General Secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) Zwelinzima Vavi praised striking workers for their support on Thursday. He assured them they won’t be defeated by the government in their demand for an 8.6 percent raise – more than twice the country’s official inflation rate of 3.7 percent.
"The strike must end in a positive way for public service workers. We will not accept defeat in this particular action," Vavi told reporters on Thursday.
Thousands of workers marched through Cape Town and Johannesburg as they sang and waved placards, vowing that the strike will continue until the government gives in.
In the early hours on Thursday, the South African government obtained a labour court order preventing, police, traffic marshalls and prison warders from joining the strike.
The police union said a day earlier that its members would start striking on Saturday.
Norman Mampane, spokesman for the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union, says union lawyers will challenge the court order. In the meantime, he says, plans for marches and a weekend strike are on.
South Africa has one of the world's highest rates of violent crime, with some 50 murders a day.
The strike has closed schools as hospitals are kept running with military doctors and civilian volunteers and many say there’s a food shortage and a huge need for more help from the public.
Vavi warned that the country would be paralysed by a general strike next week if the government does not offer workers a raise.
Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven told RFI that the strike was set to widen if demands for higher pay for civil servants were not met. “Cosatu took a decision a couple of days ago, that should there not be a solution to the strike, we will be mobilising solidarity action from other unions in the private sector," he said, adding "this is something we don’t want to do and we hope it will not be necessary.”