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The strike on human rights and human welfare
The strike on human rights and human welfare
<TABLE class=contentpaneopen><TBODY><TR><TD vAlign=top>Written by MARTIN DINGAKE </TD></TR><TR><TD class=createdate vAlign=top>Wednesday, 25 May 2011 00:00
The Botswana Gazette
For democratic structures to endure – and to be worthy of endurance – they must listen to their citizens’ voices, engage their participation, tolerate their protests, protect their freedoms and respond to their needs. Larry Diamond
Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through. Jonathan Swift
It all started as an industrial action geared towards achieving a salary increment. In the course of the negotiations and before, there were certain pronouncements made by the head of the executive touching on the government position in respect of the salary increase. This pronouncements were made outside the recognized negotiation structures. To many, this gave window into the motive and strategy of government. From then nothing really ever got off to a good start.
Here lies a real political tragedy. The President and his key economic advisors were seemingly putting together a set of proposals geared towards boosting the ‘second economy’, in what Thabo Mbeki identified as where the unskilled and unemployed languish in what is the ground floor of a double storey that has no stairway. All this was done without engaging the workers, whom believed and would have legitimately assumed that their concerns will be addressed directly.
Had His Excellency the President heeded these political signals he might well have been able to adjust his leadership style, by consulting the workers more adequately and including them in the process. This would have turned the tide of their anger and starved off the situation currently prevailing. But he remained combative and domineering to the end.
Populism is indeed a dangerous strategy, for it involves the mobilizing of irrational emotions that can easily get out of control. The fact that Batswana have showed themselves susceptible to this remain worrying. The strategy by the President has sought to create a wedge between the less privileged and the workers. But the President conveniently forgets that these people are the workers’ kith and kin. This wedge is broadcast with impunity in public television without giving the workers the right to air their side of the story. In my mind, and just as Xolela Mangcu once observed, it is a malaise born of a cynical political culture in which political leaders brook no dissent, feed on public resources, and then tell the sick and the poor to eat cake. Such political cultures never change until and unless there is a political revolution that ushers in a new leadership cadre.
With the passage of times schools have closed. This is hardly after the Form 4s opened later on account of the examination crisis last year. They had barely settled in school when the teachers went on strike. The closure of public schools was a sequel to the violence that had erupted across the country with students demanding to be taught, even then not by temporary teachers. There are allegations that the police interrogated and locked up students during this mayhem. Its doubtful that when the interrogations were done on these children, many of whom would be minors, they were accompanied by their parents or guardian. Of course the police would care less but the law does give protection to any accused person let alone a minor child.
There has been acknowledgments both on the part of government that government services have been hugely disrupted, in particular at government health facilities. Quite obviously, this would greatly affect the welfare of both the citizens and inhabitants of the country. With the impasse continuing unabated there appears to be no immediate solution to the problem. The consequences can be dire, almost to a point of threatening the life of those who are on a sick bed.
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