Protests in typically calm (aka docile) Botswana

I’ve been pretty surprised to read about the extent to which public servants have acted collectively and stayed away from work this week, protesting three years of stagnant wages. We’re not used to seeing much in the way of mass action in Botswana. The country is a unique case as the most stable and fastest growing African economy in the post-independence era. But as some have pointed out, the same party has been in power the whole time, which raises the question of how democratic the country really is. I must admit, I’ve been impressed by how competent and effective the civil service is, and as nurses stay home from hospitals, and teachers from schools, the country will really feel the bite of the absence of ordinarily high quality services. But the key question of how we describe Botswana — and its tolerance for political contestation — may well be revealed by how the government reacts to this strike.

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