SA strike: life on low wages


Daniel ‘‘Kraai’’ de Bruin was lauded as a hero by police chiefs when he died along with six police colleagues in a helicopter crash in July.

But now his widow, Lize, and their two sons live in a Wendy house in the backyard of friends near Pretoria. She’s been waiting more than a month for the funeral policy payout, police widow’s pension and overtime pay owed to Kraai. But even when he was alive every day was an uphill battle on his R8 000 monthly salary.

‘‘He would have supported the civil servants’ strike because he and his colleagues could no longer be proud members of the police force on their salaries,’’ Lize says.

Many civil servants who struggle to live off their earnings – including teachers and nurses – and who say they’re tired of living in hope joined the nationwide strike that started on 18 August.

Why should police officers, teachers, nurses and others be satisfied with a 7 per cent increase, strikers asked, when a strike by Eskom employees during the Fifa World Cup ended with an offer of 9 per cent and a R1 500 monthly housing allowance? Transnet workers got 11 per cent and municipal workers 13 per cent at the end of July.

Some striking health workers and teachers destroyed public sympathy when they resorted to intimidation, vandalism, arson and violence at hospitals and schools. Some deaths at hospitals were blamed on the strike.

Police members’ entry-level salaries have always been neglected, Dr Johan Burger of the Institute of Security Studies says. Because junior members earn so little an increase of 7 per cent wouldn’t be worth nearly as much to them as it would to top management who earn much bigger salaries.

‘‘The money must be distributed better,’’ he says.

* Read more on civil servants’ salaries and the dispute behind the strike in the 2 September issue of YOU.

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