Saturday, 27 April 2013

My Official Defence of Ghana's Doctors and other strikers... March On!

I was initially going to blog about the MTTU on-the-spot-fine that is being propsed, but I think there is a massive elephant in the room that I've only casually referred too and not actually spoken about. 

The doctors' strike. 

If you are in Ghana and you are upset about the doctors' strike did you join #1SimpleStep

Kofi Thompson (I don't know what his profession is) wrote for Vibe Ghana on the topic of these strikes. The headline of the article was "Make Ghana Immune To Public Sector Strikes". I clicked on it because I agreed to an extent. A well oiled machine can negotiate better some bumps in the road. We should get to the point where MPs cannot hype up the situation to a matter of life and death, but let me not get ahead of myself. 

The crux of Kofi's article went as follows (I will provide my response in red):

No Ghanaian citizen resident in Ghana, ought to become a victim of striking and militant employees, of entities that come under various organs of the Ghanaian nation-state.

It really is intolerable that innocent people should die needlessly, for example, as a result of strike action by healthcare professionals, employed to work in government hospitals and clinics around the country. Nothing can justify that. Ever. Not in a civilised nation such as ours. Ok, really sensationalist from the off. He wastes no time. But is it intolerable really? The fact of the matter is that it is in the prerogative of workers to strike when dissatisfied with their employers. The state is the employer and the state is run by the government and we all know how incompetent many governments in Africa can be. Should doctors simply remain silent. Until when? Until elections, in order to convince their fellow citizens not to vote for the failing government? Would the reaction not be to ask why they didn't say or do something before? They have tried saying it, and the government has not felt the urgency to act and meet demands so now they are doing something and the same failing government is tarnishing them with imagery of murderers.

The time has now come for those who currently rule our nation, to take active steps to ensure that no employee of any entity under an organ of a nation-state, which spends over 60 percent of total government revenue to pay its employees, can ever hold Ghanaians to ransom, by embarking on strike action under any circumstances – without automatically being dismissed from their job. Firstly, a little minor thing but Ghana is not a nation state. Secondly, see above. Kofi's argument implies that the state is an incorrigible, always correct employer. We all know that's lies. 

There can be no justification for state employees inconveniencing Ghanaian citizens by embarking on strike action. 

After all, it is precisely because of the dedicated service they are required to render the people of Ghana and their nation, during their working lives, that the Ghanaian nation-state guarantees public-sector employees a pension for the rest of their lives: when they finally go on retirement. So Kofi argues that they should remain silent when they are upset in their under paid jobs because at least they will get paid some money (probably also less than it should be) when they leave the job they hated.

President Mahama’s administration ought to draw up a suitable bill to be presented to Parliament, and passed into law, which will outlaw strikes by all categories of public-sector employees. It is long overdue – in a nation that has to be globally competitive and disciplined in order to prosper. Let's try getting the Bill of Information and ROPA through first eh? One logologo line!

President Mahama and his administration, must learn valuable lessons from the extraordinary number of actual strikes – and threats of strikes – by public-sector employees, since their regime came to power in January 2013. 

He moves onto GOIL and state owned transportation, however keeping GOIL and others in inadequate hands just because it's government hands and the government can "legitimately" bully people is wrong. 

The funny bit and it DOES get hilarious is when Kofi Thompson argues: 

Instead of the short-sighted decision to find a so-called strategic investor to hand it over to, the present government would be wise to give the Intercity STC bus company to the commercial wing of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) to run as a business.

It is just the sort of business that will thrive in the efficient and disciplined hands of the GAF – which is peerless when it comes to logistics. And whilst you're at it get rid of this thing democracy, roll back 25 years to when we were under the disciplined hands of the military. Disciplined, Ghana may have been, but poor, in fear, and an embarrassment it was also! Does everyone remember what the GAF did to the industries it confiscated. Really, you've got to be either stupid, crazy or on drugs to suggest handing over the STC to the GAF who are supposed to be focused on defending the land and supporting international task forces. This point just makes me laugh-cry in pity for people who think like this. If the GAF were so very good at business... - well I could go on with this point but I think you and I can list the countless reasons why this point was bull****. 

He continues: 

What is going on now, is only a dress rehearsal for the 2015-2016 campaign season, when Ghana will definitely become ungovernable – if laws outlawing strikes by public-sector employees are not in place by then – as its main political opponent seeks to make the Mahama administration unpopular. If the Mahama administration sows the seeds now, they will not give justification to strikes later but if they continue to insult people who frankly have a bigger daily impact on the country than themselves then they should expect problems later. And how popular do you think the country's largest employer will be if it stops all its employees from complaining and striking when the time calls. How many of you, when given the chance to choose your CEO would choose the guy who abolished the office christmas party or the employee feedback system and whose HR department added insult to injury by slagging you off to the customers. Come on guys, let's be real.

I do hope Kofi Thompson sees this. Maybe he could revise his argument. My twitter handle is @thebellower

If you agree with him tell me why? I initially thought, that making Ghana immune to strikes meant constantly reviewing the productivity and performance so that these things don't occur to begin with. I then also thought immunity was meant that the government could negotiate the appearance of strikes and official protests so that the doctors and others don't feel ignored, but clearly for some becoming immune to strikes means gagging people and tying them up so they can't resist. It means holding their families ransom when you've failed them... wasn't there a dictator with the same plan somewhere?

