In the continuing clamp down against striking workers, police detained four Mmathethe Junior Secondary School teachers┬áand two local government employees overnight for alleged disturbance of peace. They were released the next day without any charges.
Two of the teachers are said to be breast-feeding mothers. Botswana Police Service spokesman, Christopher Mbulawa, confirmed the detentions. The government says teachers were arrested on suspicion of disturbing peace. That being the case, there was no evidence they had committed the alleged offence(s) hence their subsequent release. The workers were arrested in Mmathethe by Lobatse Police Officers who drove them to Good Hope where they were detained.
“There were reports that some people were disturbing peace. The police interrogated four teachers and two industrial class workers at the weekend. They were detained overnight. They were released after there was no evidence to suggest they committed any offence,” said Mbulawa.
The Botswana Secondary School Teachers Union (BOSETU) has reacted with anger at what the union describes as a ploy by the government to make the indefinite strike action by civil servants illegal by also having arrested union leaders.
“The government is becoming desperate. It is building up a strategy, a sad one at that, to declare the strike illegal. We are not surprised by the arrests.┬á The police are innocent. They are acting on instructions from the political leadership which is trying to frustrate workers,” BOSETU Executive Secretary Justin Hunyepa told the Sunday Standard.
Opposition Botswana National Front (BNF) has also condemned the detentions and raids of union leaders.
“The crackdown on the Union leadership is orchestrated to take of the steam from the strike that has crippled government service delivery,” said the party’s spokesman, Moeti Mohwasa, in a media statement released by the end of the week.
Lending workers support of the strike action by civil servants, the BNF notes that workers have had no salary increase in the last four budgets.
“The lowest paid worker gets about P1100 per month. The BNF has always argued that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party, which is financed by big business, is not committed┬á to ensuring┬á that the locals benefit from the country’s rich resources. Its neo-liberal approach has ensured that workers continue to get low salaries which have led to huge economic imbalances, exploitation and poverty,” the BNF argues.