The Leader of the Opposition, Botsalo Ntuane last week slammed President Ian Khama and his government for using strong arm tactics against dissenting citizens.
When responding to the state of the nation address, Ntuane said government is increasingly becoming hostile to its own citizens.
He said government should dialogue with the nation, as the recent public sector strike and the escalating standoff between government and Bakgatla paramount chief Kgafela Kgafela have the potential to polarize and destabilize the nation.
“In a country which professes to be a leading democratic torchbearer, governance by intimidation and blackmail is completely at disjuncture with what we profess to be. Government would be well advised to refrain from using strong arm tactics against its own people,” said Ntuane.
He appealed to President Khama to pardon civil servants who were fired after engaging in the recent public sector strike. He also urged all parliamentarians to support his call for clemency and national reconciliation, saying it will help to heal open wounds and bring normalcy to the country.
“The year 2011 was a horrible year. It changed Botswana forever and made her lose her innocence. Our public discourse has been characterized by recriminations, accusations and counter accusations,” said Ntuane.
He said the public sector strike has polarized society and engendered attitudes of anger and hostility. On the one hand, government is angry that public servants went on strike, while civil servants are unhappy with government’s intransigence and insensitivity.
“Apportioning culpability for the strike and its consequences will not address the plight of dismissed public servants,” he said.
Three hundred and sixty of the over 700 civil servants who have been dismissed possess essential skills that are badly needed by the nation.
“All these people are collateral victims of the strike. They are fellow Batswana who deserve our empathy and compassion. If those who look up to their government for protection and welfare have erred, surely the government is much bigger than them and can grant clemency,” said Ntuane.
He challenged government to come out in the open and declare if unions are still permitted to operate in Botswana. He said Botswana cannot afford to send mixed signals to the investor community, as they must be assured that the country is open for business, irrespective of differences between the government and any sector of society.
Ntuane said the numerous lawsuits that government finds itself embroiled in with unions could be easily resolved if the two could dialogue.
“Let us refrain from categorizing those who went on strike as less patriotic citizens. Those workers embarked on a legal strike sanctioned by the government under the laws of Botswana. They withdrew their labour just as much as government exercised its right to withhold salaries,” said Ntuane.
He added that all Batswana are patriotic citizens, none more than the other, none lesser than the other. He also asked government to smoke the peace pipe and engage citizens in good faith and out of a spirit of give and take.