Strikes in South Africa continue

By Sallie Grayson. Filed in project background  |  
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This update came in from Paul in Port Elizabeth on Friday.

The situation with the public sector strike does not appear to be near any resolution as yet. Currently most state hospitals and schools are shut. Unfortunately, the government and the unions have not had further discussions, since the strike began. In fact, the two parties are at loggerheads with one another, the unions accusing the government of misleading the public with propaganda, and the government accusing the unions of intimidation and human rights violations.

Unfortunately there are elements of truth in both allegations. Tomorrow, municipal workers will embark on a one day strike in solidarity. The police were to go on strike today, but early this morning the government got an interdict preventing the police and prison warders from striking, as an essential service was argued.

What all of this means is that things are very unsettled here presently. The strike is about a lot more than money, in particular working conditions, recognition of advanced study, medical benefits, housing allowances among a few. Many of these are issues that remain unresolved from the 2007 public sector strike.

I am afraid; there is currently no end in site. When schools reopen, I suspect there will still be much anger and resentment at unresolved issues. In addition, there will be a lot of catching up to do.

As I have been unable to have clear and meaningful dialogue with various teachers and role players in the school, I am unable to give much clarity as to the situation for volunteers due in October. I am confident though that despite the various challenges we will confront in the near future, there will be a meaningful role for our volunteers to play. Perhaps even more so than before.

I have has occasional contact with the head of our school cluster, Mr Thambo, as well as the odd teacher who has rung up to give updates. The mood is somewhat somber, sometimes militant, and everyone is terribly concerned about the children. However, teachers feel angered at the response to the various grievances over time, and appear to be resolute.

I think the country is now beginning to expect the government to make a political intervention, as the country as a whole is really beginning to suffer.

I wish my news was better, but alas, these are the conditions within which we live in South Africa, and the uncertainty is a way of life.

In our view as Calabash Tours and Trust, we are sympathetic to the issues teachers confront. However, we are also extremely concerned about the impact on learning, and the welfare of the children. We hope for political maturity, and a reintroduction of dialogue between the various parties.

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