Covid-19: Cashless transactions? No! Matatu's fight system

"Madam, hii pesa ukishatuma unadhani nitaitoa na pesa gani?"

In Summary

• A spot check by the Star on Saturday at the Kencom designated stage revealed that no hygiene and anti-coronavirus measures were in place.

Matatus parked along Accra road ./FILE
Matatus parked along Accra road ./FILE
Image: FILE:

President Uhuru Kenyatta this week highlighted measures that Kenyans would put in place to curb the spread of coronavirus in Kenya.

Covid-19 has so far killed over 10,000 people globally. Seven cases have been confirmed in Kenya.

Among the measures put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus is the use of cashless systems, be it in the matatus, in the market and when doing any other transactions.

This was to ensure that coronavirus is tamed and not spread using bank notes and coins.

According to the World health organisation, Covid-19 can be spread through this.

Passengers normally give out cash when boarding a matatu but with the new cashless system, some PSV operators have refused to accept mobile transactions.

As I board a matatu plying the Lower Kabete-Kitsuru road from work on Thursday, I ensure that I sit next to the window to get some fresh air in case there is someone coughing - one of the symptoms of Covid-19.

But even as the fresh air sweeps my face, I hear an argument from the conductor.

"Naweza kukutumia hiyo 60 bob na M-Pesa? Wekesa asks. (Can I send you the Sh60 via M-Pesa?)

But the conductor who is not amused by this question looks directly into his face and retorts, "Huna cash? shida ni ukishatuma hiyo 60.. mimi ndio nitachargiwa kutoa hiyo dough," the conductor Peter replies.

This loosely translates to: (You don't have cash? The problem is that when you send the money, I will be charged for withdrawing it)

But the passenger who is keen on using online transactions insists that he can't pay cash even if he has the money.

".. sahi ni cashless hatutaki ma ugonjwa (Right now we use cashless, we don't want coronavirus)," Wekesa says even as he nods his head and looks at Peter.

The back and forth continues until Peter gives in but gives condition for the transactions.

"Najua lakini huna cash? Haya tuma 70 bob nikuwe na ya kutoa. Kwa sababu ukituma hivyo halafu mtu mwingine pia atume, I will be charged," he says

(I know, but are you sure you don't have cash? Send Sh70 so that I can have some left for withdrawal. If you just send it like that, I will be charged).

Case closed.

I try  to give it a shot.

I board a matatu and decide that I will give my bus fare via M-Pesa.

"Nakutumia pesa na M-pesa," I tell the conductor who is not amused by my words. (I am sending you money via M-pesa)

"Madam huna cash?" He asks. (Madam, you don't have cash?)

I nod indicating to him that I don't have the cash and would prefer to do an online transaction.

"Sawa tuma mia moja," he says but does not look my way. (Okay, send Sh100)

"Mbona mia moja na gari ni 70bob?" I ask him. (Why is it Sh100? and yet the bus is Sh70?)

"Madam, hii pesa ukishatuma unadhani nitaitoa na pesa gani?" (Once you send the money, where do you think I will get the money to withdraw it?)

After a few moments of drama, I decide to look for some coins in my purse and give them to him.

But these are just some few cases out of the many more that take place day in day out.

Matatu Owners Association chairman Simon Kimutai told the Star that they are contemplating having a till number for cashless transaction to be fruitful.

“We are thinking of coming up with the system that can be used not only temporarily but permanently. But also, the conductors can use their numbers as they wait for this till number since it will take some time,” he said.

Kimutai said there are no withdrawal charges when withdrawing money.

Last week, Safaricom waived fees for M-Pesa transactions below Sh1,000 in an announcement aimed at fighting the spread of coronavirus in the country.

The move follows President Uhuru’s directive on ways of deepening mobile money usage.

“No conductor should ask for more money to withdraw the fare sent to them. Instead, they should appreciate its use,” Kimutai said.

“In fact the passengers themselves should take their own initiative and pay cashless instead of waiting.”

Four days after Kenya confirmed its first case of coronavirus and two days after orders were given for all PSVs to be clean and provide hand sanitisers, it's business as usual.

Matatus are supposed to be washed twice a day outside and disinfected twice a day.

A spot check by the Star on Saturday at the Kencom designated stage revealed that no hygiene and anti-coronavirus measures were in place.

It was business as usual, a day like any other, except the country is facing Covid-19.

KBS and City Hoppa matatu touts were outside urging commuters to board.

As commuters boarded the buses, some gingerly, there were no signs of hand sanitisers being offered by the matatu touts.