Strike terrorism

2010-08-20 00:00

THE behaviour of striking public sector employees has been nothing short of terrorism. To deliberately block off hospitals from allowing patients in and to attack doctors and nurses trying to save lives is shocking in the extreme.

We refuse to be held hostage by the debate over whether theirs are genuine grievances and demands. The strikers have been allowed to carry on as though they live and work in Somalia where there is no form of legitimate and central authority. It is simply not right that citizens should live in fear and that the most ill are now supposed to accept that their unnecessary deaths are a fair price to pay in order that workers may have a few hundred more rand in their pockets.

Not even in the darkest days of anti-apartheid activism were patients stopped from entering hospitals, as we have seen in many parts of the country. It gets worse in that worker leaders publicly declare that they will be closing down private clinics and schools for their demands to be met, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they are not in dispute with these organisations.

The limp-wristed response by the state has not helped matters. It is not as if the state is powerless to deal with workers employing such shameless tactics, nor that it had no warning that what has happened would happen. It has unfortunately chosen to conflate the interests of the state and those of the party by allowing people to die in hospitals rather than face a hostile left at the ANC’s National General Council next month.

Instead of doing what organisations in ­in­dustrial disputes do as a matter of course, going to courts to seek an order restricting how close striking workers can be to their workplaces, we have ministers meekly asking union leaders to obey the law. On the other hand we have union leaders washing their hands of this criminality, incredibly claiming that the rampant thugs are not their members.

Lest we forget, South Africa does not only belong to the workers. It belongs equally to the ill and the children who need schooling and to be spared the terror spread by louts pretending to be their teachers.

President Jacob Zuma should return from wherever he is to exert much-needed leadership. We have a crisis on our hands.

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