom much is given, much is expected. Since the majority of Kenyans support devolution, they also have high expectations of it, and of its guardians.
“From the national government to the county governments to development partners and the private sector,” Mr Wamalwa said.
Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka noted that senators will be fully involved in the conference, unlike in previous years.
He made the remarks as the Senate leadership expressed optimism of better working relations between the governors, senators and the National Assembly.
Mr Lusaka, who was speaking in Nakuru during a two-day retreat for the Senate leadership, blamed the acrimony witnessed in the previous House on vested interests among some House members eyeing governorship posts and their respective county bosses.
Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua asked his colleagues to answer audit queries as the Senate prepares to question 33 governors over the misappropriation of funds in their counties.
Speaking in Nyeri during a two-day benchmarking tour, Mr Mutua said the concerns raised by Auditor-General Edward Ouko are “normal” and proof that county governments are working.
Labour Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani has asked striking lecturers to go back to the negotiation table following the declaration by the Employment and Labour Relations Court last Friday that their industrial action is illegal.
Mr Yattani on Sunday said that the ministry has initiated talks with the lecturers, their employer – the Inter-Public Universities Councils Consultative Forums (IPUCCF) – and the relevant government ministries and departments with a view to ending the work boycott.
In a statement to newsrooms, the CS also asked IPUCCF to present a counter-proposal to the one given by the lecturers to enable parties negotiate the 2017-2021 collective bargain agreement.
He further asked the ministries of Education and National Treasury as well as the Salaries and Remuneration Commission to help the parties negotiate agreeable terms to end the stalemate that has paralysed learning in public universities for the past one month.
“I welcome the Employment and Labour Relations Court ruling and appeal to Uasu to call off the strike and call upon its members to resume duty in complying with the court order,” Mr Yattani said.
“I appeal to all parties to move away from the hard stance approach to collective bargaining and adopt a mutual gain bargaining, which will result in a win-win position and sustainable outcome.
“I further urge parties to desist from threats or other acts which may derail the conciliation process,” he added.
Separately, Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed has convened a meeting of all council chairmen of the 31 public universities and colleges today to find a solution to the strike.
In a letter signed by University Education Principal Secretary Japhet Ntiba, Ms Mohamed said the meeting will discuss the best way to handle the strike which has disrupted learning in some of the universities.
“The strike has persisted even after a court order that the strike is unprotected,” Prof Ntiba said.
He said the meeting, scheduled for 2pm, will seek the best way to restore normalcy at universities.
The meeting comes just two days after IPUCCF asked vice chancellors to discipline staff who do not report back to work today.
Union leaders who have been accused of disobeying court orders will be the first ones to be dealt with.
The leaders of the University Academic Staff Union (Uasu) and the Kenya University Staff Union (Kusu) may be sent home.
University chapter leaders of the Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions, Hospitals and Allied Workers (Kudheiha) may also be fired.
“IPUCCF urges the management of public universities to take stern action on staff in their respective institutions who do not report to duty on Monday April 9 as directed by court,” said Prof Paul Kanyari, the VCs chairperson.
“All staff must continue discharging their duties diligently to ensure harmonious industrial relations in public universities,” he said.
Lecturers are pushing for the negotiation and signing of the 2017-2021 CBA, which is estimated to cost Sh38 billion.
The forum members said so far two court orders have been issued – on March 16 and April 6 – and cautioned staff against disobeying them.
Uasu appealed the Friday court ruling arguing that they stand to suffer damages should the orders issued by Justice Onesmus Makau stand.
The union said it will pursue justice up to the Supreme Court.
Normally politically shrewd, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week found himself floating like a drop on a swaying arrowroot leaf.
At issue was the fate of an estimated 35,000 to 39,000 miserable souls from Africa in Israel.
They are mostly from Sudan and Eritrea.
Over the years they trekked through Egypt, across the Sinai and entered Israel.
They left behind war—the Sudanese—and the—the Eritreans, a lifetime military service, to say nothing of, to be generous, President Isayas Afewerki’s heavy-handedness.
Describe them with whichever way you want: migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, or infiltrators as the Israeli officialdom does, meaning they are unwanted.
Between 2001 and 2012, Israel constructed a fence along its border with Sinai in Egypt.
According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz last week, the “infiltration” was near zero in 2016.
Determined to rid the country of the “infiltrators” the prime minister has devised numerous schemes. None worked.
The previous one was an April 1 to deport single men.
The High Court ordered suspension. Some Jewish organisations in the country, and especially mainstream ones in the United States, made a point: deportation will not only damage the country’s image but be detrimental to the wellbeing of Jews in other countries they call home.
Last Monday afternoon Netanyahu was on television with a “final solution” scheme.
He had struck a deal with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
The agency will sweet talk countries in the West to settle one and Israel will keep one over five years. “ It’s a good agreement,” Haaretz quoted Netanyahu saying. The “Chosen People” diehards struck.
