In Practice

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) strikes: South Africa’s healthcare battlefield

A Dhai, S Mahomed


The right to strike is a fundamental right entrenched in section 23 of the Bill of Rights. Strikes are an almost everyday occurrence in South Africa and strikes in healthcare facilities raise difficult and complex moral and ethical questions. The right to strike is conditionally limited by section 36 of the Constitution and for workers engaging in essential services it is further limited under section 65 of the Labour Relations Act. Healthcare practitioners, including emergency care personnel, and much-needed healthcare facilities have come under attack during the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) strikes, which have prevented patients from accessing healthcare and threatened the training of undergraduate students and registrars. While generally security and policing have been lacking at targeted facilities, many doctors stood by their patients despite threats to their safety. Healthcare facilities, vehicles and practitioners must be protected. Solutions must come from politicians and include preventive actions and enforcement of the law.

Authors' affiliations

A Dhai, Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

S Mahomed, Department of Jurisprudence, School of Law, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

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Rights; Safety; Access to healthcare; Essential services; Protection

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2018;108(8):632-633. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2018.v108i8.13458

Article History

Date submitted: 2018-07-25
Date published: 2018-07-25

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