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Transport paralyzed as PSV operators protest against Probox taxis

Public transport operators paralyzed transport in Kwale and its environs for the second day running as they protested dwindling fortunes in the sector, forcing hundreds of commuters to walk for long distances.
The strike affected transport between the busy Kwale-Mombasa routes, leaving those using public transport stranded even as some residents opted to skip work and avoid movement to other destinations.
Since Tuesday Matatus kept off their normal routes protesting that probox taxi and other private cars including county vehicles were ferrying commuters thus “eating into” their profits.
Led by the Kwale Matatu owners association chairman Joseph Mutunga, they said Probox cars were operating as PSV vehicles without relevant documents.
“We will keep off the roads to protest against their continued operations,” he said, adding that some of them were owned by traffic police officers.
The irate matatu workers decried unnecessary competition brought about by the Probox cars, school buses and even county vehicles.
Mutunga said that their businesses have been going down as private vehicles have been interfering with their routes by operating as PSVs.
“We are here today because enough is enough. These small cars have become a nuisance to our jobs. They take our customers away,” said Mutunga at the Kwale public park Wednesday.
He said they have been incurring huge losses in the sense that they are forced to go for several licenses to be allowed on the road.
“It has become hard to do this work, we are required to have driving licenses, vehicle inspection stickers, parking taxes, PSV licenses and several other requirements, unlike private owners who have only a few documents,” he said.
The matatu operators said they do few rounds compared to the previous years where they could go for as many as 10 trips between Kwale and Mombasa, a distance of 40 kilometres.
The local matatu owner’s association vice chairman Hamisi Unda said they will only resume operations after the police embark on crackdown against those operating illegally as PSVs.
“Probox cars and other small cars operating as PSVs are a menace to Matatus and our business,” he said.
Another youth leader Mwamyuga Mtsumi claimed that in the past operators who complained about the issue were threatened by rogue police officers, who were compromised by the private car operators.
However, Kwale County Executive Member for Roads and Infrastructure Hemedi Mwabudzo has since denied accusations that county vehicles were operating as PSVs.
“Maybe they have seen county vehicle carrying government workers going home or coming to work which is normal anywhere,” he said.
On his part, Kwale County Police Commander Alexander Munyao said that they will do a followup on the people who use police to deprive others their rights.
He said no one is above the law and all should be treated equally. “It doesn’t matter if a person is police, army or whatever they say, because rules must be followed,” he said.
Munyao said police will man the highways to eliminate private vehicles that operate as public service vehicles without the required licenses.
He appealed to matatu operators to observe peace and resume operations as the issue was being addressed.
By Jessica Muthoni/Hussein Abdullahi

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