On Tuesday, he suspended the deal. It’s doubtful these Africans went to Israel for the love of mostly desert. They had plenty of it back home.
Like Jews, and others have done over thousands of years, they fled inhumanity inflicted by humans. They are seeking shelter to live decently and move on.
Anyway, the hostility, and not all Israelis have that baggage, is fuelled by “We the chosen syndrome,” Mr Netanyahu explained last month. Haaretz reported him saying in defence of the border fence:
“Attacks by terrorist groups in Sinai, and the worst: A flood of illegal infiltrators from Africa.” Note: “worst.”
And he wasn’t done.
“How could we have guaranteed a Jewish democratic state with 50,000 and after that 100,000, and it would have reached 1.5 million [illegal] immigrants.
‘‘We would have had to close the country, but we didn’t.”
If that isn’t racism, ask the Falasha, the Ethiopian people Rabbis declared Jews and the government spent millions “saving” them from “The Unchosen People”.
For the time being, Mr Netanyahu is stuck with his African “terrorists.” He’s yet to prove any of the “infiltrators” wielded a kitchen knife on entry.
Like many individuals gifted with insight about their societies, Kiambu Woman Representative Gathoni wa Muchomba’s support of polygamy may sound disruptive.
But the views make her stand out as one who will not go on without warning those who entrusted their lives in her hands about a looming crisis.
She is eager to share her bird’s eye view of the community and her grasp of the realities so that they can make better choices.
During the HIV/Aids crisis in the 1980s, the pandemic sent many people in every village to an early grave as leaders dilly-dallied.
To warn about the scourge would contradict the government’s position that it was a self-inflicted illness of urban-based prostitutes and their immoral clients.
Those living with it asked for it and deserved no mercy and instead should be quarantined, Ben Kimathi narrates in Turning the Tide.
Their bodies were wrapped in polythene bags and escorted by armed police for burial without any ceremony.
It took one uncelebrated social worker, Allan Ragi, to slowly change the government’s stand — but not until after intimidation, 24/7 trailed by intelligence agents and investigations to supposedly see if he had links with the Opposition.
Similarly, I would not be surprised if Wa Muchomba’s views were met with such hostility until she eats her words or abandons the cause to restore family stability altogether.
Yet, like in the HIV/Aids case, what Wa Muchomba is saying loudly is what we whisper about daily.
In private, many people freely testify how strange factors conspire to break their marriage: Marrying the wrong person, mismatch of interests, priorities and values, rise or fall in career of a spouse, betrayal by relatives, disagreements over properties and quarrels over extramarital affairs as well as inability of spouses to cope with change often come up.
These are confessions that monogamy has failed to tame sexual misbehaviour among many people.
But that’s an unspoken taboo — until it boomerangs into “mpango wa kando” (extramarital affair), with its consequences.
There is little to deny the turbulence which families are steeped in — conflicts, rivalry, divorce, separation and abandonment — all causing much suffering to children, such that any cure which would seem to restore married bliss and family security is welcome.
It took the government many deaths to declare HIV/Aids a national disaster; let’s be wiser.
Polygamy is like the proverbial vine which, when planted on the ground (read African society) by Providence, it grew and still grows healthily with branches displaying amazing mobility as they spread.
Monogamy, imposed on Africans in the 19th Century, is the seed that fell on the thorns and has been disappointingly wilting.
Monogamy has had its worst enemies in its advocates, most of whose energy goes not into supporting it but vilifying polygamy as the sole source of family woes.
Monogamy is glorified as the ultimate fulfilment of happiness.
Wa Muchomba’s point is, there is a pressing need to positively manage relationships and openness and new approaches are needed by families and leaders alike.
A wholesome approach is required if the government’s plan to provide universal healthcare to Kenyans is to be achieved.
The Jubilee government was guilty of seeking bit-part solutions to problems affecting key sectors during President Uhuru Kenyatta’s first term.
Take the education sector, for example, where the laptop project was overshadowed by teachers and lecturers’ strikes, coupled with rampant cheating during national examinations.
In the health sector, it took the longest doctors’ strike ever in the country for the government to address the issue of their pay. Its priority was buying equipment.
It is, therefore, wise for officials to address all other problems affecting the health sector while simultaneously implementing the healthcare plan.
There is no need of having patients with NHIF cards going to hospitals only to find workers on strike or, worse, encounter long queues and overwhelmed medics due to understaffing.
This country is not new to cartels that are ready to pounce on every opportunity to steal taxpayers’ money.
Proper accountability measures should be put in place to safeguard tax money from these opportunists.
Kenyans should be guaranteed of proper service and accountability by all stakeholders involved in the project.
Only then will the real benefits of universal healthcare be witnessed.
The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) will review its constitution on nominations in a bid to ensure that county assemblies have competent representatives.
National Chairman and Suba South MP John Mbadi said the current policies guiding nominations have led to selection of unqualified MCAs.
Speaking during a fundraiser in aid of Sango Sango Mixed Secondary School in Ndhiwa Constituency, Homa Bay County, Mr Mbadi said the party has noted the loophole with concern.
