Rongai matatus are the hottest, but not for long


My friend Sire Edgar Kwach recently wrote, “Creativity on Kenyan roads has gone a notch higher. Watch out for ‘Predator’ on your Rongai route.”

Well, Predator is the new mathree on route 125, named Trump Force One, but the artist and creator make it look like The Predator in the sci-fi movie series. It looks amazing and the artist went overboard. I am one of the shocked people who, in my wild imagination, never thought the Rongai route could be in the news for good — not bad - reasons. Most mathrees on this route are in a different level.

Rongai Matatu

I think mathrees are just like clubs, emerging and dying as fast. When music was introduced in Eastleigh’s number 9 matatus via the disco mixes of Spanish DJ Paco Perez, we were all taken by surprise. Those days, Eastleigh operated Rosa minibuses — while other Eastland routes like Buru and Outering  had Ford matatus. After sometime, Buru introduced ‘Men at Work,’ which was a Nissan matatu — with music. Then Outering mathrees on route 23 produced big names like ‘Horse’ that had big speakers blazing music — and which ruled the route for sometime.

I remember we even used to prefer using number 23 mathrees — and would walk from Outering all the way back to Buru. It’s quite a distance. Then route 58 woke up, introducing the purple matatu christened ‘Shadow’ — and which really shaped the mathree culture. Route 23 would follow with more ‘mats’ with comfy and puffy seats. Then ‘Shadow’ went for upgrade — which we used to say “imerudi jikoni”. It returned with new seats, same purple colour, including interior lighting. But later on, some other big names on route 58 came in, like Innocent (that only played blues music).

It wasn’t uncommon for someone to board a mathree and pay for taking round trips — listening to music and admiring at schoolgirls.

Eastlands however didn’t rule for long as South B matatus introduced TV screens, thus taking mathree culture to another level. The good thing with South B matatus was that they had polite makangas and drivers.

Today, it seems Rongai mathrees are ruling matatu routes. Some even have carpets, water dispensers and pay TV.

But the residents must know that the fad never lasts for long. Soon, another route will take over.

Let the crew take a chill pill and follow the laid down rules. Of course we appreciate the creativity of Rongai matatus as this creates jobs for the youth.

But let these mathree drivers look for one Mike Mandechu — he was the operations manager at City Hopper the last time I checked.

Mandechu will give you a pep talk on how to behave as a manyanga driver. I always praise him as most of us who grew up in Buru in the 90s still thank him for making us reach home safely and in good time.

Mandechu used to drive to work and would park his car at Buru shopping centre before jumping onto his matatu ride. After his rounds, he would get into his car and ride home to his family. He took his job as a professional engagement. He drove the best mathrees but never misbehaved — like drivers on the Rongai route do today. The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) should focus on the matatu menace and return safety to our roads instead of only targeting private car drivers.