Paramedics protest as attack accused remain behind bars

2017-01-06 13:01
Paramedics protest over attacks against their colleagues (Jenni Evans, News24)

Paramedics protest over attacks against their colleagues (Jenni Evans, News24)

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Cape Town - The three men accused of robbing paramedics in Khayelitsha on December 27 will stay behind bars until March 10, for a formal bail application, the Khayelitsha Magistrate's Court ruled on Friday.

As the three men were led into the dock by police, they were startled by the contingency of emergency services workers who had filled up the courtroom in support of their colleagues.

It was a demonstration of their frustrations, after close to 100 robberies and attacks were perpetrated against emergency workers last year. In the latest robbery, the paramedics were treating a patient in Khayelitsha when they were accosted by two of the men, allegedly brandishing a toy gun.

Two 19-year-olds were arrested for the robbery on December 28, while their accomplice, a 24-year-old man, was arrested for being in possession of stolen items, which included cellphones.

'Ambulance staff must be taken seriously'

Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA (Hospersa) provincial chairperson Michael Serelina praised police for the swift arrest and recovery of the stolen items.

However, he said Friday's court case reflected just the tip of what paramedics face on duty. He said at least 90 cases of attacks, robberies or intimidation were experienced by emergency services staff in 2016.

"This is a breakthrough," said Serelina, but added that there had to be an urgent intervention to stop the attacks.

He said he was disappointed that senior government officials had failed to show any support in court.

(Jenni Evans, News24)

Ahead of the court hearing, emergency services workers sang and held placards which read "Enough is enough" and "No bail" in the parking lot outside the courthouse.

"It is difficult to treat patients," said emergency services employee Justice Mbono, taking a break from singing.

Abongile Nontsange, also employed in the service, said the suspects should remain behind bars to send a message that these attacks were unacceptable.

"Now we have to get police escorts when we go to patients and that delays us from providing a proper service," he said.

District Manager Mark Pietersen said the robberies had continued despite efforts to educate the communities on the importance and urgency of their work.

"The message must be loud and clear: ambulance staff must be taken seriously," he said.

"We want the community to protect us. These people are somebody's children, brothers, sisters. The community must help."

(Jenni Evans, News24)


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