‘Give people a voice’

Professor Jotia
Professor Jotia

PALAPYE: University of Botswana (UB) lecturer Professor Agreement Jotia says no democracy can thrive without constructive criticism.

Addressing the Botswana Sectors of Educators of Teachers Union (BOSETU) conference in Palapye on Saturday, Jotia observed that if it is about the people then people should be allowed to have a voice.

He said trade unions therefore become uniquely vital in the democratic discourse. He added that democracy as a social process becomes functional if the masses are given a platform to engage by exchanging different social, economic and political viewpoints with government.

“Democracy is about giving the people a voice and in this case we mean giving a voice even to those people who make government develop allergies. Botswana just like South Africa who are regarded as shining examples of democracy can only build full and sustainable democracies by widening and deepening the institutions of voice of accountability which are currently seen as week and flawed,” he added.  He observed that though Botswana scored some mileage in the successful walk within the democratic process the rise of democratic progressivism and trade unionism, the weakness of democracy is getting exposed. He said the success of a democracy could not be narrowed down to the successful conduct of elections over the years.

“If the political leadership wants a situation where only one voice has to rule in a state then it would be safe to declare that a one man kind of leadership is typical in having a state being run under dictatorial or autocratic tendencies,” he said.

He further said transformational processes of globalisation in all its socio-economic and political spheres dictate that the labour movement should also transform its attitudes in a more radical way because resources will become scarce and the population may begin scavenging for the limited resources.  He added that trade unions should be vehemently involved in the democratic process so that they can help the state to reshape its economy in a way that is not going to disadvantage the working class. “For this to be possible, unionists who are informed in terms of the socio-economic and political dynamics of our time to influence policy are needed. I am not talking about passive and disorientated unions who are shallow in the understanding of policies because state would not listen to you if you cannot reason at the negotiating table on the basis of tangible facts.

Reforms do not just come on a silver platter they need advocates who are loaded with information,” he noted. Jotia stated that policy and governance processes have become more dispersed and less transparent thus creating a democratic deficit as political spaces begin to be softly governed by the economically powerful few.

“In this case trade unions should occupy this political space to protect the rights and welfare of the working class,” he noted.

He indicated that social ills that are fuelled by socio economic and political dynamics such as corruption, unemployment, dying education system, power and water crisis as well as disparity between the rich and the poor needs the intervention of informed trade unionists.

The professor stressed that the wheels of democracy are oiled and propelled by people and it is within the democratic right of the masses to echo their concerns either individually, or as a collective through trade union platforms.

“This is normal within a democracy and abnormal within authoritarian and dictatorial system of governance.  Trade unions are not a curse to the democratic process. What we see today in Botswana is a sign that it can no longer be business as usual. Our leaders must account, the rule of law should prevail and safety and security must be accorded due attention,” he noted.

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