In a democracy, universal adult suffrage is a fundamental political right; the ruled should periodically in a free and fair atmosphere, elect or remove rulers. In addition, the rulers, in the near impossibility of direct democracy in the Athenian sense, should be accountable to the ruled directly or through their representatives.
One way in which the masses can hold the rulers accountable is through the exercise of the right to protest through peaceful demonstrations. Moreover, pluralism is the political essence of a democratic polity; public policy ought to be an outcome of divergent contestation of ideas by various groups. Citizens of Botswana should start exercising their freedom of assembly and association as well as their freedom of expression to peacefully assemble and petition the government for a redress of their grievances.
There are many grievances; unemployment and underemployment, poverty, wealth and income gaps, water and power shortages, poor health and education standards and poor working conditions by employers including the government. The economy is also in the hands of foreigners with Batswana spectating in the periphery or getting crumbs from the wealthy foreigners.
Students at primary schools, secondary schools and tertiary institutions have been neglected. Some primary school and junior secondary school pupils haven't seen a test tube or bunsen burner or a bicker and there are no laboratories in the proper sense of the word. There's a serious shortage of textbooks, stationery, machinery and other teaching materials.
There's a shortage of classroom and this exacerbates the student-teacher ratio issue and facilities are dilapidated in schools. Teachers conditions of service are appalling; they live in shared accommodation of dilapidated houses, they are poorly paid and are seldom listened to.
Tertiary education students have also been neglected; their allowances are low, they can't afford high rentals and required readings and materials. There's a lot of corruption in the entire system of tertiary education, some schools dispense fake qualifications if you look at the facilities they have, their teaching materials, the quality of their staff and other considerations. Public tertiary institutions are increasingly neglected in favour of private tertiary institutions which are corrupt and grease the palms of decision-makers.
Overnight some of these fraudsters enroll hundreds and or thousands of government sponsored students and the owners are multi- millionaires through corrupt practices. In the mist of all this, some public tertiary institutions will collapse and some will shrink and will be neglected. It is against this backdrop that Botswana College of Agriculture students protests should be understood.
There is an evil attempt to declare almost every worker essential to limit the right to strike. There are deliberate efforts to frustrate democratisation; all suggested reforms by election observer missions and the opposition and civil society have been ignored. Civil liberties are limited with tough measures introduced on many fronts.
Judges are being purged. Parliament has been reduced to a talks how. Corruption, economic crime and mismanagement as well as unethical governance has become a norm especially by the ruling elites. Known suspects of corruption and economic crime are still in charge of the country's security to pillage and plunder even more. Business people are coerced to disassociate with the opposition and its leaders failing which they will not get government tenders. The system has become devilish, petty and bully and it is therefore no longer necessary.
The right to assemble, protest and petition is circumscribed. The government has for many years sought to limit this important right through the use of mass arrests, police brutality including excessive use of force, near criminalisation of protests and intimidation as well as blacklisting. Robert Michels, in his piece, “Political parties: a sociological study of oligarchical tendencies of modern democracy”, remarked that organisation is the weapon of the weak against the strong.
Workers or trade unions, civil society, students, churches and or religious groups, professional groups and the poor and the unemployed etc should therefore unite and rise against oppression. People should associate with progressive organisations, assemble, protest and exercise their freedom of expression and petition the government more often. The protests should form part of the broader efforts to save the country from economic collapse and regression of its democracy.
The madness has reached the judiciary and this suggests that wheels have fallen off. Whilst standing up for one's inalienable rights can be challenging, especially when demonstrations are met with security apparatus brutality, knowing one's rights and both short term and long term objectives are the powerful weapons against the brutal regime or the security sector.
Pro-democracy peaceful protests should be intensified by tertiary institutions, secondary schools pupils and workers and other groups between now and 2019. Anti-corruption protests, service delivery protests, strikes and other protests should be intensified by all concerned groups to save the country. These should be well planned, coordinated and sustained. Fear and timidity must be abandoned. Progressive lawyers should assist those who will be arrested or tortured or subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment.
There should be more litigations challenging the establishment and its oppressive actions. Parliamentarians who care about their people should raise the aforementioned public concerns and join or support the protests. They should also protest for instance by refusing to take part in enactment or formulation of oppressive and evil laws and policies. They should, when oppressors use their numbers in the house against public interest or in favour of petty political expediency, walkout in protest.
Clearly Batswana cannot save their democracy by sitting at home and waiting for five years. Democracy elsewhere has come or was saved through protests. Without the right to assemble, protest and petition, other nations have fully and “illegally”utilised this avenue against brutal dictatorships and have ultimately achieved democracy and economic prosperity. A luta terminara (the struggle shall end).