- Standing amidst the passengers in a crammed bus with blue overall hanging loosely over one shoulder, neatly plaited hair and spectacles; meet Witness Mushi, a mass communication graduate who quit her job to support her husband who drives a PSV on the Makumbusho and Bunju route.
It’s not a common sight to see a female conductor calling out for passengers in a packed daladala riding on the busy streets of Dar es Salaam.
But what is even more exceptional is, a graduate who quit her job to be at the forefront of collecting fares, selling tickets and calling out passengers to their last destination.
Standing amidst the passengers in a crammed bus with blue overall hanging loosely over one shoulder, neatly plaited hair and spectacles; meet Witness Mushi, a mass communication graduate who quit her job to support her husband who drives a PSV on the Makumbusho and Bunju route.
Witness and her husband Athuman Hatibu have been married for 20 years and reside in Bunju, Dar es Salaam. They made a pact 5 years ago to drive and conduct the same bus whilst leaving behind the lifestyles they both led prior to working together on the bus.
Learning her new trade Witness says she chose to support her husband as a conductor so as to avoid dependence on a monthly salary.
“It was not an easy decision to make because I led a whole different lifestyle before starting out as a bus conductor,” says Witness in an exclusive interview with The Citizen.
“My husband had a lot of complaints about the previous conductors who worked with him, and most of the complaints were about little fares collected by the conductors end of the day. I then told him to give me a day to learn and identify all the bus stations within the Makumbusho to Bunju route so he could afterwards decide if we can work together with me as a bus conductor,” she says.
She reveals that the process of identifying all the bus stations by the names was not as hard as she thought it would be. In just one day she had known all the drop off points on the route.
“A special arrangement was established that day, whereas another bus conductor was calling out the bus stations’ names I was collecting bus fares from the passengers and at the same time learning the fare that one has to pay from one station to another,” says Witness.
She says that it took her time to know that Bunju to Tegeta bus fare is Sh400 and Makumbusho to Bunju bus fare is Sh750. Witness says that despite working under the owner of the bus, their work for the past 5 years (since 2016) has granted the couple closure as well as opened them to foresee themselves owning their own bus one day.
“Working together has taught us that we would rather have our own bus because it’s only then will we be able to budget all the bus fares to cater our family’s needs,” she adds.
Finding the balance
Witness explained that they both wake up at 3am every day, so as to ensure they are both on the road by 4am to prepare for a long day that usually ends at 11pm whereby their journeys end with at least 20 trips on a daily basis.
The mother of four who are Khatibu (23), Rabia (20), Johnson (13) and Maureen (8), reveals that working alongside her husband helped her to understand working regulations and procedures, whereas they both vowed to not bring home matters of work.
“Marriage is literally incomplete without the conflicts, but we both made promises to never let our home situations interfere with our working environment,” says Witness.
She says whenever they have differences as a married couple; they usually put them aside when they are working together.
“We both believe that bringing domestic problems from work can limit God’s blessings as the attitude and the energy from one or both of us directly affects the business,” says Witness.
She says their house is often left empty as two of her children live with their grandparents while the other two are in boarding schools.
It didn’t take long for her husband, Athuman noticed the difference between working with other conductors and working with his wife almost instantly.
“The difference is easily noticeable, because the amount we have been collecting for the past 5 years is high compared to the amount that was being collected by other conductors I had worked with previously,” says Athuman.
For example, a few weeks ago when his wife travelled to Moshi, Athuman temporarily recruited his younger brother to help with conducting the bus.
“Working alongside my younger brother proved my point that no other person has ever reached the collection target compared to when my wife is on duty,” says Athuman.
He is full of Praise for his better half saying she is the best money saver, adding that even when the bus is rented for a whole day, his wife knows the right amount of money to be paid by the people renting the bus.
Athuman is optimistic and he hints at a plan of buying their own bus because their first son, Khatibu, is also a school bus driver.
“The bus we are planning to buy will be coordinated by us and our son. My son is now upgrading his driving license as it currently permits him to drive Grade A vehicles only,” he notes
Witness says that working as a conductor comes with challenges at times, some of which cannot be controlled.
“It is a gender biased job, one that is rarely done by women. There are times people assume you are naturally soft to them in bus fare collection and that you will not respond to verbal abuses,” she says.
Witness says that people often view bus conductors differently, with expectations that they are harsh, and talkative.
“There are other times people approach me with different motives without the knowledge that the bus driver is my husband, and at times, it is literally the opposite. Sometimes passengers decline giving full amounts of bus fares once they reach their respective destinations,” says Witness.
As for the husband’s side of the story, working alongside his wife, Athuman says his wife is sometimes tipped different amounts of money by male passengers or verbally abused whilst he is driving. But sadly as Athuman puts it, it pains him that he can’t do anything about it as he has to focus on the road.
“We usually talk for some time after ending a route trip, and it’s during that time when she informs me about everything that went on, including how male passengers tipped her extra cash,” Athuman says.
Athuman says he is in no position to deny the money as it is often done without his knowledge, but he says that Witness counts every cent including the tips when she is counting the collected bus fare for the day.
What others says
A one of a kind relationship Passengers who reside and conduct business ventures between the Makumbusho and Bunju route, say the couple working together display the affection they have for one another and their desire to hustle together.
“The two working together shows that they are both targeting a certain lifestyle. Having your partner in the same workplace can sometimes trigger you to work even harder,” says Lila Mrisho, a businessman in Bunju.
Aisha Raziki, who resides in Tegeta, says a woman working as a bus conductor is tough especially when she has children; however, it is a different case with Witness because of the husband’s presence at work.
“Conducting a bus demands a lot of time, because they are known for waking up at wee hours as compared to most people, but the presence of a husband in the same environment soothes this because it details that they do it all together while reaching their life goals,” says Ms Riziki.