The High Court has temporarily stopped the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) from denying 14-seater matatu operators licences.
Justice Enoch Chacha Mwita issued the directive after 24 matatu saccos in Nairobi challenged the government’s plan to phase out the low-capacity public service vehicles.
“An order is hereby issued until February 15, prohibiting the NTSA from effecting Section 4(2) and 4(3) of Legal Notice 179 of December 31, 2014, when processing the road service PSV licences for the petitioners,” Justice Mwita said. The notice ordered the licensing of PSVs that carry fewer than 25 passengers stopped from January 1, 2016.
But Justice Mwita promised to issue a comprehensive ruling on February 15, “since the government has indicated that the first batch of 11 trains and 64 high-capacity commuter buses will arrive in Nairobi at around that time”.
On December 7, Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said reliance on matatus was not sustainable and linked it to the congestion and disorder common in major urban areas, including Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu.
He also indicated that the plan will be implemented in Nairobi and other major towns within two to three years.
But the announcement did not go down well with matatu operators, who felt short-changed, saying the government planned to replace them with trains and a bus rapid transit (BRT) system.
In documents filed by the saccos, they have accused the NTSA of acting contrary to their expectations.
Through lawyer Harrison Kinyanjui, they argued that the government was going against its own wish to have more people employed. More than 200,000 families would be left without livelihoods, as the 14-seater PSVs employ 224,292 individuals, he said.
The operators also said that the notice had not been approved by Parliament.
“Unless the court intervenes and issues restraining conservatory orders, this matter will remain a mere academic exercise yet the petitioners have sought the court’s intervention,” said Mr Kinyanjui.
He noted that as of November 18, the directive had not been implemented.