The envisaged privatization of Air Botswana has generated a lot of public interest and debate.
Notwithstanding the adoption of a parliamentary motion calling for the suspension of such privatization, the government has proceeded with negotiation and is likely to finalise the deal before the end of the year.
This is just one among many instances in which the Executive has shown contemptuous disregard for parliament in violation of basic principles of democratic governance.
Worse still, the Government has trampled upon its own rules and procedures on privatization.
Air Botswana has not been converted into a company as envisaged by existing legislation.
Instead of privatizing by the disposal of part of the shares held by government as it is going to be done for instance with BTC, Air Botswana is being completely liquidated.
There are also serious allegations of impropriety and corruption in the way the envisaged privatization has been handled.
There are allegations, for instance, that there was no genuine competitive bidding for the selection of a strategic partner and that SA Airlink was earmarked for selection even before the submission of bids by other airlines.
There is also information from reliable sources that the Headquarters of the new purportedly privatized national airline are likely to be located outside the borders of the country ÔÇô a serious affront to our national pride and sovereignty.
In the absence of a comprehensive legislation setting out clear rules and procedures and providing for a transparent process of privatization, arbitrariness, abuse and corruption are likely to be maximized as some elements within state bureaucracy and the ruling elite seek to directly benefit from the process and sacrifice national interest on the alter of individual greed and self enrichment.
And this is not accidental, despite all the rhetoric about improving efficiency and empowering Batswana, privatisation is essentially part of the neo-liberal agenda aimed at transferring national assets to private capitalist (especially foreign) and local ruling elites.
Our objection to privatization, therefore, goes beyond mere concern about violation of rules and possible abuse.
We are saying privatisation is a vicious anti-working class policy because it tends to breed corruption and undermine national self determination. It has already been confirmed by the Minister of Works herself that out of the 370 workers presently employed by Air Botswana, only slightly less than 270 are likely to be employed.
In the era of globalization, the world of work has become a nightmare for millions of workers.
The modern Taylorrism, known as “lean production”, has resulted in increased casualisation, characterized by little employment protection and chronic insecurity throughout the labour force.
It has become common in a lot of companies even in Botswana for workers to be employed on short term contracts renewable every three months.
The lack of job security and intensified exploitation has affected white collar and blue collar workers alike. The crude and brutal culture of market forces or what is called “cost recovery” is being introduced into schools, hospitals and councils. The workers of this country need leadership which will take them out of this exploitation and oppression.
At the beginning of last year, government reintroduced school fees under the pretext that parents needed to assist sharing the costs of their children’s education.
We did point out that this was unjustified as parents were already assisting government in taking responsibility for some of the costs of their children’s education such as paying developing fees, buying uniform and paying school fees at the nursery and private schools.
We further pointed out the so-called cost sharing measure was a retrogressive step that would stigmatise children from poor families and deny them education. At that time, the BDP Government vehemently vowed that no child would ever be expelled from school on account of his or her parent’s inability to pay. Just a few months back, the Minister of Education Jacob Nkate confirmed that School Heads had been given firm instructions to return students who had not paid school fees, thus confirming what we had consistently asserted in the past.
This exposes the hypocrisy and insensitivity of this BDP Government which we strongly condemn.
We reiterate our position that education is a right and not a privilege and should be free and compulsory, to empower every child by providing him with knowledge and develop human resources which will help develop this country.
Much has been said about the intelligence bill that has recently been brought before parliament.
The government argues that the envisaged legislation meant to enable the country to deal with political and economic threats from the country’s enemies. We do not agree that there is any serious political threat to our country, especially in the light of democratization of the whole of Southern Africa which has brought stability to the region and enhanced our collective security.
In any event, we have always had intelligence services operating under the police even at the height of instability and aggression unleashed against our country by the apartheid South Africa. If our Security and Intelligence Services were able to cater for our security needs then, they are more than adequate for the task now at the time when there is peace and security in the whole region.
The reasons given by the Government for the enactment of this proposed legislation are unconvincing, especially taking into account the way the legislation has been drafted giving enhanced role and powers to the presidency and the cabinet in various intelligence committees. We suspect that the envisaged legislation is intended to set up surveillance against opposition and trade union activists. The Intelligence Bill poses a serious threat to civil liberties in this country. We are also concerned with the recent measures adopted buy Government of selectively imposing visa requirements against some citizens of countries whose citizens do not normally require visas to enter Botswana. The information available to us is that these individuals do not pose any security threat to Botswana but are generally very vocal in critiquing Botswana’s policies. The new measures are a sign of intolerance and undemocratic tendencies on the part of the BDP government.