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South Africa Army in Control of Most State Hospitals During Strike

With the South African army in control of 37 state hospitals, and strikers told they will not be paid while away from work, some of the pressure of the million worker job action by public servants has eased. Many public servants decided not to hold demonstrations Monday.

With the strike now in its fourth day, there are considerably fewer incidents of violence outside Johannesburg's hospitals.

Last week many members of the public, business leaders and civil-rights activists say they were shocked when they saw reports that some strikers allegedly forced doctors to stop treating ill people and prevented many patients from entering hospitals for treatment.

The government says members of the army, including medical doctors and security personnel, are in control of 37 public hospitals, including the country's largest in Johannesburg.

Many state patients needing urgent medical treatment are in private clinics.

In Cape Town, the local government says most of the city's state hospitals are operating normally.

The Confederation of Trades Unions, COSATU, says it is waiting to hear the government spell out which workers, including nurses, are considered members of emergency services, who may not go on strike.

According to COSATU secretary-general Zwelithini Vavi, the labor unrest in South Africa concerns more than wages.

In an interview with South Africa's e TV channel, Vavi described the African National Congress leadership as predatory, representing the elite, and the example they set had pushed others, like workers, into what he said was "defensive mode."

"We are under pressure from our constituency which is growing restless in the wake of this deepening crisis of unemployment and growing inequalities and poverty that is affecting more and more," said Vavi.

Public service unions are demanding 8.6 percent wage increases and $137 monthly housing allowance. The government is offering seven percent plus $96 for housing and says it can not afford to meet the unions wage demands.

Unions say workers have been hit by erosion of their take home pay, rising rentals, and several years of higher than expected inflation that only recently dropped to about 5.5 percent.