Opposition courts foreign missions over strike

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As a member of the international community that is free to comment on foreign issues, it is only fair that the international community is made aware of what is happening in Botswana, the president of the opposition Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Dumelang Saleshando has said.

Saleshando was speaking to Mmegi after a meeting initiated by the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), the Botswana National Front (BNF) and his BCP with representatives of the European Union, the EU member states of France, Britian and Germany and the United States of America at the EU office in Gaborone yesterday.

Saleshando said the opposition parties called the meeting to make foreign missions in Botswana aware of the latest developments in the country. Chief among these developments were "the manner in which the government is handling the strike, the arrest of minors, the use of the state broadcaster to peddle propaganda and not granting political parties permits to peacefully engage in demonstrations".

Saleshando said Botswana was a member of the international community and that "if they can criticise events happening in foreign countries, it is only fair that the international community also knows what is happening here in Botswana".

The meeting was not about asking the diplomatic community to take sides in the matter but to get clarifications on issues that may not have been fully explained to them. "We are going to try and talk to all embassies in Botswana," he said. The spokesman of the Delegation of the European Union in Botswana, Bester Gabotlale, has confirmed the meeting but would not elaborate.

The public sector wage strike is in its fifth week. After a stalemate in negotiations, unions accepted a three percent increase offered by the government from an initial 16 percent. However, the unions said they accepted the government's offer on two conditions: to rescind or at least negotiate the No Work, No Pay rule mutually agreed to at the outset and to reinstate essential service employees summarily dismissed in the course of the strike.

The government has so far remained intransigent on the issues. The negotiating teams will meet again on Wednesday next week.

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When the pandemic reached Botswana’s shores last year March, a nation united in the quest to defeat an invisible enemy. It is a moment never witnessed in recent memory, with the catastrophes of the world war and the 1918 Spanish influenza being the only other comparisons in living memory. Botswana, like the rest of the world, had to readjust its priorities and channel most, if not all, of its energies towards fighting COVID-19. It has not been...

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