Botswana strike closes hospitals

Nurses on strike in Gaborone take a rest from the demonstration
Image caption Some nurses shade from the sun at one of the daily demonstrations being held in the capital

Most of Botswana's clinics have closed and the main hospital in the capital, Gaborone, is barely functioning due to a civil service strike over salaries.

Earlier this week, the government sacked doctors, nurses, pharmacists and cleaners who had joined the five-week strike in defiance of a court order.

The government said essential staff were not allowed to strike.

But the sackings have prompted nurses and doctors who had remained at work to join the industrial action.

The BBC's Letlhogile Lucas in Gaborone says the strike looks set to continue as talks between the government and public sector unions broke down on Thursday night.

The government had offered a 3% conditional offer, but the unions want a 12% wage increase, the reinstatement of all sacked workers and the reversal of a "no work, no pay" condition.

Our correspondent says there are long queues outside the Princess Marina Hospital in the capital, with patients often returning day after day to seek treatment.

Image caption When the strike began last month, the unions were demanding a 16% wage increase

It is running a skeletal service, mainly staffed with foreign workers and student nurses and doctors.

"Our slogan is an injury to one is an injury to all," Odirile Bakae, a doctor at Princess Marina Hospital, is quoted by AFP news agency as saying.

"Since the government has decided to fire our colleagues, we have also decided to join the strike and mobilise other health personnel to do the same so that hospitals are left with no doctor or nurse."

Our reporter says the strike, which involves an estimated 100,000 people, has also taken a heavy toll on other public services.

This week the minister of education ordered that all government primary and secondary schools be shut until further notice.

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