Agency seeks nod to extend 14-seater licence for matatus

The 14-seater matatus that are set to be phased out. PHOTO | FILE
The 14-seater matatus that are set to be phased out. PHOTO | FILE 

Matatu operators are set for a reprieve as the government softens its stance on the 14-seater vehicles shipped into the country shortly after it issued an embargo on their registration early this year. 

The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) said it may reconsider licensing some of the matatus despite its campaign to push low-capacity vehicles out of the roads.

On Thursday, NTSA director-general Francis Meja said the authority has made a proposal to the Transport secretary to re-open the window.

“We are now waiting for a policy guideline from him,” Mr Meja said during a telephone interview.

Several matatu saccos have been pushing for review of the ban that NTSA enforced in December in an attempt to reduce congestion in urban centres.

The saccos say several of their members bought the 14-seater public service vehicles before the State officially communicated the ban.

NTSA had to open a window in January to allow the matatu saccos apply for road service licences (RSL) for their members who had bought the cars after December.

The window was, however, closed before all the vehicles had been issued with the licence. Without the RSL, a matatu cannot engage in the public transport business. 

Dickson Mbugua, the Matatu Welfare Association chairman, said hundreds of new 14-seater matatus are still lying idle after their respective saccos failed to secure the permits.

“These matatus cannot hit the road to do business and since some of them were bought on credit from financial institutions, they are being impounded for the loans to be recovered,” said Mr Mbugua.

Mr Meja advised those seeking to engage in the public transport business to stop buying 14-seater vehicles, saying the decision to phase them out would not be rescinded.

Investors in the matatu industry have started replacing the vans with buses and mini-buses.