THE MOTHER OF ALL STRIKES 2011

SHARE   |   Monday, 18 May 2020   |   By Ricardo Kanono
THE MOTHER OF ALL STRIKES 2011

Going underground 

At the peak of it, i made a facebook post in relation to my sabbatical leave from facebook and open communication which was occasioned by  security measures. I had to go underground prior to a warrant of arrest being issued against me and Cde Baeng for the workers rally we addressed in Serowe which culminated into the famed  “petrol bomb allegations”. Serowe meeting would later appear as one of the pinnacles and climax of the strike that ultimately got out of the control of leadership as it got indefinite unplanned with members taking over. 

At inaugural of the strike , i was deployed with then Vice President of Manual Workers the late Sammy Sithole to oversee Francistown and nearby areas . Sithole, a brawny built guy with croaking and throaty voice , and astounding talent for the mike both in song and address . He would precede his wonders on the mike with few puffs of cigarette on the sidelines. Our mobilisation assignment stretched as far as Ramokgwebana where we had an unfortunate incident (it gets highlighted later in the book). We organised various striking centres such as the formidable Chedi Chonga. 

Enjoyable moments were when i was marshaling the strike in Gantsi . I arrived in Gantsi accompanied  by Cde Tlhage of BOPEU and Cde Moring of BTU , as a team assigned there.  The far distant sky was reddish , as we descended in Gantsi in the evening , with a red double cab . When we arrived there was low morale among the strikers. Among notable happenings was the presence of one fellow called Pini who was purported to be a traditional doctor assigned to spiritually assist the workers by unleashing magic spell against Management and the police in the event they trouble the striking workers . 

We started our mission by getting briefing on the state or magnitude of the strike and other factors at play, so as to enable us to advise a comprehensive and impactful strategy with clear compression of the circumstances. 
After the briefing we went for dinner where we drew a “maximum impact strategy “. We were like those men glaring at the map and compass and plotting the waging of war on the enemy’s frontline. That same night , at a football pitch of the school , we addressed teachers of Maun Senior Secondary school, whom we were told needed some motivation to participate in the strike . Our role was simple , just to convince them to abandon work and join striking workers tomorrow . From there we proceeded to address clinics and others at their homes. We were accompanied by some trusted guides whose role was to identify homes of comrades not reporting at the striking place . In the morning , massive numbers were received in a brig ceremony at the striking place and the strike intensified , a volcano was erupting . We divided the leadership of Gantsi labour movement into two groups , there was the elderly leadership for the day to conduct singing , picketing and other applicable logistics. Then the radical Youth League took over at night for serious work (which gets revealed in the book). It is this serious work that established Gantsi as the epicenter of the strike . I remember that some day at night around 9 p.m , at the striking place , the leadership of the Youth League took me aside to show me some of the acquired resources among others 20 liters of petrol, and they outlined the details of the plan . That was a time when the strike got out of hand , as workers got into the village . Because the police had refused with permit for a motorcade, a plan was made to have a male and female comrade putting on wedding attire so that the strikers can go out under the pretext that you don’t need a permit for the wedding motorcade. 

The whole strike was coordinated in such a way that there was few people at Head quarters in Gaborone and then as the rest of us , we went to grassroots of the strike in the trenches across various Regions as per the demarcation. As the strike continued,  some of us got feeling that the guys at the Command Centre were too soft , we somehow accused them of conservative methods of coordinating the struggle under the comfort of the city . So as the leader of the team i stopped taking instructions from Gaborone , and instead we ran our own programme  independent of the command centre , something that got them infuriated . I remember Cde Tlhage talking over the phone , and wanting to hand it to me saying BOFEPUSU President want to talk to me . I harshly refused and said tell her we are busy in the trenches . 

As the strike intensified the leadership of the Federation directed that we be recalled back to Gaborone because we are refusing to take instructions, and we refused. Under pressure from possibly top officials, it was instructed that we be arrested. Upon tip off on that, we whisked to Hukuntsi to stoke the fire , even there police came as workers began to be serious, we then passed by Kang and later Mabutsane with brief addresses in running away from the police, and finally we got to Gaborone . From then the leadership did not asign me to address anywhere as i was told that i should stop being controversial . 

It was Baeng who got to me and said “Cde dont wait to assigned , just asign yourself “. He then said because we are regarded as controversial and both from BLLAHWU , it would be tactful if we camouflage by taking along  someone from another Union , and the candidate became none other than Ompatile Modise of BOSETU. We dealt with Gaborone at “ko setlhareng or ko Moruleng “ , then addressed Ramotswa, Kanye. While we were still addressing Kanye police came , we left and met some on our way to Jwaneng as they rushed to complement and reinforce in Kanye not aware that we had already left. So we addressed Jwaneng and the strike intensified with strikers singing and running around the whole mall. Also addressing with us in Jwaneng was Cde Elmon Tafa and Cde Taolo Lucas. We then went to Serowe and Letlhakeng . It is the Ramotswa and Serowe addresses that got us into trouble , and a subsequently a warrant of arrest was issued. I remember that with Serowe workers rally , the line address line up was in the sequence of Cde Kesitegile Gobotswang, Cde Gomolemo Motswaledi, Cde Cde Samuel Molaodi , Cde Mogomotsi Motshegwa, myself and Cde Baeng . When the baton was about to reach me, Baeng as sitting next to me , titled his head towards me and said , now that you are next on the podium, change the tone of address , its time to take the strike to the next level. I didn’t ask how , but proceeded to deliver what i believed was within parameters suggested , i could see senior police officers in attendance getting uneasy as i addressed, and when Baeng finally spoke , the Station Commander quickly reached for his hat , hastily escaped through one of the flaps of the tent as the crowd got restless. Serowe became another Gantsi .  

As it was weekend we parted in Francistown . Baeng called me at 4 a.m the next day whispering that police came to arrest him, he then said ‘hand yourself to the police station , e seng jalo ba tla go bolaela mo nageng “. I proceeded to hand myself at Serowe police “...........(to be continued ) 



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