Thousands march countrywide
Johannesburg - Thousands of striking public servants took to the streets in mass marches countrywide on Thursday, vowing to continue with a disruptive strike that has pitted trade unions against the government.
In Johannesburg, workers danced, blew vuvuzelas, sang songs against President Jacob Zuma, and chanted: "We are going, we are going to Luthuli House."
"We will stop striking as soon as the government gives us what we want," said National Education Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) member carrying a placard which read: "Zuma, I'm your Standard Two teacher".
Another poster read: "Prostitutes are earning more than teachers".
Will strike until demands met
Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) Gauteng provincial chairperson Phutas Tseki said its members were determined to push ahead with the strike that started last Wednesday.
"We are prepared to strike as long as our demands are not met. We hope that the government will respond. If it does not, the strike will continue," said Tseki.
A large police contingent watched the marchers as they headed to th office of Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane.
"We want the government to come forward with an improved offer," said Monica Venter, the Public Servants' Association provincial manager in Johannesburg.
"The reason why we are protesting is to show the government that the public servants are angry."
Slogans on marchers' T-shirts read: "Stop exploitation of our nurses", and "Defending workers' rights".
Peaceful march in Bloemfontein
In Bloemfontein, thousands of people marched peacefully through the Free State's town streets, also wearing colourful union T-shirts and carrying banners.
One placard read: "We behaved during the World Cup. Now reward us with 8.6 percent."
Cosatu and the Independent Labour Caucus were staging marches in all provinces to demand an 8.6% salary increase and R1 000 monthly housing allowance.
The government has offered them a seven percent salary increase and R700 housing allowance, excluding a 1.5% pay progression.
As 1.3 million union members stayed away from work, the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) increased its support of hospitals.
Concerns for Aids patients
SANDF spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said 2812 soldiers had been deployed to help out at 47 hospitals countrywide.
Not only hospitals have been affected by the strike; many schools are closed throughout the country and several provincial education departments have postponed preliminary matric exams for two weeks.
The SA National Aids Council (Sanac) expressed concern on Thursday about the affects of the strike on HIV-positive people, saying it had received reports of patients struggling to get access to chronic medicine.
- Are you there? Anything to share? Send us your photos by clicking here.