Sacco Boss Tests Nairobi Crew After Going Undercover in Matatu

Matatu drop-off stage at GPO along Kenyatta Avenue in Nairobi.
A photo of a matatu drop-off stage at GPO along Kenyatta Avenue in Nairobi taken on May 23, 2022.

A majority of Nairobi matatus are known to have rogue touts. Some even allow parking boys to cause mayhem inside the PSVs 

From failing to adhere to NTSA guidelines or traffic rules, overloading to playing some loud music.

I overheard someone somewhere claim that some even have traffic marshalls under payroll to circumvent traffic rules.

The marshalls tip them on crackdowns and inspections. 

So when the Sacco I manage joined the Rongai route, I wanted to see first and foremost how my staff worked. 

New buses, new hype. Social media was abuzz with photos and engagements, especially after the Rongai commuters lamented for years on the pathetic transport state they were accustomed to.

Nonetheless, that which they wanted to be changed.

"Sometimes, fare even hikes to Ksh200, especially during rainy days."

"The touts, man. Some are very arrogant." These were a sample of the feedback we got when we conducted a survey, prior to our venture.

Of course, we crossed paths with some Saccos, which for years had taken advantage of commuters.

I bought a bottle of Coca-Cola at a supermarket in Nairobi CBD and walked toward the stage.

The pandemic had made it easier for one to conceal their identity: a mask on, a cap and sunglasses.

That day I donned a sports pyjama and hoodie, then hopped into the matatu.

"Rongai soo, Rongai soo (Ksh100 fare to Rongai)," the tout called out, just as a reminder, for he had a placard planted next to a window, with the fare printed in bold colours.

I sat two rows from the back to see the entire bus. The bus, now full, departed and I started my inspection.

Tout full uniform, on. Music, at quite some high volume. Some matatus will leave you with a migraine and muffled ringing in the ears.

Customer interaction.

A commuter on a front-row signalled the tout and asked him to reduce the volume. The test came at the right moment.

People enjoying Coca-Cola with a meal
People enjoy Coca-Cola drinks with a meal.

"I have a meeting online and it caught me in traffic. Can you at least lower it. Kindly?

I waited to hear those answers, you know, the rude ones like;

"Si ungepanda gari yako (You could have boarded your own bus then!)

"Usiharibie watu starehe nani (Don't spoil the party)

But instead, the tout signaled the driver.

"Dere punguza io ngoma, kuna jamaa anapiga wera hapa (Yoh, can you lower the volume, a guy over here is still at work).

This seemingly moved a lady who sat next to me.

"That's why I love this Sacco. They listen to customers. You know a friend of mine who uses these buses on another route was excited for me when he learnt that they were joining our route," she told me.

Bonus points.

I concurred and we shared a few stories of rogue Saccos.

"Boss fare," the tout called. The lady next to me nudged me. I pulled out my wallet and handed him a Ksh1,000 note.

"Huna pesa ndogo? (Don't you have a lesser note)," he prodded. I shook my head.

"Haya lipa na simu basi. Kuna jamaa hapo mbele ka wewe amelipa na simu after ameshinda cash na promo ya Coke.

(You can pay via mobile money. A commuter here has just paid cash via the phone, bragging of how he has won some cash from a Coca-Cola promo)," the tout stated.

I paid my fare then the lady next to me joked that I also had a Coke drink. We laughed, but I was oblivious of the promo.

So I pulled out my phone and searched, then learned that Coca-Cola is offering five slots for individuals to go watch the FIFA World Cup matches in Qatar

Just send the eight-digit code under the crown to 40111, you could win other things such as airtime and hard cash.

I sent my code and waited. I was already satisfied with the customer service on that mat, so I asked to alight at the next stop.

"Hatujafika Rongai bado chief (We have not yet arrived at Rongai)" the tout signalled but I insisted on alighting to track the next matatu back to the CBD.

My phone rang as I waited for the next matatu. I had won myself some airtime from the Coca-Cola promo.

"Tao tao," a tout called, as one of our Sacco matatus, stopped at the terminus. 

The test continues. 

A poster announcing Coca-Cola prizes in the ongoing promotion
A poster announcing Coca-Cola prizes in the ongoing promotion.