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4 daily struggles that 'makangas' go through

Ndung'u Wa Gathua.
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Matatus parked at a petrol station. [Source/dailyactive.info]

Recently, the no-nonsense Interior CS Fred Matiang'i revived the almost forgotten Michuki traffic rules in an effort to restore sanity on Kenyan roads amid endless fatal accidents that had claimed many travellers' lives.

Among the 'casualties' of the revived traffic rules are the matatu conductors who have been forced to simply 'shape up or ship out'.

The 'makangas' as they are popularly known among Kenyans, now have to adhere to strict guidelines as outlined by the once famous Michuki rules that revolutionised the Kenyan public service transport system.

But even as many Kenyans continue to laud Matiang'i's move, have you ever paused a minute to figure out what it is like to be a conductor on a Kenyan road? Well, it is not a walk in the park as one conductor who plies along the Thika-Nairobi route explains.

Michael Chege who works for Mataara Sacco matatus says that working as a conductor especially along this route involves endless daily struggles that require a thick skin to manage. Here are some of these struggles as outlined by the 35-year old conductor.

1. Police

Chege says that traffic police officers are always a 'thorn in the feet' of many conductors. He adds that it doesn't matter whether your matatu has complied with all the traffic rules because 'you are almost sure that when a traffic police officer stops you they will find mistakes in your vehicle'.

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2. Opinionated commuters

Chege says that many passengers have negative perceptions towards them which only serve to complicate their lives on the road.

"I have come across many passengers whom even while paying for their fares have, for instance, to be rude for no apparent reason. They do not treat us with respect making some us to resort to high-headedness any time we are dealing with commuters," says Chege.

3. Drug abuse

The conductor further adds that due to daily frustrations that come with the job, some of them seek refuge in drugs like alcohol which eventually turns to abuse. In Thika town, he notes, there is one pub nicknamed 'pub ya makanga' because that is where some of them report to early in the morning before work and late in the evening after work.

4. Broken families

Finally, Chege says that many conductors especially those who 'sink' into alcoholism and substance abuse end up with broken families.

"I have many of my colleagues in this industry who marry new women almost on a yearly basis but things continue to move from bad to worse. Just a month ago we buried a colleague who opted for suicide after his marital life seemingly became unbearable," he added.

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-Ndung'u Wa Gathua.

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