For more than half an hour, Dickson Siria, a handcart puller, was stranded at the Likoni Channel.
He moved his mkokoteni to a corner to think about how he would cross from the island to the mainland.
Reason? He did not have a phone to make payment via M-Pesa, a system that was introduced by Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) in October last year.
During its introduction, KFS would still allow motorists to use hard cash. But since last week, the parastatal has forced motorists to use the cashless system.
“I’m stranded here because I don’t have a phone. I’ve cash, but they say I can’t pay using cash,” Mr Siria told the Nation team.
He was holding his Sh100, looking for a Good Samaritan who would allow him to use their phone to make the payment.
Must have airtime
The Nation came to his rescue and helped him make the payment. But we realised that for you to access the payment module, you must have airtime on your phone and once you pay, you incur extra charges.
It is for this reason that transport at the channel yesterday temporarily came to a standstill after Muslims for Human Rights (Muhuri) activists protested against forcing motorists to pay by mobile phone.
There was drama at the Island side’s toll booth when Muhuri chairman Khelef Khalifa was denied to use the cashless system.
“I wonder why they’re holding me? I’ve not refused to pay. I’ve told them I don’t want to use M-Pesa. This is not a private company, it’s a public entity. Kenyans have their rights, which should be respected,” Mr Khalifa said.
There was a commotion when Kenya Coast Guard Services (KCGS) officers arrested Muhuri rapid response officer Francis Auma, who was protesting at what he termed as “impunity”.
Mr Auma said Kenyans are currently facing hard times financially, and it was unfair for government officials to subject them to unwarranted suffering.
“People have Fuliza loans, not everyone has M-Pesa. Others are using different networks. Why do we not consider them? We have to be fair in this country,” said Mr Auma before he was forcefully taken to Likoni Ferry Police Station.
By the time of going to press, Mr Auma was still held at the station as police officers battled to clear the traffic jam that was building up on the island side.
Mr John Kamau, a truck driver, complained that the system they must use was slow. He had also incurred an extra charge of Sh30.
KFS corporate officer Francis Mugomati, however, said the new system was introduced to help curb the spread of coronavirus at the channel.
“We’re currently facing a pandemic [hence] we’ve decided to introduce this system for safety purposes,” he said.
Mr Mugomati said more officers have been deployed at the channel to help those facing difficulties accessing the system.