Sunday, May 26, 2024

Impact of public sector strike unclear on first day

The extent of the impact of the nationwide strike action by public sector unions on the country’s public healthcare system and education remained unclear on Monday, the first day of the strike.

The Chief Public Relations Officer at the Ministry of Health, Doreen Motshegwa, said it was too early to say how government hospitals countrywide have been affected.

“We are still monitoring the situation. We hope to have a full picture on Tuesday,” she said on Monday.

In Ramotswa, public servants gathered at the old council offices, chanting and singing songs. It was, however, evident on Monday that while multitudes of civil servants in Gaborone participated in the strike, not everybody heeded the call.

At Gaborone City Council, Princess Marina Hospital and Gaborone Secondary School for instance, the situation was almost business as usual.

A snap survey of some clinics in the city revealed that the public health services were still functional, with skeleton staff attending to patients. At Julia Molefhe Clinic in Block 9, the number of patients was low, and patients spoken to said they had not expected staff to operate on the day. By midmorning, only one doctor and two nurses were seen attending to patients. Extension 2 Clinic, however, was busier as patients queued for consultation. The one doctor seen here had a nurse’s assistant who was attending to some patients with cotton wool on their arms. Phase 1 Clinic had even fewer patients, again with one doctor in attendance and a nurse who was dispensing medication.┬á Patients spoken to at the clinic said they were not complaining.

The Telegraph received reports, which could not be independently verified from the Botswana Federation of Secondary School Teachers (BOFESETE), that secondary school teachers countrywide had participated in the strike in large numbers.

According to BOFESETE executive secretary, Justin Hunyepa, teachers in Makaleng, Masunga, Tsamaya, and Tshesebe in the North East participated in the strike. In Francistown teachers are said to have converged at the Chedu Choga grounds. Mahalapye is also reported to have seen a large turnout of civil servants who participated in the strike.  According to Hunyepa, some schools in Tsabong were closed on Monday due to the unavailability of teachers. He said the unions field marshals in Maun reported an overwhelming participation and so was the situation in Molepolole.

“We have been reliably informed that at Ramokgwebana border gate about 15 soldiers have been deployed to defeat the purpose of the strike,” said Hunyepa.

The Botswana Movement for Democracy interim chairman, Gomolemo Motswaledi, accompanied by the Member of Parliament for Francistown South addressed striking civil servants at the Gaborone Senior Secondary School impressing upon workers to soldier on as they were fighting a just cause. The strike action follows a deadlock between government and five public sector unions over an increment of 16 percent in salaries and wages for workers. The government has offered a 5 percent increase with strings attached. The unions rejected the offer out right.

Unions argue that while the government preaches belt tightening its expenditure patterns betray a government that is serious about austerity measures.


Read this week's paper