The intensity surrounding the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU)
strike currently surging across South Africa has unfortunately taken a dark turn in various parts of the country, including Madadeni, KwaZulu-Natal. This has seen numerous people using the intention of demanding better wages and transforming it into bouts of criminality.
With the strike gaining momentum across KZN and the country as a whole, NEHAWU protestors gathered outside Madadeni Hospital on Thursday morning, 9 March 2023. Whereby, chaos allegedly erupted. Thankfully, local police were onsight and ensured that the medical facility was not impacted.
Since the protest action started, public institutes like Greys Hospital in Pietermaritzburg noted protestors burning tyres outside the medical facility. Thereby, hampering access to the hospital.
Adding to this, protestors gathered outside Vryheid Hospital on Wednesday, 8 March 2023, with Vryheid residents being urged to avoid the area due to protestors throwing rocks at cars.
However, are protestors now setting their sights on Newcastle Provincial Hospital?
According to a source from the medical facility, they are aware that protestors are moving from hospital to hospital. “We have a plan of action in place to ensure all medical services will not be impacted and that patients will remain safe,” assured the source. Newcastillians are, however, encouraged to remain vigilant.
This is all bearing in mind that the Department of Public Service and Administration [DPSA] secured an interdict against the public service strike.
Appealing to protestors to show compassion, the KZN Health MEC, Nomagugu Simelane said, “Allow healthcare workers to get to work so they can save lives; and do not stop patients from coming into our health facilities because if you continue to do so, you will have blood on your hands.”
The MEC further said, “It becomes very difficult to negotiate in our different corners on matters that are on a national level, and at the level of the bargaining chamber. We expected that the leadership of the unions would understand that the majority of healthcare workers are classified under essential services, and therefore, they cannot not be at work. But it becomes even worse when you have health workers who are stopping patients from accessing healthcare services”.
Furthermore, MEC Simelane thanked the dedicated staff who continued to work extraordinarily long shifts during this period, including those who could not go home due to blockades. She said the Department was closely monitoring the situation and would continue to implement contingency measures to mitigate the impact of the strike, including the continued provision of healthcare and catering services.
Moreover, the Congress of South African Trade Unions
(COSATU) has noted the disturbing reports of violent incidents and destruction of property by the striking public service workers. “While we fully support the striking workers and believe that their fight is a legitimate one, we regret the disruption to public services which the strike has caused and any violent incidents or damage to property,” said the Union.
It further urged its striking members to continue to conduct their strike in a peaceful, disciplined, and lawful manner. ” As members of a trade union federation guided by the principles of socialism, we must always be guided by the principles of working-class solidarity and remember that discipline goes hand in hand with working-class consciousness,” emphasised COSATU.
The trade union said it was now urging members and workers to remember that a strike is an act in defense of working-class interests, and it must not result in working-class communities who use these public facilities becoming the unintended casualties of it.
While the situation remains calm in Newcastle, for the moment, what are your thoughts?
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