In the vibrant urban hub of Nakuru, where the relentless daily hustle intersects with the captivating chaos of public transportation, a distinct group known as “setis” operates under the radar.
These unsung protagonists of the matatu industry undertake a peculiar role that frequently escapes the notice of the average commuter.
When you step aboard a matatu, you might observe a few passengers already seated. Yet, what might elude your perception is that some of these seemingly ordinary passengers are strategically positioned as placeholders, creating the illusion of a fully occupied vehicle.
Allow me to introduce you to Elijah Wa Tene, a young man who has assumed the role of a seti for the past two years. In an interview with Mtaa Wangu, a Nakuru-based website, Elijah reveals that his day commences at the crack of dawn, around 6:00 am, and extends until the evening, concluding at 6:00 pm.
Throughout these hours, Elijah, like numerous other setis, meticulously enacts a facade of activity – simulating conversations on his phone, flipping through magazines, or gazing into the distance. His objective is crystal clear: to craft the illusion of a matatu brimming with passengers, enticing wary commuters to step aboard.
Elijah’s profession, however, is far from straightforward. He elucidates that he can serve as a placeholder for up to 20 different vehicles in a single day, earning a modest sum of Ksh 20 in each vehicle.
This endeavor becomes particularly challenging in the morning when passenger numbers are sparse. Despite the potential inconvenience this deception might cause unsuspecting passengers, Elijah underscores that this is his livelihood. He, along with his fellow setis, ensures that matatus never appear vacant, a visual deterrent for potential customers.
The impetus behind this intricate performance is straightforward – financial gain. Elijah garners approximately Ksh 20 per vehicle, and the cumulative income by month-end is sufficient to sustain his bachelor lifestyle, covering all essential expenses.
In a city where employment opportunities are scarce and competition is cutthroat, assuming the role of a seti represents a pragmatic choice for many young individuals, including Elijah.
Nevertheless, this practice is not without its challenges. One of the principal obstacles setis encounter is avoiding the frustration of passengers who might uncover the ruse.
To circumvent this predicament, setis like Elijah have devised cunning stratagems. They discreetly disembark from the matatu, often pretending to require a restroom break, and promptly hop onto the next vehicle, perpetuating the cycle of their unconventional employment.