STRIKE LOOMS AS COUNCIL ANNOUNCES CLOSER OF STUDENT WATERING HOLE
Student protest is looming at the University of Botswana (UB) following the UB Council’s decision to shut down the campus bar this week.
The closure of the popular student bar known as 411 was among issues that led to a strike at UB in 2012 which resulted in its re-opening in the same year.
This week the council decision apparently initiated by the Chairman, Parks Tafa seemed to have succeed into spurring unamused students into another action plan.
The Student Representative Council (SRC) President Kago Mokotedi said: “This is a crisis.
We are questioning the procedures used by the council to arrive at this decision.
We can forsee a possible strike or unrest when students return because Tafa did not adopt any suggestions from the task force headed by Professor Lydia Nyati Saleshando that it should be relocated and not closed.
He is surely pushing President Ian Khama’s agenda of anti-alcohol because he is a great sympathiser and friend of Khama,” said Mokotedi.
The student leader who also sits in the council said he tried to request the issue to be deferred but Anthony Khama, the President’s brother and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr Kolaatamo “cheered” at the decision to shut the bar down.
They were joined by some apologetic professors in the council.
They surely do not care about the repercussions such as unrest at the university.
They wouldn’t either listen to me when I said the Vice Chancellor needed to be consulted over the matter.”
Mokotedi said he has since requested audience with the Chancellor of the University of Botswana, former President Sir Ketumile Masire.
“We are doing all that is possible to avert unrest. We have also requested to meet the Vice Chancellor to consult over this issue.
But as I said if students say they are not going to class, there is nothing we can do. We are only servants,” he said.
Asked what reasons motivated the closure of the popular joint, Mokotedi said, “Tafa was adamant that the bar should be closed because it was mainly utilised by outsiders and that it encouraged unbecoming behaviours.
That is not true and I don’t know where he got that from.”
At the time of going for press, Parks Tafa’s phone rang unanswered.
The Director of Public Affairs at the University of Botswana, Mhitshwane Reetsang said it was unfortunate she could not confirm or deny the closure of 411 because she did not attend the council meeting.
“We only hear of that decision in the media. I will have to contact the relevant authorities to get factual information about it,” she said.
The Botswana Movement for Democracy Youth League National Organising Secretary, Tolee Itumeleng said they will do anything to support the strike should students decide on it.
“This is a public institution and Parks Tafa should know that UB is not his law firm where he can just make changes without consulting stakeholders.
We assess all available options and inform ourselves on this issue and support the students,” he said.