On December 23, 2019, a driver with Gikakuru Travellers Sacco was approached by a young man who demanded to know why his vehicle had excess passengers the previous day.
The man was neither a police officer, a county government official nor a sacco supervisor.
Before the driver could respond, the young man began raining blows and kicks on him. The man’s accomplices joined in the beating of the matatu driver.
“He punched my chest, hit my head and removed my turban. I was admitted to hospital for two weeks,” the driver, who did not wish to be named, told the Nation.
The assault was reported at Githurai-Kimbo Police Station but calls for a truce between the victim and his attackers made him drop the case.
“The young man refunded the Sh6,000 I spent on medication. Together with some police officers, they compelled me into dropping the matter. I did it for the sake of peace and the urge to provide for my family,” the driver said.
He still suffers chest pains. As if that is not enough, the terminus the driver relies on is being taken over the outlawed Mungiki sect and a gang affiliated to the man who assaulted him.
“They collect Sh300 from every matatu. This eats into our returns because we make Sh350 per trip in these coronavirus times. The gang demands the money in the open, with police officers from Kasarani and Ruiru watching and doing nothing,” he said.
According to sacco officials, the gang operates by threatening matatu crews with assault and even death.
The fare on the Githurai-Kahawa Wendani-Kenyatta University-Ruiru route ranges from Sh20 to Sh50 per passenger.
The driver’s sacco operates a fleet of about 30 matatus with a stage at the main Githurai 45 roundabout.
With the reduction of passenger numbers and with those plying the route having the option of walking, matatu trips have reduced from 10 to five.
Gang demands money
Sacco members expressed fears that the gang is taking over the entire terminus.
“Even with our reduced earnings, the gang still demands money. We even fail to pay our stage and route supervisors,” another driver lamented.
The drivers kept off the road yesterday, protesting police inaction despite complaints.
Matatu crews interviewed said they suspect the gangs share their spoils with police officers.
The Nation team spotted some of the gang members who are known by their nicknames at the roundabout.
They dictate which matatu should carry passengers.
Drivers and conductors who protest are threatened and their vehicle windscreens smashed.
“They are the people behind pickpocketing that targets passengers heading to Membley,” another driver said.
The alleged leader of the gang was arrested when sacco members marched to Kasarani police station Tuesday.
Kasarani police commander Muthuri Mwongera said the matter has been referred to investigators.
“These are idle young men. It is true they operate in a network but there’s no evidence of links to Mungiki. We are investigating with the view of removing them from the roads,” Mr Mwongera told the Nation.