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Legal mobilisation, legal scepticism and the limits of ‘lawfare’: between law and politics in union activism in Botswana
The Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law  (IF),  Pub Date : 2021-07-30, DOI: 10.1080/07329113.2021.1949898
Pnina Werbner


Against legal scepticism which constructs litigations as negative or useless ‘lawfare’, this article argues for the need to recognise that taking government to court is part of a wider strategy of social mobilisation and campaigns for social justice, as others have also claimed. Legal mobilisation during a public sector strike in Botswana in 2011 was, the paper argues, only one strategic part of a more comprehensive campaign to call on government to pay its workers a living wage. The paper calls for anthropology to re-examine some of its assumptions about the role of the law in postcolonial nations. Despite the possibility that judges may be biased or vulnerable to political influence, and despite the courts’ restricted ability to implement their judgements - it is nevertheless the case that ethics, morality and the law, when mobilised alongside concerted political and civic activism, may play a critical role in advancing the cause of citizens’ rights against an apparently all-powerful government.