6 July 2012

Kenya: Thika Matatu Operators' Strike Grounds Business

Transport in Thika town and its environs came to a standstill after matatu operators downed their tools to protest the invasion by PSV operators from outside the area. Following the strike by the operators, hundreds of passengers were stranded at stages in town and routes. The over 100 matatu owners led by their chairman Michael Kariuki withdrew their operations after the Thika Municipal Council, the local administration and police ignored their grievances.

The operators, who recently stormed Thika town and held a meeting with mayor John Wandui, said the council has refused to heed to its pledges. Wandui ordered council askaris to stop harassing matatu operators over non-payment of parking fees which they have declined to pay until all their grievances are addressed. Yesterday, Kariuki accused the council of reneging on its promise to address their grievances.

Speaking to the operators at the Thika main bus park, Kariuki said they will not resume their services until all operators not legally authorised to operate from and to Thika are stopped. He said the operators from outside the area had been allowed to operate by a clique of councillors. He said a certain bus company from Kirinyaga had bribed Sh500,000 to be allowed to operate from town. "We want the government to come and investigate these cartels which is killing our business. We even think public money is being used," said Kariuki.

The chairman said they are incurring heavy losses since the invaders are charging as low as Sh50 from Thika to Nairobi."Some of our vehicles are on loans and unless this issue is addressed we will driven out of business," he said. He said Thika vehicles are not allowed to operate in other towns and wondered why those from other areas are being allowed to kill local business. By the time of going to press, there was no communication from the council, police or the provincial administration on the dispute.

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