Attacks on emergency workers in Johannesburg and Durban
Attacks on the City of Johannesburg’s Emergency Management Services (CoJEMS) staff continue unabated, with two incidents, in Alexandra and Soweto, reported in two days. On Tuesday, 1 January 2019, there was an attack on paramedics at a Lenasia filling station. The hijackers managed to get away with the emergency vehicle. The paramedics were not harmed, although they were traumatised, said CoJEMS spokesperson, Robert Mulaudzi. The damaged vehicle was later recovered at Nancefield Hostel. On Sunday, 30 December 2018, Alexandra fire fighters who were monitoring New Year’s festivities were attacked by attempted hijackers but no one was hurt. "We are very concerned about these constant attacks, which cause panic among our emergency officers who are constantly concerned about their safety,” said Mulaudzi.
However, EMS did not support calls from several unions for EMS staff to carry firearms. “If they are armed they will become more vulnerable, it will create confusion. Instead, we aim to work with community police officials to educate the public about the services being rendered by EMS officials who look after the safety of residents,” he said.
Last week, a union representing paramedics encouraged its members to arm themselves. The trade union, the South African Emergency Personnel Union, which represents about 7 000 paramedics, encouraged its members to carry guns to protect themselves. There have been about 30 complaints from emergency workers who had been attacked while on duty in various provinces over the past six months.
On Friday, two Cape Town medics in an ambulance were held up at gunpoint while transporting a patient to Melomed Hospital in Mitchells Plain. They stopped to attend to a man lying in the road. But it was just a ruse and he drew a gun and held them up.
Last week in the Eastern Cape, a patient and paramedics were robbed of their belongings, including cellphones. About 66 525 emergency medical services workers, including paramedics, ambulance assistants and emergency care technicians, are registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa.
Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding an attack on a paramedic who was stabbed while entering the Emergency Medical Services base in Illovo on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast. Philani Nzuza was stabbed multiple times on his head and chest at the weekend. Nzuza was rushed to a Durban hospital where he is recovering.
The attack has been condemned by KZN Health MEC, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo. "It is worrying that a health worker in full uniform going on duty can be attacked by thugs in this manner. We are glad he survived. The people who attacked him must have been under the influence of something that made them not to be in touch with reality," he said. During the visit, Nzuza recounted his ordeal to the MEC and described how his colleagues came to assist him.
Dhlomo noted that a health worker operating ambulances is a critical staff member. "Even during the period of our massive protests against apartheid rule, health professionals were allowed to go through to hospitals and clinics because they could be going to save the lives of our people injured by the apartheid police. The behaviour of these thugs is seen as a practice that hinders our professionals from performing their national duty. We hope that the SAPS can do whatever it takes to apprehend these perpetrators of social ills," he said.
Source: The Star and Sunday Tribune