Thousands of public sector workers have taken to the streets of major cities across South Africa in an increasingly bitter dispute with the government.

Teachers, hospital workers and civil servants joined the noisy protests which come on the ninth day of an indefinite strike over pay.

But a court barred police officers from joining the strike.

A police spokeswoman said any officers who went on strike could face the sack.

Thousands of union members from the Cosatu federation – which brings together unions representing over a million workers – are taking part in the nationwide marches.

In the commercial hub of Johannesburg, hundreds of protesters, many wearing red T-shirts, sang and danced as they marched through the streets.

The BBC’s Karen Allen at the march says there is anger against President Jacob Zuma.

One placard reads: “One president, one wife. One president, one term”.

She says that despite the police strike threat, officers are monitoring the protesters in Johannesburg in case of any trouble.

Meanwhile thousands of public servants marched to Parliament in Cape Town.

The protesters, who are demanding an 8.6% pay rise against the government’s offer of 7%, have been angered by recent newspaper stories of corruption and lavish spending by ministers.

The government says it cannot afford to deliver wage increases that amount to twice the rate of inflation.

Our correspondent says there is little sign of any movement in the negotiations.

Army strike?

The police sought the court injunction after the main police union announced that it wanted to join the strike.

Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union spokesman Norman Mampane said union lawyers would challenge the order, reports the AP news agency.

The police have previously been involved in violent clashes with some strikers and have fired rubber bullets, water cannon and tear gas at the protesters.

Last weekend, another court ordered the unions not to disrupt emergency services.

Military doctors have been deployed around the country to keep hospitals open.

But some military unions have also threatened to join the strike.

The South African Security Forces Union has asked the government to resolve the dispute quickly, saying that the military should not be used for substitute labour.

Last year, hundreds of soldiers were sacked after going on strike in a dispute which saw violent clashes with the police.

The health ministry has asked for volunteers to help clean hospitals and cook food for patients.

On Friday, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said hospital workers who interrupted vital medical care and forced colleagues to join the strike are carrying out actions tantamount to murder.

President Zuma has defended the unions’ right to strike but also urged for them to end violence and intimidation.

Credit: BBC