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SA court, government get tough with strikers

media A member of the South African National Defence Force at Natalspruit hospital Reuters

A South African labour court has issued an order to striking public-sector workers not to "intimidate" colleagues who have not joined their work stoppage. And the government is talking tougher after four days of industrial action for higher pay.

Even in the dark days of apartheid, strikers never blockaded hospitals, President Jacob Zuma thundered on Sunday.

Zuma said striking health workers will taint their history with women giving birth in the streets. South Africans cannot deviate from the good values learned in the struggle, he added.

And his Health Minister Aaron Motsolaedi warns that anyone preventing a patient from receiving treatment could be guilty of murder.

The rougher government rhetoric follows the barricading of hospitals by striking workers last week. They were dispersed by police with water cannon and rubber bullets.

A court in Kwazulu Natal capital Pietermaritzburg banned any victimisation or intimidation of non-striking workers, which might allow some schools to open.

The court also ordered essential staff to return to return to work.

Hospitals have been kept open by military doctors and nurses deployed in at least three dozen facilities and public volunteers doing the cooking and cleaning.

Government spokesperson Themba Maseko’s warns that any worker disobeying the interdict will be arrested and says the government will protect the right of non-striking citizens.

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