Thursday, April 21, 2011

Botswana's Civil Servants' Strike

Since Monday the civil service in Botswana, numbering over 90,000 employees, have been on strike. Despite raging inflation in the country, for three years civil servants have had no wage adjustment. Enough was enough. The unions asked for a 16% increase and our President, in a misguided move in a country founded on consultation, chose not to meet with them. He went on to criticise the government employees for asking for a wage increase during hard economic times. One wonders why during those same hard economic times he chose to refurbish the statehouse at extravagant expense and establish his pet project, the spy unit, DIS. Priorities I suppose is the only answer. Paying civil servants a respectable salary just is not on our President's list of priorities. The unions had no option but to call for a 10 day strike, from April 18-29.

So this week there has been little to no teaching, hospitals and clinics are operating on a skeletal staff, and even Botswana Television had to go without the nightly weather report because the meteorology folks had downed tools.

We're lucky to have a thriving private press for people who can still afford to buy the newspapers, because if you were left with the government media you would be under the impression that all was rosy in our country, that the strike was having no effect at all. Botswana Television (BTV) ran "news" stories that revealed yet again that the television station is nothing more than a propaganda arm of the ruling party. In the BTV world, the strike was barely happening. It was almost laughable if it wasn't for the fact that tax money is used to run the station.

The cost of living in Botswana is escalating on a daily basis. I feel for the civil servants who see that their pay check can buy less and less. At the same time the government is raising fees on such things as passports and introducing levies on things such as alcohol and tobacco, levies that economists have cautioned are money that can be misused by government, primarily the executive, as it is not controlled by Parliament.

A cautious, foreboding wind blows across Botswana. We look across our border at a sitting president who cares nothing about the suffering of his people, who will not listen to reason, who has destroyed his country's economy because of his arrogance, who controls state media with an iron fist and we Batswana feel sad for the poor Zimbabweans. We should look carefully at the state of our neighbour's house for it may describe the future of our own.

9 comments:

Sue Guiney said...

It's a global-wide mess, I fear. Killer cuts are happening here too, with all sorts of demonstrations. Good thing we have a royal wedding to divert our attention, eh?

Janet said...

I passed through a Botswana border on Monday which was being manned by the lonely District Customs Manager (after being warned of the strike by officials when I arrived on Friday). Ja, I hear you - winds of change are blowing.....and I hope not ominously

Selma said...

I hear you. The cost of living in Australia is skyrocketing and consumer confidence is at an all time low.

I really hope that the state of your neighbour's house isn't indicative of your future. That would just be too much. Fingers crossed....

Lauri said...

Oh god, Sue, the Royal Wedding is annoying from this distance I can only imagine how it is up close and personal.

It's funny Janet because BTV keeps reporting on the news that all of the border folk are on duty. Hmmm... I wonder how it's going for Easter when all the religious Batswana head to South Africa.

Lauri said...

Yes Selma I do think it is everywhere but I also think Botswana has recovered quite well. I think the government is trying to make us think it is worse than it is or if in fact it is as bad as they say then all parts of the government must tighten their belts, but that is not that case. When the Zebras, our national team were playing a few weeks ago in Chad the government paid to have football fans flown there (?!?), that is not the actions of someone on a tight budget.

karen said...

Hi Lauri
I totally sympathise with the government workers. It is shocking how our food prices have gone up lately, and you can imagine what it's like this far north, too! We wouldn't dream of a year going by without increasing our staff salaries.

Up here, our borders here are all manned, and some medical staff are on duty, but we heard BDF was helping out at the Ramokgwebana border. We even found the meteorology office in Pandamatenga had a few staff on duty,too!

We were also really wondering about the ZCC travellers to SA over easter.. that could be very chaotic, indeed!

Bernice L. McFadden said...

Just read your interview on Blood Red Pencil -- I'm headed to El Gouna in June. Very much looking forward to the experence!

Jackline Amaguru Olanya said...

I agree - its all about priorities, isnt it!? Our govnt in Uganda has the billions to splash left right and centre in a few pockets but not on what matters to actually improve the wellbeing of the ordinary person. Maybe it's a strategy to keep people helpless and thus 'powerless' but it's probably time to say enough is enough!

Lauri said...

Hi Bernice- El Gouna is lovely, I hope you'll enjoy it. If you have any questions just dropped me an email (lakubuitsile at gmail.com)

You know Jackline I was reading an article just now about the strike. The government likes to ask the unions where they think the money will come from but that's not the unions' problem. For the past years when the government did not give them an increment despite high inflation basically the workers have been subsidising the rest of the government's budget by taking what is essentially an pay cut.

In the same paper the government just bought army airplanes to the tune og P290 million. I mean really- Botswana? Who are we at war with? It really is all about what they think is important. Amazingly at the same time this is all going on MPs are asking for new pay packages similar to former presidents. IMAGINE?!?