Sunday, June 16, 2024

Choppies strike is proof enough that Batswana are economic slaves in their own land

This past week, a handful number of retail giant Choppies workers picketed in front of the Westgate Mall store (Before they were threatened with shamboks and chased away by the Police).

The picketing workers were protesting against poor welfare and conditions of service that they said the company continue to subject them to.

While the company later released a press statement distancing itself from the development, the incident became a reminder to this nation on how a larger number of Batswana find themselves squeezed between rising expenses, stagnating wages, and thin work benefits.

We therefore have no shame in congratulating the Choppies workers for their bravery undertaking to boldly stand up for their rights and welfare. In fact one of the picketers told journalists that their interest was to help “new” Choppies employees to get better working conditions and wages. This sentiment was made clearly because the young man knew that in this capitalist world, he and other picketing workers might find themselves without jobs.

The picketers also reminded that of the sad reality that in our country ÔÇô described by mane international agencies as “most unequal in the world” companies continue to make huge profits yet very little is passed to the pockets of the workers. The trend of unequal distribution of income is continuing, and probably worsening. As it stands, if the well-being of the so called middle-class was the yardstick by which Botswana’s success is measured, then our country would be in trouble. Actually our country is in trouble as confirmed by personal stories that were shared by Choppies workers this week. We strongly believe that Choppies is not the only retailer or company that subject its workers to such inhuman treatment. That is why if you ask how or why most natives of this country tend to be stagnant at the so called middle class level the answer will always be ÔÇô “because of Choppies and its WatsApp Group members”. In the social media space, when a people portray same personality and characteristics they are said to be in the same WatsApp group. The group members work hard to ensure the natives’ best potential pathway to the upper class is blocked. Unfortunately this behaviour hampers broad-based economic growth. In the end, the lack of growth always hit hard on young people both unemployed and those entering the workforce. The job searching group needs a solid economy, so that jobs are created which they can fill while those who are employed, like the Westgate Mall Choppies store workers rightfully seek and need salary increment.

The truth that we will always remind ourselves of is that the obsession with poverty eradication by the former President ÔÇô Ian Khama came at an expense of the middle class whom he neglected.

No doubt about it, the former President’s grand plan to fight poverty is not by any imagination a bad thing. At the time of his accession to office of the president the poor people in this country was getting forgotten and passed over by capitalism. The biggest worry is that while he did right thing to look towards those in abject poverty, Khama did not afford enough protection to the middle and working class. He shunned them until his last day in office this past week.

Just like his predecessors, Khama was unable to direct money towards the pockets of indigenous Batswana. To this date, a sizeable number of Batswana are still grappling with challenges of limited access to finance despite Botswana much talked about economic success of diamond mining. Botswana’s case of rich state, poor people is supported by many studies amongst them conducted by the African Development Bank (AFDB) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The two organisations have previously listed Botswana amongst countries with the high levels of unequal distribution of wealth and development amongst citizens.

It is our believe that, before stepping down, Khama as the Chief Executive of this country should have beard some responsibilities for the maladministration and failures which in turn led to the economic injustice that is being felt by the people of this country including the Choppies workers.

At the end, the #Bottomline remains, with the help of his cabinet, and some top civil servants, Khama has been kicking the fiscal can down the road for some time.  As a result, Khama-nomics era leaves a lot to desire and we are glad it has since come to an end. The people of this country remain economic slaves but hope remains that the new President will use the little money that was left by the looters to fight our number one enemies – Unemployment, Unequal distribution of wealth and landlessness.


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