Armed soldiers and police were deployed at schools and hospitals around the country on Friday as the government flexed its muscles to rein in striking public servants.
Casspirs off-loaded troops wearing bullet-proof vests and armed with R4 automatic rifles to join police keeping watch at the Kalafong Hospital, where workers were intimidated in the past week.
”What you see at Kalafong hospital is happening throughout the country, in particular at those institutions that have been flashpoints over the past few days,” Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi said.
Accompanied by Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota and Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula, Fraser-Moleketi visited personnel of the South African Military Health Service and other soldiers working at the hospital.
The deployment of more than 2Ã‚Â 500 soldiers alongside police officers countrywide comes after the ministers met on Thursday night to assess security at public institutions during the strike.
”The country must continue, life must continue, the fact that there is some dissatisfaction here and there can not mean that the country must grind to a standstill and that life must stop,” Lekota said after his visit to Kalafong on Friday.
Nqakula had some harsh words for striking workers, saying that while they had a right to strike, the right carried responsibilities.
”Part of the responsibility is that whatever strike action is taken does not impact negatively on the right of the citizenry of our country,” he said.
Police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi, who accompanied the ministers, said the police would make sure they had enough personnel to deal with situations that may arise.
He said police would act against striking workers who broke the law.
”We are there to protect people, we are there to ensure there is no intimidation, we are there to make sure that those who want to go to work, go to work … we will do that, no matter how hard you think it is,” he said.
In the meantime, the government called for volunteers from the public to assist at hospitals affected by the strike.
Fraser-Moleketi said people who want to volunteer should phone 012Ã‚Â 367Ã‚Â 9000 to be put on a volunteer list. Volunteers could choose the areas they wanted to work in.
When the ministers left the hospital they tried to talk to striking workers protesting at the hospital gates.
The striking workers were in no mood to listen to them and shouted that they should talk with union leaders.
The ministers then left without further incident.
Striking workers barred from hospital
Meanwhile, About 300 health workers toyi-toyied outside Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital at Soweto in Johannesburg on Friday, under heavy police guard.
Wearing the red caps and T-shirts of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union, the strikers were barred from entering the hospital premises.
Sixteen police officers guarded the entrance.
Inside the hospital, members of the South African National Defence Force’s medical service attended to patients.
The striking workers at the hospital are among thousands of others who have downed tools nationwide demanding a 12% salary increase. — Sapa