After the great event of soccer game in South Africa, today the country is under the heat of thousands of people pushing on streets. Such nationwide strike involves government workers who are strongly committed to bring the government to an effective standstill. The reason is that workers are claiming for higher wages.
All levels of public services have been involved, which has hampered the normal running of daily activities within different areas. Clerks, teachers, nurses, immigration and home affairs officers have walked out on their respective posts. This situation has brought almost all key services down.
People had been discussing salary increase issues for weeks in South Africa. Due to failure to find common ground, a general strike was called countrywide. Different unions in the country had requested that they be increased 8.6% on their wage but the government suggestion was just to increase only 7% on which a very small housing allowance would be added, which did not please the workers at all.
This grew the workers anger that they finally decided to take to the streets. It seems as if the strike for public services will carry on until the time when the government will understand that it has to better the workers life standing.
Reading through the reports of Reuters, we learn that a mid-level South African public worker is paid about 8,800 rand, equivalent of 1,200 American Dollars a month compared to the national average wage of 6,383 rand. The majority of economists say that the bulk of government workers remain low paid. On the other hand, it is noted that strikes occur almost yearly in South Africa .
One may think it has become the way of life for a nation governed by a liberation movement. The latter being the African National Congress of Nelson Mandela that has the benefit of strong support from labor federations in the country. Moreover, there is what they often call strike season. Here everyone from the police officers to the lowest worker march for claiming higher salaries.
The present head of state, Mr Zuma came into presidency in the 2008 elections, thanks to the great support he got from the largest union coalitions and especially to the Confederation of South African Trades Unions, called COSATU. What is true with such wide strikes is that even the close links between Mr Zuma and the unions have done nothing at to reduce the exaggerated number of strikes in the country. Ironically, or perhaps not so, they have motivated unions to claim for eve higher wages, and more political authority.
Despite almost everything being paralyzed, on Wednesday, the Department of Health revealed to the Christian Science Monitor that all hospitals and clinics under the government’s control did not go on strike. This means that most nurses and medical doctors are still reporting for duty.
Others like the hospital workers, have chosen, despite the strikes, and their low pay to carry on their work activities. Those who go to work, however, are worried that protesters will intimidate them. This fear is is crippling key services and worsening the situation.
The situation in South Africa is extremely dangerous for the country. An immediate solution is vital and should be sought to avoid catastrophy. The government together with the public service should sit together and see what are the desires and needs of each side and find a common ground. At least this may avoid some to be considered as winners and others as losers; an impression that many have that has caused the situation to worsen instead of improve.