Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sad Days in Botswana

As I write this the civil service strike continues in the country. This means there is little to no education taking place. Hospitals are barely staffed and most clinics are closed. Government offices are nonfunctional. It has now become an indefinite strike.

Sadly our president has failed completely as a leader. Instead of leading his people according to Setswana culture, a culture based on consultation and compromise, on negotiation and respect he has chosen to dig in his heels. He is doing his best to create dangerous divisions between Batswana in the hope that he will find support among the poor and the unemployed, the very ones most affected by this strike. It is a path that could backfire on all of us.

Our national television station (BTV) has become a complete sham. In the initial days of the strike they produced propaganda reports posing as news stories saying all was fine. For them students were in the classrooms being taught and clinics and hospitals were fully operational. On the ground we could all see with our own eyes that this was a lie.

Since then President Khama has been shown on the BTV news/propaganda report speaking at the kgotla telling the gathering that he will not talk with the Unions and he doesn't care if the strike goes on for months or years. He went on to insult the strikers in Setswana, an insult that enraged many people and has pushed many people sitting on the fence regarding this issue firmly on the Unions' side.

Last night on BTV Minister of Education and Skills Development Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi went on the BTV news/propaganda report and told the nation that a letter had been found on the ground at one of the secondary schools (Lobsec) urging students to revolt against the government. She blamed this letter on the Unions. To me it sounded like a lame justification for the government to take sterner action against the strikers. I fear for the worse.

So far we've had no violence. Still, everyone is sitting on the edge of their chairs. We snatch up private papers in an attempt to find out what is really happening. We discuss each development on Facebook. All of us are upset. All of us are nervous for what might happen next.


OneStonedCrow said...

Hi laurie - I've been off-line and out-of-touch with the news lately and sad to read about this state of affairs as I've always regarded Botswana as the most 'sensible' country in Africa ...

Helen Ginger said...

Lauri, this all sounds frightening. I'm very glad I stopped by since I've seen nothing about all this on any of the U.S. network stations. (It may be on the news channels, but I can't get cable where I live.)

Anonymous said...

That is scary. It sounds like anarchy could descend at any moment. You must be on tenterhooks. I hope a resolution is reached very soon.

Independent Mind said...

1.Not everyone is upset with the government. I am upset with the Unions, but especially with the opposition parties for courting the Unions!!

2.Why is this blamed on the President alone?

"Sadly our president has failed completely as a leader. Instead of leading his people according to Setswana culture, a culture based on consultation and compromise, on negotiation and respect he has chosen to dig in his heels."

3.Has his government not compromised when his government offered 5%, something the country can currently afford?
4.Yet have there been no negotiations? Or I guess negotiations entail only an agreement to 13%. Why is it that you are not questioning the Union's refusal of 5% especially with the brief history of the recession?
5.And with the mere fact that government has been working on a deficit? And two years ago, government chose not to retrench workers instead it sought out a loan to cover the deficit?

Lauri said...

Selma- Botswana is not like other countries, I doubt there will be anarchy, Batswana are not like that. People are just not happy right now and the government keeps making the wrong moves.

Independent Mind- Thanks for stopping by. Yes I do agree that there has been some intransigence from the unions, in the last week especially. But in the beginning they were trying their best to find a solution, no one wanted a strike but the President refused to meet them and went on to insult them and their issue. Very much against the spirit of consultation. I think that's where his lack of responsible leadship showed.

As for the money, the workers have not had an increment for three years under serious inflationary pressure. By not having a pay increase they are in fact subsidising the government's budget.

And if the money is so tight perhaps it is time to stop some of the President's ill thought out programmes such as the intern programme, constituecny leagues, President's Day competitions. He might consider not splashing out on uneeded expenses at the State House and DIS. I sometimes wonder if the "dire straits" we find ourselves in are not fabricated. Especially when DTC sold 600 million USD of diamonds last month.

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