Friday, 21 September 2012

How long a strike lasts depends on what side of government you are on

You know how it feels when you want to go to the loo and there is somebody in there already, and he/she says, “Just a minute.” How long a minute lasts depends on what side of the door you are on. It’s the same scenario when government is issued strike notices and they wait till the whole country is in crisis.

Njeru Githae is one very interesting Finance Minister. Lest we all forget that not so long ago, Mr. Githae introduced a bill to parliament that sought to increase remunerations to members of parliament and the parliamentary service commission back dated to 2006. At the time, he was quite confident that he had the budget to pull off this trick. Now he is telling the whole country that government does not have the budget to meet the teachers’ demands, while at the same time completely ignoring the doctors’ case.

Now, unless my mathematics is as skewed as the Finance Minister’s, money that was available in treasury at the time that bill was drafted should still be in treasury a few months later. So no, I am not buying this tale of “budgetary constraints.” In fact, should we all pretend that 3 months after he read the national budget that he cannot meet the conditions of a deal they did years ago? 

This isn’t just about missing a few weeks off school. This is about a government that indulges in neglecting its people to the point that its own civil servants have to resort to industrial strikes so that the government can be forced to do what it’s supposed to do.  Njeru Githae and his fellows in Cabinet are not just being arrogant by suggesting the school term be extended, they overreach their own mandate. Because they have forgotten one precious thing: Government is supposed to work FOR the people and not the other way around. 

Yes that’s right, Mr. Minister. You, work for me and not the other way around.  When your own fellow civil servants have to strike so that you do what you are supposed to do, it is sheer lunacy for you to suggest that the school term be extended, because you can extend 3rd term to January 2013 and the teachers still won’t go back to work unless you meet their demands. So it is your fault that our children are not learning at the moment, and you should be ashamed.

It’s the teachers and doctors constitutional right to strike, it is their right to express themselves and it is their right to seek better pay and working conditions. It is my child’s constitutional right to an education. The longer the teachers strike, the more likely my child’s constitutional rights will be contravened even as those rights are already being infringed upon. The waiting game only suits government; it certainly does not suit the patients who are not accessing health care. In fact when it comes to healthcare, waiting is not an option.  

To be blunt, government is making us wait to get what we already deserve and need. We deserve better resources for schools, we deserve more teachers, more doctors, more hospitals more equipment. We deserve a healthy nation that is well educated. We are tired and fed up of mismanagement, we are tired and fed up of being put last when it comes to social amenities when the very reason government exists is to provide those amenities in the first place.

The idea that civil servants have to strike so that babies can get intensive care units in hospitals is just bizarre.  3 babies die each day at Pumwani Maternity Hospital because there is no Neonatal Intensive Care Unit there, they just have incubators. The fact that doctors have to strike so that government is forced to just think about providing such resources is not only a sign of how repugnant these ministers are, it’s a clear indication that they have out lasted their own use.

If government won’t work for the people, refuses to do so, then these ministers should be fired immediately. When cabinet refuses to do what it’s designed to do, then it ceases to have meaning or value altogether. So instead of threatening to fire and firing teachers and doctors, these ministers need to be fired themselves for sheer incompetency and creating national crisis that is leading to deaths. Its criminal negligence to create a stalemate that has lasted this long when lives are at stake, and it’s about time someone was arrested for it.

It’s unthinkable that the Finance Minister can even state that he doesn’t have the budget to meet demands when it’s his job to budget for these sectors, clearly he stinks at budgeting. So let him be fired and we get someone who knows what a budget is for so that Pumwani and other hospitals can have Intensive Care Units that are fully kitted. Let’s just remove the real problem in government, the Ministers.

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