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Most sane drivers have their hackles Raised every time
one of the psv’s appears within range of their vehicle

Coastweek -- As we approach the end of the year, I spent some time over the last few weeks asking many of my friends and colleagues to list down in order what were the five top things that drew their ire whenever they were driving on the road, writes Teti Kamugunda.

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 front.

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 “weak” moment.

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 manoeuvre anyway.

The noise is another constant.

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 operators.

The drivers and their assistants have developed their own way of walking, dressing, talking and acting that I intended to intimidate other drivers.

This way they establish their ownership of the territory and also some sort of pecking order.

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 moment.

As Kachumbari says, the rule of the jungle is the one that is mainly applied on our roads.



Remember: you read it first at !

  This year’s rally will be
flagged off at Sarova
Whitesands on November
23rd and finish at the same
venue on December 1st.


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