Socialist Worker

Botswana shut down by first mass strike

Issue No. 2249

A strike by more than 90,000 government workers has paralysed Botswana in southern Africa for more than a week.

It is a historic moment for the working class in Botswana.

The Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions—made up of five unions representing over 90 percent of the government workforce—called the strike.

The ten-day stoppage, which started on Monday of last week, is the first mass public sector strike in the country’s history.

And it is the first legal public sector strike—something won only last year, when the government was forced to back down.

Even in the hometown of president Ian Khama—who publicly declared his unwillingness to compromise last week—workers marched, singing. The confidence of the strikers is something never seen in the country before.

Increase

Workers are fighting for a 16 percent wage increase.

They have had no raise since 2008, despite rising inflation.

The government has offered 5 percent, arguing that there is no money due to the economic crisis. But the workers reject that.

The strike has had a paralysing impact. Most government offices are closed.

Doctors, nurses and cleaners from clinics and hospitals joined ranks with teachers and cooks from government schools.

On the second morning of the strike, one picket said, “There is more than enough money.

“They pump millions into the Directorate for Intelligence and Security Services which is only spying on people, but where are our allowances?”

Another striker added, “They have money to build expensive houses for ministers and palaces for former presidents while they impose VAT on us.”

Workers are clearly influenced by the revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East.

Some are talking about “regime change” in Botswana, where the ruling party has been in power for more than 40 years.

Thanks to International Socialists Botswana


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Article information

International
Tue 26 Apr 2011, 17:53 BST
Issue No. 2249
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