"Crass, cruel and unconstitutional" is how Finance Minister Trevor Manuel labelled the intimidation and victimisation of patients seeking treatment at public hospitals.
Manuel and his colleagues in the public service and administration, education and health ministries met at the Union Buildings yesterday and issued a statement on the violence plaguing the public sector strike.
"The past nine days have seen public sector industrial action which has been unprecedented in its levels of intimidation and violence," said Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi.
"We reiterate that the right to strike can never supersede the right to life."
While Moleketi stood firm on her view of striking nurses, Manuel expressed outrage at the way striking nurses were putting people's lives at risk.
"I cannot fail to see the irony that public servants are striking for higher medical aid benefits while those members of the public they are supposed to be helping are being denied that right altogether. That is crass and cruel, and unconstitutional.
"How can you prevent a paramedic from doing emergency medical care on a patient who is dying?" Manuel asked.
Meanwhile, government and trade union negotiators were still trying to thrash out a wage deal yesterday.
Independent mediators monitored yesterday's talks, which started in the early afternoon, after marathon talks that carried on until late on Saturday night.
The National Professional Teachers' Organisation of SA voiced concerns that protracted negotiations would have a negative impact on schooling, in particular mid-year exams.
By Angelique Serrao, Barry Bateman & Sapa The Star