Why Matatu Operators Declined Governor Sakaja’s Request to Carry School Children for Free

By The Weekly Vision Team

Soon after he was sworn into office as governor of Nairobi, Johnson Sakaja made a public announcement to the effect that all school-going children would not pay bus fare as long as they were fully dressed in school uniforms. The announcement was made after the governor met matatu owners and other stakeholders.

However, this directive has never been put into practice, which begs the question of whether the governor was just playing to the gallery in his usual PR stunts (kipindi) or whether matatus owners declined to entertain his request. Today, matatu operators continue charging fares for school-going children, although some matatu Sacco’s, like ROG, claim that they were not charging school-going children even before Skaja’s announcement.

Addressing the media soon after meeting matatu owners and other stakeholders, governor Sakaja bravely announced, “Primary school children in full school uniforms will henceforth be transported for free in the city’s public service vehicles (PSVs).” Sakaja claimed “when I was growing up in this city, we cared for each other. Children then paid no fare to Matatus and other public transport companies as long as they were in school uniform. Why are we charging children’s fares today? Why don’t we just carry them for free?” He posed the question to the Matatu sector stakeholders.

However, immediately after the meeting, a section of Matatu operators distanced themselves from the directive, claiming that it would open up an avenue for traffic police to extort money from them over claims of carrying excess passengers. Sakaja, however, in a quick reply, responded that he was to reach out to the traffic police department to enter into an agreement with matatus operators not to be punished for excess passengers since most of them would be schoolchildren.

“Today we’re saying children in Nairobi County will be carried by our matatus if they’re in uniform for free, and matatus will not be punished by the police because these are short distances; let us just help the children. That is humanity, and God will bless you,” he said.

It has now emerged that Sakaja was just playing mind games with the parents, knowing well that the directive was impossible to implement.