As the stand off between the government and the striking civil servants continues with no end in sight, our roving reporter Dubani-wa-Dubani boarded a bus from Mochudi to Gaborone over the weekend to listen in on the people’s conversation.
Enter Lady in Red followed by Lady in Polka Dot dress, Blue Overall man, Mr. Pink Hat and others
LADY IN RED: (with serious look) Eh Mma this strike is killing us. This man and his government are jokers. For those getting P1000 a month 3% is a mere P30. What can one do with that? They should at least have offered us P100. We are doomed under this man. The money is getting worthless by the day. The notes get used faster than TP. We never had such things during Masire and Mogae’s days.
POLKA DOT: (tugging at her hair) We no longer have men of integrity in cabinet. Most are just cowards and boot lickers who seem prepared to let the country suffer as long as the President is pleased with them. They are more interested in the money and the power that comes with their positions.
LADY IN RED: (raising her voice) Do you think they care? They don’t know what suffering is. I understand Khama and his ministers don’t even pay for food – the government pays for everything. Do you expect them to understand when you talk about the cost of living? You have to pay for things in life to understand the need for money.
POLKA DOT: (staring outside the window) The lucky ones are those in business. At least they make their own money and are not at the government’s mercy.
BLUE OVERALL MAN: (holding up his hands) People you do not know what you are talking about? I am a small businessman who has some dealings with government and this strike is hitting me hard. I and others like me may never recover. Getting things done at most government departments has always been slow, but the strike makes it next to impossible. I understand they need the 16% but they are hurting the country. Maybe big guys like Dada are not feeling the pinch but I have my doubts.
MR. PINK HAT: Most of the workers are enjoying the strike because it gives them the chance to do nothing but sing and run their own errands. They do very little work anyway even when they are at work. When they are supposed to be working they spend time playing moraraba, cards, going on personal errands and endless trips to buy serobe and magwinya. Some just hang their jackets on their office seats and go out and do their things.
I pity our children. They are missing out on classes and becoming hooligans because of adults who cannot talk sensible to each other. Khama and the unions must resolve this problem for the sake of our children.
BLUE OVERALL MAN: (Agitated and gripping the small tool box in his right hand tighter) These people must go back to work. They have made their statement and should go back and be more productive. I would sympathise with them if most did not spend time idling when they are supposed to be working.
MR. PINK HAT: It does not make sense to me. It seems Khama and the Unions have a point to prove to each other, but they are hurting the country.
LADY WITH DARK LIPSTICK: I am not a member of any union. I terminated my membership when the union leadership were squabbling over positions and money. The union people are just as bad as the politicians. They want money and will continue working for the unions even if Ian fires all civil servants.
BLUE OVERALL MAN: (His eyes on two young ladies in supermarket uniforms) Lona ba bo Spar le Choppies wena are you going on strike? These Indians are killing you.
YOUNGMAN IN BCP SHIRT: (Loudly) I heard Khama on TV and he blames the opposition for encouraging the strike. Does he think we do not have brains to think for ourselves?
MR PINK HAT: He was not talking to those of us on strike. The day he addresses us he will speak Setswana. Ga a serious.
BLUE OVERALL MAN: Loan sharks will make fortunes. Wherever they are they must be praying that the strike goes on longer and the government slashes salaries. This is big for them, but not us proper businessmen.
OLD MAN (holding cap): As Batswana we discuss issues. The President and the unions should sit down and talk like mature elders. This childish stand off will only destroy most of what we have achieved since Independence.
BLUE OVERALL MAN: Government must do like the mines and cut its work force if it has to. We cannot have workers who only become serious when on strike. We’ve had useless people in the civil service for too long.
BCP MAN: Khama as President must take responsibility for what is happening. He is after all the father of the nation.
LADY IN RED (fumbling in her bag for the fare) I am surprised that the man who has called the likes of Mugabe a tyrant is not listening to anybody. I thought being democratic means listening to those you rule. Ours is an armpit form of democracy. We need to change the voting system and have the people vote directly. Khama was imposed on us and I think that is why he is behaving like this. He owes more to his party than the people.
(Exit all at Gaborone taxi rank)