WE’RE GOING SHOPPING AND WE ARE NOT PAYING

As angry strikers went on an impromptu rampage setting fire to tyres and blocking traffic, their songs of defiance warned that the burning had only just begun.

Amongst the targets mentioned were the government enclave Ntshe House, Engen petrol station and Choppies stores.

Following the sporadic acts of violence that rocked the country on Tuesday, concerned strike marshals in Francistown warned that the mood might turn even uglier if an amicable solution to the industrial action was not reached soon.

As angry strikers went on an impromptu rampage setting fire to tyres and blocking traffic, their songs of defiance warned that the burning had only just begun.

Amongst the targets mentioned were the government enclave Ntshe House, together with Engen petrol station and Choppies stores for their perceived links to the ruling party.

It was a display of defiance that shocked the second city as angry strikers showed their determination to continue their ‘war’ against government.

As the dust settled on a day of fury, militant strikers in Francistown warned that events might take a further turn towards anarchy if their demands were not met.

“We’re going shopping and we’re not going to pay,” was the cry that went up as hundreds of striking workers marched towards the city centre. Their anger had been stirred by reports in the government media that essential workers sacked for taking part in the industrial action, would have to re-apply for their jobs.

Making their way from the Chedu Choga grounds, the apparent aim was to stage a sit down protest blocking traffic at the Thapama circle before getting food and then heading for Ntshe House – this in a bid to pull out the skeletal staff that has kept the government engines turning for the past eight weeks.

The marchers’ plans were abruptly altered however when baton wielding police in riot gear fired teargas into the crowd, forcing a hurried retreat.

Commenting on the day’s events strike marshals were at pains to distance themselves from the actions of what they considered to be a violent minority.

Despite wearing a T-shirt that proclaimed, ‘Workers – Wages –War,’ Vice–President of the Manual Workers Union, Sammy Sithole said: “ I am a peace maker, not a law breaker and I am not instructing anyone to be violent, burn tyres or block roads. In fact on Tuesday when they left for town it was because the vendors here at the grounds had run out of food, and the people said they were going shopping to get something to eat.

“The only explanation that I can give for the behaviour that followed is that they are losing patience, and they have seen that government is taking them for a ride. These are angry people and they want government to know they have the power to act.”

The 38-year-old unionist, who has been vocal throughout the strike, went on to say that the leaders of the unions did not have the power to suspend the industrial action. “The strike is not a one man show. Our members gave us the mandate to negotiate and they are the very people who told us that should the employer fail to heed their demands, they are downing tools. As much as we may wish people to go back to work, we cannot do so until our members give us the go ahead,” he said.

Although he personally felt that the strike had dragged on too long, he added that the sentiments from the people were that they would not leave the dusty strike grounds empty handed. “They are determined to get their dismissed colleagues re-instated, the no work no pay ruling scrapped, and the 3% percent offered to be distributed in pyramid form to benefit the lowest paid workers more.

“President Khama and his cabinet are to blame for all that is happening in the country. The unions have more than compromised. We came down from 16 to 3 percent, and the people were hopeful that this time around government would listen.

“The worried and frightened citizens of the country should ask the President what is happening and what he is going to do to stop these violent acts. He is the leader of the country and he knows vey well how he can put an end to all this mess. He is mandated by the people, strikers included, to protect Botswana,” concluded the Vice-President.

Fellow unionist and strike marshal Time Moupi concurred with his colleague. Dismissing the suggestion that the strike was out of control, he commented: “I cannot say such an incident will never happen again. After the fiasco with the police we strongly warned our members to stop these acts of violence.”
http://www.thevoicebw.com/2011/06/10/we%E2%80%99re-going-shopping-and-we-are-not-paying/

This entry was posted in resistance and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.