Views from Fiona: Uganda's Public Transport- Matatu Etiquette

Views from Fiona: Uganda's Public Transport- Matatu Etiquette


Public etiquette is manners expected of people on how to conduct themselves in the interest of public... an area that is lacking when it comes to our public means of transport.

By Fiona Abaasa
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First published: October 17, 2005


The matatuís or taxiís, inland and regional buses have caused havoc in this country because reckless driving accidents are a common occurrence on our roads and road carnage has claimed a fair share of Ugandans. With the introduction of speed governors and laws on wearing seat belts, there is some hope that this will greatly reduce. The taxis are far worse where seat belts are always dirty such that passengers rarely use them. They overload and suddenly stop anywhere to off load their passengers. I have been studying the behaviors and conduct in public transport for sometime now, and the results are astounding.


A few weeks ago I was shocked to the core when I boarded a taxi from Bwaise to the town center. There were two women behind me in animated conversation. One of them went on to tell her buddy about her nocturnal activities with the man in her life, describing everything in detail in a loud voice to the bemusement of the men in the taxi and the disgust of fellow women. I could not help but wonder how she was brought up. In taxis you hear all sorts of stories but with the influx of Sudanese refugees they have taken chatting in taxis to another level. While one will be seated in front of the taxi and another at the back they will proceed to chat loudly to the discomfort of other travelers. In traffic jams, by the time you disembark, you need the services of ear, nose and throat specialists.

While traveling I keep to myself and I like others to do the same. Especially in public transport, I find it very offensive sitting next to a passenger who proceeds to drape his/her arm on top of my seat. Itís proprietary and inappropriate the most culprits are men. The more you travel the more you see these things. On my recent trip from Mbarara, a gentleman sat next to me and decided to use my shoulder as his pillow while sleeping. At last I warned him, but it happened two more times and I was forced to ask for a change of seats because I hate being Ďhití on in a not so subtle manner.

Whereas some passengers are difficult to deal with, taxi conductors, and their drivers are far worse. They will act passively for you to board and after that they treat you like crap, and are burdensome when you want your change back, abusive at times.

But on the other hand, their clients [passengers] bring the worst out of them. Take an example of the lady who boarded in Wandegeya, going to the old taxi park, and gave the conductor a fifty thousand note at Radio One for him to deduct 200shs. where would the poor soul get a change of 49800shs at that moment? Sometimes we need to act reasonably.

The irony of it all is that with the escalating fuel prices, we need public means of transport more than ever. Who doesnít appreciate the ease with which you donít have to worry about looking for a parking space or fearing to find Multiplex having already clamped down your car??

By Fiona Abaasa
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First published: October 17, 2005
Fiona Abaasa is a visitor of UGPulse.com.

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