Teachers vow to make Botswana ungovernable
from PHENYO MODISE in Francistown, Botswana
FRANCISTOWN, (CAJ News) – RELATIONS between Botswana’s teacher unions and government, already strained over poor working conditions, are set to deteriorate further after government said it was not in a position to increase salaries.
The unions have threatened sporadic countrywide mass demonstrations to force the government to look into their grievances.
Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) president, Johannes Tshukudu, has told a Botswana Sectors of Educators Union (Bosetu) conference in Francistown, the second largest city, that teachers were contemplating “making the country ungovernable” if their demands are not met.
“We have tried in vain to sit on a table and pave the way forward with the
government. And the government should be prepared for a bloody confrontation if the security agencies try to stop us,” said Tshukudu in a follow-up interview with CAJ News.
“Trouble has started. Teachers are angry because the government is not willing to listen and negotiate with the unions,” said Tshukudu.
He added, “Historically, from 1977, Botswana teachers have never enjoyed any right like other public officer. This must change.”
Tshukudu accused the government of amending labour laws against the international standards.
Bosetu Secretary General, Tobokani Rari, echoed the sentiments.
“Trouble has just begun. This is so because teachers’ unions have tried on several times to seek audience with the parliament but their efforts were blocked. And the only solution is to take to the streets,” Rari threatened.
Rari said teachers would stage mass demonstrations around the country “with or without” the police clearance.
“We are ready to die for our rights. And we will not hesitate to make a confrontation with the police in case they want to stop us,” he said.
In August, teachers staged a peaceful demonstration in Francistown.Rari warned the demonstrations would be violent.
Unions in the diamond-rich country have bemoaned the fact that over the past decade, salaries have been increased by 6 percent.
This is against inflation rate that has averaged 7,58 percent during the period, reaching an all-time high of 15,06 percent in November 2008 and a low of , and current, 2,70 percent in January this year.
Since the 2008 world credit crunch, Botswana has suffered declining revenues from diamonds, the mainstay of the economy, thereby affecting the government’s expenditure.
Education and Skills Development Minister, Unity Dow, told CAJ News the government willing to negotiate with the unions but was unfortunately experiencing financial challenges.
“It will be difficult to stop teachers from demonstrating,” added Dow.
In 2011, a public sector strike by 100 000 servants brought the Southern African country to a virtual standstill for two months and led to the most serious unrest since independence from Britain in 1966.
– CAJ News
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