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South Africans protest for higher pay

Associated Press / August 27, 2010

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JOHANNESBURG — Thousands of civil servants took to the streets across South Africa yesterday in a peaceful demonstration for higher wages, while police management tried to bar officers from joining a nationwide strike entering its second week.

There was no resolution in sight to the strike that has left volunteers changing babies’ diapers and retired nurses dispensing medicine at the country’s public hospitals. A similar public service strike in 2007 lasted a month.

“The gap between the rich and poor is growing, yet South Africa is a rich country which can afford to feed its entire people,’’ Khaya Magaxa, a local leader of the South African Communist Party, told a crowd of 5,000 who marched to Parliament in Cape Town yesterday.

An additional 10,000 marchers took to the streets in Johannesburg seeking wage hikes.

Meanwhile, the police union said its members would start striking tomorrow, raising security concerns in a country with one of the world’s highest rates of violent crime in the world — some 50 killings a day. Police officers also have used water cannon and rubber bullets to control sporadic violence during the strike.

Police management obtained a court order early yesterday barring police from striking, and said officers who joined the protests could be fired. Norman Mampane, spokesman for the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union, said union lawyers will challenge the court order.

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