Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Workers strike escalating towards regime change

Leaders of the five public sector unions that have waged an indefinite strike action revealed for the first time this week that talk of regime change has started surfacing during meetings they have been addressing.

The revelation came after Botswana Secondary Teachers Union (BOSETU) secretary general, Tobokani Rari, told a packed political rally graced by three main opposition party leaders in Ramotswa over the weekend that workers have shifted their focus from their demand for a 16 percent pay hike to a regime change, something that, until recently, has been the subject of speculation.

In a follow up interview, Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSO) Secretary General, Andrew Motsamai,┬á says workers are increasingly becoming agitated for a regime change judging by the cold response they are repeatedly receiving from the country’s leadership, in particular the Head of State. Motsamai, however, pointed out that Rari’s utterance over the weekend was not sanctioned by the five public sector unions. He does not rule out the possibility that unions are mooting a plan of regime change as another option.

“There has been such talk of regime change at meetings that we continue to address. I am not surprised that such a statement could have been made. We, however, have not yet taken an official position to that effect,” Motsamai said.

Talk of a regime change seems to be finding favour among followers of local opposition parties.
Speaking of regime change at the political rally over the weekend, Rari was given a thunderous roar of approval, coupled with a gesture normally seen at football matches when spectators ask the referee to substitute players by striking civil servants who attended the meeting in large numbers.

Representatives from three opposition parties, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and Botswana National Front (BNF) also nodded in approval. The unionist told the gathering that the next move by unions is to engage cabinet, Members of Parliament and the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) central committee over the impasse at hand.

The BCP President, Dumelang Saleshando, says after five weeks of industrial action, which was meant to prompt the government into some positive response, the workers  are now feeling  completely ignored by the powers that be.

“The workers are starting to rightly identify President Khama as the key problem. As we stated in our 2009 election manifesto, Khama’s presidency will lead to economic collapse and dictatorship. It is time for the President to vacate office. In any case he was not popularly elected. It is for the BDP to decide whether they want to sink with him or part ways with him,” says Saleshando.

The BNF secretary general, Akanyang Magama, says he is still to be briefed by another party elder, Maemo Bantsi, who was present at the rally where the unionist spoke of a regime change.

“I can’t comment at this stage because Comrade Bantsi has still to brief me,” Magama told the Telegraph.

The BDP executive secretary, Dr. Batlang Serema, says news of regime change is disturbing.
“It is shocking and surprising that the unions could talk of regime change. Such utterances are unfortunate. We thought that workers were exercising their legitimate rights to demand salary increase through lawful means other than those which you are referring to,” says Serema.

The BMD had no official position by the time of going to press but a member of the central committee, who did not wish to be identified, welcomed the statement, saying people have gotten fed up with the indifference displayed by President Ian Khama towards the legitimate demands of workers.

“President Ian Khama has frustrated negotiations with unions and efforts that were done in good faith by former Presidents, the Church Council, opposition leaders inside and outside parliament. The president has basically negated dialogue,” said the senior BMD official.

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