n Journal of Public Administration - Trade unionism in Botswana : oil or clog in the wheel of progress

Special issue 1
  • ISSN : 0036-0767



Almost throughout the history of trade unionism in Botswana, the Botswana labour force is often picked out as one of the prime candidates for blame. Not only is it blamed for economic inefficiency, administrative malaise and managerial incompetence, but also for its presumed incompatibility with the social plans and strategies for fast development and industrialisation. On occasions, the government, managers and employers of labour have described the Botswana work force as , as a crippling deterrent against enterprise and industrialisation, as a monstrous obstacle to the legitimate pursuit of their interests. Others even think of unions and their leaders as populist fascists. Thus for many managers and employers, trade unionism in Botswana represents a clog to the wheels of industrial and social progress.

In this paper, an attempt is made to show that much of these views carry with them less than a grain of truth. In particular, it argues that the Botswana labour movement acts more as oil than a clog. More often, the Botswana Labour Movement has been in support of order rather than conflict, exercising a restraining influence. Only rarely does the Movement embark upon strikes or other forms of industrial action. Most importantly, the paper concludes that the predominant mood and temper of the organised working class of Botswana are not, have never been, and may never be revolutionary.

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