According to a recent GeoPoll flash survey conducted among Kenyan residents on safety using Public Transport Vehicles (Matatus), a vast majority of those who commute using Matatus have experienced harassment in form of insults. The number of commuters who reported to have been physically violated by Matatu crew was at 41% with a majority saying they have never been victims of physical violence. According to the survey, many of these cases go unreported as most Kenyans do not think anything will change once they report.
Last month (October), an incident involving a female passenger and Matatu crew in Nairobi, Kenya turned a national spotlight on the country’s public transport industry.
The lady recounted an alleged attempt to drug her by Matatu crew. Her story become a trending topic on Kenya’s social media prompting the Kenyan mainstream media to pick it up. The police apprehended the vehicle driver and the case is pending in court.
A few weeks later, a lady motorist was allegedly drugged on Nairobi’s Uhuru Highway, by individuals pretending to distribute leaflets.
According to the GeoPoll Rapid Poll, a vast majority of those who commute using Matatus have experienced harassment in form of vulgar language and have also witnessed a woman being verbally harassed by the PSV crew. According to the survey, many of these cases go unreported as most Kenyans do not think anything will change once they report. 71% of our respondents said that despite being harassed in a Matatu, they did not report the incident to the police.
Matatus the main mode of Public transport
In 1990, the total number of licensed Matatus stood at 17,600. Currently, the number of Matatus operating on Kenyan roads is estimated at over 100,000. This is according to a 2016 UNEP’s overview of the industry.
The Matatu industry is the informal Paratransit industry in Kenya, for a majority of Kenyans (95%), it is the only means of commute according to findings from our rapid survey.
Use of Vulgar Language in Matatu by Crew
The government, through the National Transport & Safety Authority (NTSA), enforced regulations that require PSV operators to join independent, Government-registered transport companies or Savings and Credit Co-operatives (Saccos). Cases of verbally abuse and physically assault, according to our survey, are still rife.
In the survey, 55% of Kenyans said they have been harassed in the past by Matatu crew. The most common form of harassment was use of vulgar language by the crew. 40% of male respondents said they had seen a woman insulted by crew in the last 2 months.
Verbal harassment was sighted as the most common in these vehicles, mostly due to the low entry level requirements for the many unemployed youths who seek to work in this industry.
Women in Matatus
When we asked women about their personal experiences in Matatus, 47% said they had personally experienced harassment once, 33% had experienced it twice and 13% had experienced it thrice in the last 2 months from crew. The harassment was in form of insults.
Physical Violence cases
The number of commuters who reported to have been physically violated by Matatu crew was at 41% with a majority saying they have never been victims of physical violence.
According to the GeoPoll rapid survey, most Kenyan women who are violated in public transport vehicles do not report (71%) because they do not think anything will change. For those who report to the police, in most cases, the incident does not go beyond appearing in police records. 50% of victims said that the only action that police took was to record the incident in the police Occurrence Book (OB). According to the respondents, only 19% of these cases were pursued in the Kenyan law courts.
When asked if they would report similar cases in future, 94% said they would. Those who said they did not bother reporting didn’t think anything would change even if they reported the incident. This sentiment was expressed by 57% of Kenyans. 35% did not think it was that the incident was that serious to warrant reporting.
Civic Education and Enforcing of strict laws
Most Kenyans believe that a lot would improve if enforcement of strict laws and punitive measures against Matatu crew and the Saccos were followed strictly. Civic education to the public and Matatu operators on customer service was also sighted as a possible solution to deal with insecurity in the public transport vehicles.