“I have noted that some MCAs were nominated because they were personal assistants to some party officials but they have no idea of their roles in the county assembly. We are going to do away with such a practice in the expected review,” Mr Mbadi said.
Some of the ward representatives who attended the event: Ellyphalet Osuri (Ruma Kaksingri), Juma Awuor (Homa Bay Town East) and Joan Ogada (Kojwach) concurred with Mr Mbadi’s sentiments, saying the current situation has affected service delivery.
However, County Assembly Majority Leader Richard Ogindo differed with Mr Mbadi, asking him to concentrate only on national issues.
“We respect Mr Mbadi so much as our minority leader in the National Assembly. However, he should desist from meddling in local politics,” Mr Ogindo said.
Mr Ogindo said loyalty to the party should be the biggest prerequisite in nominating MCAs.
“It is not true that most MCAs in our county assemblies are ineffective. Their loyalty to the party is also an asset,” he said, earning support from more than 30 ward representatives.
When her name was mentioned as a prospective Nairobi deputy governor, Ms Agnes Kagure Kariuki started trending on social media.
Her admirers say she would be an apt replacement for Mr Polycarp Igathe, who quit in mid-January.
Mr Igathe’s exit created a legal problem since the Constitution is silent on the replacement of deputy governors.
Then last month, the Supreme Court, in an advisory ruling, held that governors are free to pick fresh nominees within 14 days to replace their deputies who resign, are impeached or die in office.
Governor Mike Sonko turned to his 1.2 million Facebook followers to help him pick a replacement – a move that drew attention to the list of candidates he named.
But it is Ms Kariuki who has received the most attention, sometimes for the wrong reasons.
A gender activist and insurance executive, Ms Kariuki has been voted Agent of the Year for seven years by the Association of Kenya Insurers.
And in 2011, she was featured among the Top 40 Women under 40 by the Business Daily.
But a case in court over the ownership of a property in Karen is what her detractors are harping on.
She is also in court over another plot in Nairobi’s Umoja Inner Core, in which the court has called for a full trial to determine how she bought the property, which is also claimed by one Joel Munene.
However, it is Ms Kariuki’s claim that she bought property in Karen from the late Roger Bryan Robson for Sh100 million that has made her the talk of town.
Court records show that Mr Robson’s parents left him and his brother, Michael, properties in the name of Plovers Haunt Ltd.
But the formalities of transferring the company shares from parents to sons was never carried out, according to Guy Spencer Elms, the lawyer appointed by Mr Robson as executor of his will.
In his 1997 will, Robson left his estate to relatives and charitable organisations in Kenya involved in the environment, wildlife, health and education.
His main asset was a 5.2-acre property on Ushirika Road, Karen, and a half-acre plot with flats on it next to the Nairobi Hospital.
The property is estimated to be worth more than Sh500 million.
While Mr Elms, wanted to pass the Sh500 million estate to the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Kenya Forestry Service, Ms Kariuki is one of the individuals who have emerged as the owners of the property, having bought it from Roger Robson.
Last year, the Director of Public Prosecutions wanted to prosecute Elms for forgery in relation to the Upper Hill and Karen land but the National Land Commission said it did not find any forgery in the documents.
This matter has turned out to be Ms Kariuki’s Achilles’ heel as she fights to become one of the most political supremos in Nairobi and whether she survives or sinks depends on who Sonko listens to.
The national government will rollout its Universal Health Coverage (UHC) programme on a pilot basis in four out of the 47 counties.
Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki said use of Kisumu, Isiolo, Nyeri and Machakos as samples would generate the required feedback to guide the countrywide rollout afterwards.
“We must pilot to create evidence. The sample size in the rest of the counties will be 10,000 households,” she said on Saturday, during the 70th World Health Day celebrations in Nairobi.
This, Ms Kariuki added, would help the country adopt an approach that ensures its healthcare is of high quality, financially sustainable and consistent with its needs.
“Evidence from best practices in countries that have implemented UHC such as Thailand, suggest that there is merit in starting small (in the form of pilots), gather insights to inform the roll-out of UHC across the entire country,” she said.
The pilot exercise will be funded by the national government and other available conditional grants.
“The ministry is not going to use resources meant for counties. This will ensure that no county is disenfranchised in the sense that its resources are used to fund UHC in a selected set of counties,” Ms Kariuki added.
Governors last week opposed selection of the four counties to pilot the project, saying the programme should be rolled out across the country and the Sh1.7 billion budget allocated equally.
Further, the Council of Governors (CoG) demanded that the national government equally allocates and uses up the Sh3 billion set aside for the second phase of the rollout in the initial pilot.
“The Council of Governors has requested the Ministry of Health to pilot the universal healthcare project in all 47 county governments to ensure that both levels of government implement this agenda together,” CoG chairman Josphat Nanok said.
UHC is part of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ‘Big Four’ agenda and is meant to ensure all Kenyans have access to quality healthcare.