It's now official: More than 900,000 South African government employees will go on a strike beginning Aug. 10.
The strike will include teachers, nurses, immigration officers, Home Affairs ministry clerks, and customs officials in an industrial action that some worry could be as bad as the 2007 strike, which brought all government departments to a standstill.
"We have now come to a firm conclusion that we will go on strike," said Fikile Slovo Majola, the secretary-general of the National Education, Health, & Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU). "As part of the preparations, we will start with a build-up program of pickets, marches, and demonstrations. We will have two national marches in Pretoria and Cape Town on Tuesday the 10th of August."
The government workers are demanding an 8.6 percent wage increase and a 1,000 rand ($137) housing subsidy while the government is insisting their 6.5 percent offer is enough.
Speaking at the same function, South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) secretary-general, Mugwena Maluleke, said the 245,000-member group would join the strike.
"SADTU has resolved to embark on a strike," said Maluleke. "All the provinces overwhelmingly rejected the 6.5 percent offer ... and showed strong support for the strike."
He said the teachers tried their best to avert the strike by looking for an amicable solution.
"We are committing ourselves to being available to engage with the employer for 24 hours and seven days a week but our pleas were not taken seriously," said Maluleke.
The impact of the strikes will be "severe," says South African businessman and former World Bank economist, Mutumwa Mawere. "Imagine what would happen if a teacher stops going to school? Children will be sidelined. This is a very unfortunate scenario."