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February 18, 2019

The Ministry of Transport is getting it wrong

MENACE: A cyclist behaving badly.
MENACE: A cyclist behaving badly.

It has become a bother nowadays to make time for the local news time on either TV or radio. The news has been the same day in day out.

It has become ever so predictable and boring that the news gatherers run the risk of becoming irrelevant. It is either a fight between governors and MPs, senators and county reps, the usual deaths from love gone mad, the so called accidental deaths caused by vehicle accidents, and lastly the government statements conceding that the security of the country is nowhere near stable, but the situation is being addressed.

On the international scene, it has been ICC and ICC and more ICC news. I almost thought that Kenyans had stopped thinking. I may have been right after all.

 Ever since we lost the flamboyant and articulate former transport minister, the late John Michuki, there has been no mention of a “no nonsense” leader until very recently.

It was one of those days when I touch the dial of the TV and click on a channel hoping for something interesting, only to find it was news.

The news anchor mentioned that word, “no nonsense” cabinet secretary in charge of transport. Coincidentally, it was the same ministry that was headed by the late Michuki when he introduced the rules that almost tamed the sector.

Since our roads have become more of death traps than a route to get us from point A to B, a mention of a savior coming to redeem us from the death traps was better news than the supremacy war news. So, for the first time in many days of missing news, I was eager to listen.

Maybe there was a remote chance that we still had some level-headed leaders out there to set the pace and give us a glimmer of hope.

 I do not know whether I was expecting too much from a fellow human being, but I was waiting to hear heavy salvos coming from Mr. Mwangi, in regard to the bad situation on our roads.

I wanted to hear what will be done to tame the matatus, which have now been joined by the tuk tuk and the boda bodas. The situation has become even worse than the days before the Michuki rules.

At least we only had the matatus menace, plus the sand transporters who were causing havoc mainly along the routes they heavily patronised. But right now, it seems we are all trying to outwit the matatus in their own game. There seems to be more private motorists who have become as impatient as the matatus and boda bodas.

The more signs we put on strategic points warning people not to drink and drive, the more they take up the challenge. Mr Mututho came up with an amazing method of fighting alcoholism. Amazing because the system just changed the time for drinking from day to night.

After limiting the time alcoholic beverages should be sold, we now have more people filling up bars at night and driving home totally inebriated.

 The transport cabinet secretary was saying something to the effect that, all drivers will be re-tested and those who fail will have their licenses withdrawn.

He pointed out that the process will unveil those who got the licenses through the back door, or bribed to get the driving licenses. I know I retain my right to have my opinion on the strength and practicability of the statement by the cabinet secretary. But saying it loud, the statement did not carry the kind of weight that a “no nonsense” statement should.

 One, the process will cost Kenyans dearly. Two, I don’t see it having the effect it is supposed to have. Almost all the drivers will pass. Some of the matatu drivers are the most efficient drivers we have around.

They cause accidents not because they do not know how to drive, but because they drive carelessly. The bus drivers cause accidents because of either being overworked or driving under the influence of alcohol or other substance abuse. Not because of incompetence.

It is not the driving skill that we should be concerned about. Rather, we should be more engaged into finding a way to challenge the attitude of our road users. So why waste taxpayer’s money? Was it a question of looking for news, or was the issue not just given enough thought?

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