South Africa's press is united in voicing its concern over the impact of the public sector strike which has closed most of the country's hospitals and schools.
One commentator accuses unions of trying to bring down the government, drawing parallels with the turbulent miners' strike in the 1980s Britain; another thinks they are trying to undermine President Thabo Mbeki personally.
But one newspaper sees something positive in the way strike is being conducted, describing it as testimony to South Africa's progress towards stability, 13 years after the fall of apartheid.
John Scott in the CAPE TIMES
It's hard being a hospital patient these days, especially if you're suffering from Aids. You've just gone through a marvellous window period. Not only were all the nurses on duty, but with Deputy Health Minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge running the show, you didn't have garlic stuck under your nose when your life depended on a steady supply of anti-retrovirals. Then almost simultaneously the nurses went on strike and [Health Minister] Manto Tshabalala-Msimang returned to work, fresh from her liver transplant. For many patients, it was a double whammy. They probably couldn't decide which event made them more sick. Perhaps someone can persuade the minister to go on strike herself. Permanently
Kole Omotoso in the CITIZEN
As the vindictive strike gets more support across the country, it is not too difficult to think of Margaret Thatcher and Arthur Scargill. Anyone who was living in Britain at that time or who has read the history of the times, knows that the unions did think that under Scargill they could bring down the Thatcher government. The outcome of the confrontation was the destruction of the trade union movement in Britain and the country's factories. In South Africa, the entry of the trade unions into the struggle against apartheid was momentous. Now the direction in which the ANC in government has taken the country does not appeal to the unions and, under the guise of a national strike, they intend to bring the government down.
Editorial in the STAR
This particular public service action seems to be aimed at Mbeki and his supporters. This is war, a show of force by the unions, after 12 years of being bludgeoned into submission in the ruling alliance. The unions have played a major role in the biggest political debate unfolding in South Africa - the succession debate. Although it's quite clear that the unions themselves have been divided by the fight about who replaces Mbeki as president of the ANC and the country, those in the unions who want Zuma as the next big boss have been the most vocal.
Editorial in the MERCURY
The present sad, regressive, counterproductive and almost unforgivable public workers' strike has one positive feature. For all its faults, the strike itself at least is being conducted in terms of labour law. Given the circumstances and differentials of our nation, we might have been facing strikes designed to make the law inoperable. But the unions are - in respect of the actual calling of the strike - playing by the book, which suggests that we are fundamentally a more stable society than may seem evident to injured non-striking teachers and beaten-up non-striking nurses.
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