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Businesses suffer as matatu ban bites




Small businesses operating from Nairobi central business district (CBD) yesterday suffered heavy losses as Governor Mike Sonko’s directive denying public service vehicles (PSVs) entry kept customers away and left the streets half empty.

The ban was expected to remain in force at least until Thursday when an application seeking to reverse it will be heard in court.

However, the county governor moved to lift the directive Tuesday morning citing suffering of matatu operators, commuters, employers and traders that was witnessed on Monday.

Some 21 PSV Saccos and Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja had already moved to the High Court for orders reversing the order, arguing that the county government did not consult the public as required by law before any major policy change.

Businesses located in traditional matatu boarding and drop-off points were left without the usual pass-by traffic, hurting mobile phone sellers, food kiosks, photocopiers, retail chains among others.

“The gazette notice and the operationalisation of the said notice banning matatus from the Nairobi business district is ill-informed, based on irrelevant considerations and not proportionate,” the matatu saccos told the High Court. The operators argued that exempting four saccos, Citi Hoppa, City Shuttle, Kenya Bus and Double M buses from the ban was discriminatory.

No vehicle was, however, allowed into the CBD yesterday, including those belonging to the exempt saccos.

The matatu operators allege they were not involved in the decision that banned them from the CBD and were provided with no alternative for their customers to access the CBD.

High Court Judge Pauline Nyamweya declined to suspend the ban but directed the applicants to serve City Hall, the National Transport and Safety Authority and the National Police Service for an inter parties hearing on Thursday.

Yesterday, upcountry travellers entering Nairobi from all routes suffered the most as their journeys were terminated outside the CBD forcing them to use taxis.

A commuter at Ngara called on Mr Sonko to review the ban and allow matatus into the CBD upto 9am and later after 5 pm to facilitate smooth flow of people from home to work and vice versa.

The demand saw online taxi providers hike their charges, and motorcyclists return to the CBD in large numbers to ‘serve’ the public albeit at premium prices. The increase in charges saw commuters pay Sh200 between Kencom in central Nairobi to Community – a journey that usually costs Sh30.

The main arteries, Mombasa, Thika, Waiyaki, Lang’ata, Ngong, Jogoo, Landhies, Kiambu, and Juja roads were no-go zones with day-long traffic snarl-ups.

Shoe shiners at most bus stages as well as casual labourers handling menial jobs, newspaper sellers and sweet vendors said they experienced reduced sales as most workers alighted elsewhere.

“We do not know where our vehicles will be parked in the evening as Country Bus Station is congested while our traditional locations are no-go zones,” said Mildred Olunya.

Matatu stages along traditional matatu stages within Nyamakima, Ronald Ngala, Tom Mboya, Ambassador, OTC, Latema, Accra,River Road areas among others were deserted leaving eateries, mobile phone shops among others idle.

Established in 1899 as a transportation hub, Nairobi controls about 60 per cent of Kenya’s wealth, hosting global and regional headquarters, a wide array of factories and a vibrant services sector.