In order of most
hits, the one that came out the top was the behaviour of matatus
and at the bottom of the list of five was livestock on the road.
The behaviour of
matatus came to the top of the list of almost every single
person I talked to.
When pushed a bit
further, it expanded a bit to the drivers of all vehicles that
were in some form of public service.
This ranged from
matatus to large urban buses, cross country buses, small lorries
and heavy commercial vehicles.
Not to be left out
were boda bodas and tuk tuks.
Most sane drivers on
the road have their hacks raised every time one of the public
service contraptions (will call them PVs for brevity) appears
within range of their vehicle – whether in the rear-view mirror,
or in full sight from the sides or the front of the car.
The main fear is
that the person in charge of the public service vehicle is fully
brainwashed in the matatu culture of road use.
Most of my friends
said that the minute they see one of the drivers of public
utility vehicles, they get into both defence and attack mode.
Defence in that they
will want to avoid the PVs from cutting cross the front to try
and fill the non-existent space between them and the vehicle in
The PVs sometime
also cut across in front of a vehicle so that they can get to
the kerbside to pick up a passenger.
The worst case is
when they stop in the middle of traffic and the driver’s
assistant runs to the kerbside and pulls passengers onto the
road to board the vehicle – all the time completely ignoring the
fact that other vehicles in traffic need to make progress.
Attack mode is when
roles are reversed and the sane driver takes action to protest
the PVs interference with their driving.
When a public
service contraption makes one brake suddenly or swerve suddenly
and especially when one has passengers who would witness their
Such drivers, when
enraged, will follow the PV and cut across the front to cause
them to have the same discomfort or sometimes lunge across the
path of the public service vehicle and begin to gesticulate
profanities at the driver.
The other annoying
behaviour is the penchant that the driver’s assistants or even
passengers tend to become part of the driver’s tools.
Quite often the
assistant or passenger will stick out their body and hand to
indicate to the driver of the other vehicle that he intends to
cut across the bonnet of the vehicle.
This is not to ask
for permission but to tell the other driver to take whatever
action is required to avoid an accident as the PV is making that
The noise is another
The boom twaf of the
in-vehicle entertainment system, the exhaust noises and the
incessant hooting also grates on the mind.
Any form of civility
in the middle of a traffic jam with one of these vehicles
adjacent becomes an exercise in restraint.
Recently, the larger
size matatus, buses, boda bodas as well as tuk tuks have taken
to having funkadelic lighting on the outside of the vehicle.
Some even have
headlights that respond to music.
It is very annoying
when driving at night to not be able to recognise what it is
that is coming towards you are driving away – especially when it
is at a distance.
With the level of
concern about safety on the roads and also security in some of
the more far flung areas, any vehicle on the road at night that
does not conform to the standard four light clusters at the
extremities of a box will draw suspicion.
First the sane
driver will have to slow down in order to establish what is a
safe berth, then, they will have to assess what to make of the
item that is approaching them almost being forced to prepare for
a fight or flee situation.
Finally, the other
beef about the public service contraptions is the mannerism of
The drivers and
their assistants have developed their own way of walking,
dressing, talking and acting that I intended to intimidate other
This way they
establish their ownership of the territory and also some sort of
Even the police whom
they bribe all the time, come lower in the pecking order.
So, who are we to
take umbrage at these operators who have been able to put the
law enforcement agencies into their pockets ?
How often do we call
the police believing that we are in the right when an accident
occurs and we end up being the offenders ?
How often do we find
ourselves having drawn the short end of the stick when there is
an accident and the crowd is cowed into taking the side of the
PV operator ?
Much as we may
believe that there are rules that govern the use of the road,
more often than not, these are forgotten in the heat of the
As Kachumbari says,
the rule of the jungle is the one that is mainly applied on our