MTTU, Policing you.

I'm back guys! The essays took me away from really following Ghanaian politics but now I'm in exam mode and that gives me more time weirdly enough. First things first as you may have guessed from the post title, I want to cover the police fine system that I believe the MTTU want to bring in.

I watched this video made by a Ghanaian in America when the news first broke. I laughed almost the whole way through. It's 29 mins long so don't feel like you have to watch it, in fact if you feel like watching it will make you too tired to read my opinion then I can only suggest not watching it.

So if I'm correct the idea is that the police will be able to raise money from traffic offences such as jumping a red light or not having a road worthy car. That's fine. I cannot object, if people violate the law there should be consequences. Having sat in my cousins car a number of times, I prayed to God that someone would nudge him to look after his car better and drive better. I've only ever seen him drive sensibly when his baby and grandmother were in the car!

But the police shouldn't make it as if the objections are completely unfounded. There were complaints from the beginning that the police already take "on the spot fines" or bribes to look the other way and some of us will know it and that the suggested fines are so high that the police officers' pre-existing "fines" are more likely to be the order of the day, meaning the drivers won't take the state authority seriously and the state or police infrastructure doesn't take in as much revenue as they should.

The police told us those predictions were nonsense! As if we don't know Ghana! Fine. Maybe they are nonsense of drivers trying to dissuade the state from enforcing laws. The police should remain steadfast I thought. And they did. Until yesterday they announced that the fines have not yet come into place and that no police officer should be collecting money yet. They even went as far as calling it illegal extortion. So they understand that already their officers have taken advantage of the situation. Have they received any of the illegally acquired funds and if so will they return those funds? See the thing about this is that it raises the question as to how far they've thought this through.

Either, (1) no police officer has yet attempted to "unscrupulously" take money from drivers and therefore the message sent out yesterday from the police about themselves is very confusing, misleading and frankly bad PR. Or (2) the police will not take advantage of these fines to line their own pockets as they have for decades and as such all the detractors are trying to stall the enforcement of laws. Or, (3) they are doing it already/ will do it and therefore the police has just invented new methods of corruption in the country. They either havent thought it through because they lack the brain power to consider all the obstacles or they've purposefully created a flawed system so that the police can pay themselves.

Your pick.

What I do know of vehicular fines elsewhere in the world is that technology is key. Parking in the wrong place is recorded to a central database and the fine is sent to the registered car owner at the registered address of ownership. Speeding/jumping reds is also recorded electronically to a central database and the fine is paid online or in court.

So that means in order for this to go off without a hitch, the DVLA needs strengthening. To be honest, job creation comes by specifically creating traffic wardens/police dedicated to vehicular violations.

Sometimes I think officials in Ghana take little holidays to North America and Europe, see stage 5 of a system and then return to Ghana wanting to implement stage 5 of something without understanding how stages 1-4 came into being.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Multilingual African literature please.

This week I had to write my Yoruba essay. I decided to talk about language and identity. One thing that upset me when reading for the essay was the opinion of Onoge (I don't know the first name) that even if African writers adopted African languages today, they would still be unable to communicate with the majority of Africans.

My high school friend once read Harry Potter in German. Was there a need to write Harry Potter in German if it had originally been written in English? Why yes of course! Why? Because Germans love their language and will not roll over to English just because lots more people speak it. That's the reason why I spent 5 years learning French, because there are languages and the owners of those languages believe in their importance. Can we not train and hire translators to write Chimamanda Adichie's recent book 'Americanah' into Igbo and Yoruba, and Twi, and Swahili, and Zulu, and Hausa, and Wollof and must I go on. All of the languages listed have speakers who speak English, some even speak multiple African languages. If all goes well by my 25th birthday I would be able to speak Twi, Ga, Yoruba, French and English and by 30 I hope to add Swahili and either Zulu or Xhosa to those. I would be more than happy to translate a book written in an African language into another African language. 

That is not to say I have anything against African literature currently written in English, I'll be honest English is the only language I can read fluently BUT what I won't accept is people telling us that we must wake up to the "inescapable fact that our literary culture is part of the colonial legacy, not part of indigenous African experience" and thus we cannot change the structures with which we were left, or at least negotiate them better.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Who will defend the strikes?

This week we've had many announcements of strikes in Ghana. So much so that people are now calling for all the striking associations to come together and just have a day of public action for Ghana. The government is working hard to convince the Ghanaian public that the striking associations are not being fair and are not being honest. Yet again imagery of blood money is conjured when politicians refer to the doctors strike but they won't fail to mention that the ex-Gratia and the MPs wages are "constitutional". More than anything it is necessary that all of us speak for our fellow Ghanaians and defend them in their struggle with the government. The boy in the following video is speaking to the betrayal that we British students have suffered over the past 3 years at the hands of our Student Union representatives. I will spoil it for you - he withdrew his application at the end - and that's perhaps the best part of the vid because he recognised that he wont benefit directly from his speech but nevertheless it was important that he used his speech to speak for others who have been frustrated with the status quo. Could someone in Ghana do similar?