The Kwazulu-Natal Department of Health has fired 16 nurses - despite an independent tribunal recommending that no nurses involved in an illegal strike action earlier this year be dismissed.
Yesterday, the axed nurses said the tribunal had been a waste of taxpayers' money.
The tribunal, which began sitting in early February, probed the unfair dismissal of more 1000 nurses who took part in an illegal strike in January over unpaid allowances for working in rural areas.
Lolo Ngubane, a nurse at Prince Mshiyeni Hospital, in Umlazi, south of Durban, said she got the shock of her life when she was handed her letter of dismissal.
"I am in shock because I spoke to my union on Friday and they assured me I would not lose my job," Ngubane said.
"The whole process was a waste of taxpayers' money."
Makhehla Nyandu, a nurse at Edendale Hospital, in Pietermaritzburg, was one of the leaders of the nurses' committee that led the recent protest. He was also fired.
Nyandu, who received his letter of dismissal yesterday, said the news did not come as a shock.
"I was the one leading the strike; I was actively involved in the strike. I just feel sorry for those that have been fired for nothing," he said.
Nyandu said the department was dismissing nurses to "teach them a lesson".
On Friday, heath department head Busi Nyembezi released the findings of the tribunal and said that no nurses would be fired.
Yesterday, the department's spokesman, Leon Mbangwa, said the tribunal had provided recommendations but that it was up to the department to make the final decision.
Mbangwa said the department of health felt that some of the nurses had a negative influence on others and should not be kept on.
Mbangwa disputed accusations that the tribunal was a waste of the taxpayers' money.
"The majority of the nurses are happy to get their jobs back and the nurses who believe they were unfairly dismissed should tell that to the labour court," said Mbangwa.
No-one at the nurses unions were available for comment.