The 2009 elections came and went. Congratulations are in order for those who were duly elected and, for those who did not succeed we extend our commiserations and encourage them to try again next time.
We congratulate the Botswana Democratic Party, and their leader, President Khama, for having obtained the most seats in Parliament.
It is important that those who have been given the mandate to govern must now work on delivering their election promises, and put the elections and what took place immediately prior thereto behind them.
This week the National Amalgamated Local & Central Government & Parastatal Workers’ Union (“NALCGPWU”) were shocked to learn that Government has resolved that NALCGPWU must be deregistered with the Registrar of Trade Unions and Employers’ Organizations and dissolved because of its alleged hostility towards Government and the ruling party. We understand Government has resolved that a draconian provision in the Trade Union and Employer’s Organization, which empowers the Minister to do so, in certain circumscribed instances, will be invoked to give effect to Government’s stratagem.
NALCGPWU’s sin was to distribute, immediately prior to the elections, posters asking the electorate not to elect certain members of the A-team because they are “enemies of democracy”.
The posters were innocuous and most people saw humor in them. Humor is very important in a democratic society. A society that takes itself too seriously risks bottling up tensions. In the words of Justice Sachs, of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, “humour permits the ambiguities and contradictions of public life to be articulated in non-violent forms. It promotes diversity.
It enables a multitude of discontents to be expressed in a myriad of spontaneous ways. It is an exilir of constitutional health.”
The proposed dissolution of NALCGPWU is therefore uncalled for and completely disproportionate to any injury that those offended by the posters may have experienced.
If at all the posters were, in anyway, libelous, those affected have private law remedies. The remedy cannot be to abuse draconian legislation to bring about the dissolution of NALCGPWU.
The proposed deregistration and dissolution of NALCGPWU by Government is the clearest indication that the country is slowly sliding into totalitarianism. In its early stages a totalitarian regime that does not tolerate dissent, will start by deporting expatriates who dare express any unpopular views, then they will seek to use draconian pieces of legislation to go after juristic entities.
Eventually, when all these antics have failed, they will start killing critics. We saw it happen in Zimbabwe, first they expelled expatriates, then they went after the newspapers and other juristic entities, then they came for political and human right activists.
The intolerance by Government to the exercise of free speech is most hypocritical, given that Government has on several occasions criticized the Zimbabwean Government, led by Robert Mugabe, for having little tolerance for the exercise of free speech.
It is the same Government that is currently trying a citizen for suggesting that the President is not very intelligent, and has recently deported an expatriate for insinuating that the President is not heterosexual.
It is more constructive for Government to engage NALCGPWU in dialogue, if there are members within their rank who were aggrieved by NALCGPWU’s poster campaign. They should come and express that dissatisfaction and let there be a constructive debate around it.
NALCGPWU will vigorously defend any attempts by Government to abuse statutory authority to assuage the hurt feelings of members of the A-team. NALCGPWU calls for greater tolerance of dissenting views.
It is regrettable that the international community continues to remain silent as Botswana slides slowly into totalitarianism. The international community, namely the Southern African Development Community and the African Union, kept silent as Zimbabwe slowly got to where it is today. We hope the international community will not sit back and watch Botswana become another Zimbabwe.
NATIONAL ORGANISING SECRETARY