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.