They said Zuma should have postponed his trip to China with South African business leaders to intervene in the strike.
A top Zuma ally, African National Congress Youth League chief Julius Malema, was slammed as a “sewer rat” for criticising Cosatu over the strike.
“Some people say ‘phantsi ANC’ (away with the ANC), but the problem is not the ANC. The problem is leaders we elect. We had Thabo Mbeki. Now President Zuma is in China when he should be here.
“We’re telling him he must beware,” National Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) provincial chairperson James Kruger told a rally on Tuesday in the Good Hope Centre attended by 2 500 public servants, most teachers.
Strikers at the rally applauded loudly when South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) provincial chairperson Bongani Mconyana warned that Zuma might, like former president Thabo Mbeki, not complete his term as president if he refused to change his attitude to the strike.
“You can’t leave a country when it is in turmoil. Thabo Mbeki did the same thing in 2007 and he did not complete his term in 2009.
“He was arrogant and used quiet diplomacy. This one (Zuma) is our own and he says a lot of things that are not correct,” he said.
This came as Cosatu piled pressure on the government, calling on all its affiliate unions to launch a secondary strike next week.
The federation threatened to bring the economy to its knees and make government meet the demands of striking public servants. Cosatu called on Tuesday on its 21 affiliates to down tools next Thursday to support the public sector. “The whole of the economy will be shut down,” Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi told a media briefing on Tuesday.
Vavi said every Cosatu union would submit notices to its employers of the secondary strike.
“Protected or protracted until the government as an employer accedes to the workers’ demands.
“Our members and their communities are the ones on the receiving end (of the strike). It is workers’ kids who have not been to school, it is the workers and their families who rely on public hospitals.
“We declare our total and full support of the public sector strike. We are demanding government make a new offer,” Vavi said.
Cosatu also called on public servants to intensify their strike.
“We need a total shutdown of the public sector until the government accedes to the legitimate demands of the working class.”
For the past 16 years, Vavi said, the government had refused to sign the minimum service agreement which would see a skeleton staff during strikes.
Cosatu also slammed the government’s so-called revised offer. On Monday, government spokesperson Themba Maseko said its wage offer was “technically” 8.5 percent as it included a 1.5 percent pay progression.
But on Tuesday, Cosatu hit back, saying it was outright lies and misinformation.
“The government has added the pay progression on to the seven-percent salary increase offer to claim this 8.5 percent increase,” said Vavi.
Meanwhile, two people were arrested at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital during a picket by public servants.
Police used a water cannon to drive protesters from the hospital vicinity. One of those arrested was apparently a student who was not taking part in the protest.
The workers continued chanting, voicing their frustrations about the government’s pay offer.
At Kalafong Hospital scores of non-striking medical workers – who had to be protected by heavily armed soldiers – were confronted by striking public service counterparts in a tense stand-off.
Hurling verbal abuse, strikers were repeatedly driven back by police and soldiers outside the hospital when non-striking medical staff left work for home on Tuesday.
The hospital raised the strikers’ anger for using soldiers to defend and man the facility.
Meanwhile, the South African National Defence Union (Sandu) expressed solidarity with strikers, and slammed Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu for deploying troops to hospitals and for saying she would deal with strikers the way striking soldiers had been dealt with.
As dozens of visibly scared nurses and other medical staff gathered outside the hospital under the protection of soldiers and police waiting for taxis, protesters screamed at them. “You are useless. You are filthy and we will kill you.”
Atteridgeville/Saulsville Taxi Owners Association spokesperson Kala Mafagane said it was the last time they would pick up non-strikers from the hospital. “It is too dangerous for us. There is a grave risk that our vehicles will be damaged. Who will pay for the repairs?”
A nurse who asked not to be named said she would not return to work. “I am very scared. It is too dangerous. These people threaten to kill us,” she said. Pretoria News