The plan started well, but soon the services started dwindling. The villagers would get to work late. Sometimes there were accidents. Yet they were still paying their contributions.
One day, Daktari eventually told the villagers: "this vehicle is in bad shape. I've already had accidents with it, and some of you have been badly injured. If we continue to drive it like this, it could kill us. The money you villagers contribute is enough for us to purchase more vehicles, pay more drivers and offer them better terms of service. But sometimes I've had to fix the vehicle with my money because I’m not getting everything I need. Also, Kijiji has grown bigger, so we need more drivers."
Daktari made these warnings repeatedly to Mwanasiasa and to the villagers who cared to listen, but the warnings fell on deaf ears. So one day, Daktari refused to drive the vehicle at all. He said: “I cannot drive this death trap any more. It is risky for all of us, both the passengers and the driver.”
When Mwanasiasa heard that Daktari had refused to drive the bus, he got angry and started to badmouth Daktari. He told the villagers: “Daktari is greedy for pay. He is a child of the village, but instead of serving the villagers out of love, he’s only asking for more money. If we pay him more, we will have no money left to fuel and service the bus.”
Mwanasiasa added: "this problem with Daktari is the problem with community projects. When you pay drivers with villagers’ money, the drivers get greedy and selfish. They become inefficient.” He pointed to the hired vehicle that he used to take him to work and said: “You see this vehicle which takes me to work? It’s more efficient than the village bus Daktari drives. It’s more comfortable and I arrive to work on time. And yet I pay the driver less than what the village pays Daktari. You villagers can get the same transport I get from privately owned vehicles and corporate paid drivers."
The people were torn between believing Daktari and believing Mwanasiasa. They admired the car that took Mwanasiasa work. Sometimes Mwanasiasa would give a villager or two a ride to work, and those villagers would go home and report how nice Mwanasiasa is. And how comfortable Mwanasiasa’s car is.
But their main concern still remained: "how do we get to work, so that we can earn to feed our families?"
One of the villagers, Mwendawazimu, who was often considered the village madwoman, kept saying: “We can’t all afford the car that takes Mwanasiasa to work. Most of us just want a decent bus to take us to work, not a luxury vehicle like Mwanasiasa’s. So why doesn’t Mwanasiasa just replace the death trap and employ more drivers?”
Mwendawazimu got her answer one day, when she attended a public rally hosted by Mwanasiasa, in honor of Tajiri Mgeni, a rich fellow from a far away village. When he came to the podium, Tajiri Mgeni told the villagers that he was saddened that their bus was grounded, but he was bringing help from his home village. He would hand over the money to Mwanasiasa who would buy new buses. The people of Kijiji cheered.
On her way home, Mwendawazimu decided to stop by her former schoolmate’s shop to greet her friend Fundi, who was a mechanic. She noticed that there were several new buses at his shop. So she said,“heh, Fundi! So Mwanasiasa finally bought new buses for Kijiji! Daktari will be happy to see this! And we can now employ more drivers and we can finally have less trouble going to work.”
“I don’t think these are Kijiji buses,” Fundi replied.
“What do you mean?” Mwendawazimu asked.
“Well, Mwanasiasa came here with a guy called Tajiri Mgeni, and they said that Mwanasiasa contributed half the money, and Mr. Mgeni the other half of the money to buy the buses. They said that the people of Kijiji agreed that they would get better transport if the people were not contributing directly to the bus service. So the buses are technically owned by Mwanasiasa and Tajiri Mgeni, not by Kijiji village.”
Mwendawazimu was horrified. She went home, and told the villagers that Mwanasiasa was putting a new fleet of vehicles on the road, and they belonged to him, not to the village. The few villagers who heard reprimanded her.
“You mad, ungrateful woman! You never see anything good in what Mwanasiasa does! He drinks soda with us, and he dances with our children. Mwanasiasa loves us more than Daktari. Daktari refused to take us to work, and now Mwanasiasa is providing his own vehicles to help the village.”
“But you will have to pay every time you board those vehicles,” Mwendawazimu would say. “Before, our contributions covered the cost of the vehicle and of paying Daktari, so you didn’t have to think about money for transport until the end of the month. In any case, where do you think Mwanasiasa got the money to buy those vehicles? He got it from our contributions!”
To drown the sound of Mwendawazimu’s voice, Mwanasiasa paid 36 local singers to compose songs about Mwanasiasa Express, the new bus company. The singers called Daktari selfish and ungrateful to the people. They told the people of Kijiji that they will pay a little more for their ride to work, but the transport would be more comfortable and more efficient than the contraption driven by Daktari. The more Mwendawazimu screamed and wailed that Mwanasiasa was the reason villagers had a death trap for a bus, the harder the 36 village bards sang to convince the village that Mwanasiasa was a generous leader who had cared so much for the village, that he had donated vehicles to transport the people of Kijiji to work.
When the new vehicles arrived, the people of Kijiji celebrated, even though they were not the same kind of vehicle that took Mwanasiasa to work. Mwanasiasa even told the villagers that they would waive the fare for one whole week.
But by the second week, the rude manambas on his vehicles said that the villagers had to pay fare to go to work. A few people dug into their pockets to pay more for using the Mwanasiasa vehicles to go to work. But the majority, who could not afford the additional cost of transport, could not go to work. They lost their jobs and struggled to feed their children.
Meanwhile, Mwanasiasa’s vehicles were unreliable. Sometimes they were late, and sometimes the fare would be hiked arbitrarily. Sometimes the villagers sometimes have to wake up 3 hours earlier to walk to work. But when the villagers asked if there was a possibility of going back to communal system, they were told that the private service is "better" than the death trap driven by the greedy and selfish Daktari.
Eventually, those who accepted to pay realized that they could not sustain paying for transport from their salaries. They organized harambees to raise money for bus fare, so that they wouldn't miss work and lose their jobs.
The poor who had no money for transport asked why they could not go back to using the service driven by Daktari. Mwanasiasa told them: it’s Daktari who is refusing. I’ve even offered him more money, but he’s kichwa ngumu. He wants my job.”
The villagers went back to Daktari and asked: “why can’t you just take the money Mwanasiasa is offering and drive us to look for work?” Daktari told them – with this bus, you won’t even reach. You will die because the vehicle is in such bad shape. You need new vehicles and more drivers to get you to work.”
To this day, the villagers are paying for the communal bus that is not on the road. But when they ask why their contributions cannot pay Daktari and more drivers better, and put more vehicles on the road, Mwanasiasa says “It's Daktari’s fault for boycotting work. But maybe you can use Mwanasiasa Express buses until Daktari comes to his senses.
Eventually, fewer villagers are going to work and more are becoming too poor to take care of their families. The few who have extra coins to pay for transport watch as Mwanasiasa overtakes them in his luxury vehicle on his way to work. Those few hope that if they work hard enough, they will afford a car like Mwanasiasa’s. But it is very unlikely.
The only hope for the people of Kijiji is to demand that their contributions pay for the public transport, employ more drivers and purchase more vehicles. Because the money is enough.
The people who have a few coins to pay extra need to realize that they’re paying much more for transport for much less in service. And with that extra cost, it is unlikely that they’ll ever afford a car like Mwanasiasa’s, and when they retire, they’ll have no savings because they spent the extra money they had on poor transport services.
And that is the story of #LipaKamaTender.