Main entry points in Mthatha blocked, affecting essential services

Monday, May 27, 2024

The Eastern Cape Department of Health has confirmed that services have been affected in hospitals in and around Mthatha by the blocking of the N2 and R61 roads.

“Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital, Mthatha Regional and St Barnabas Hospital staff, who worked the night shift, could not go home, while those who were supposed to report for duty could not get to work because of the blocked roads,” a statement from the department read. 

This is after all the major entry and exit points into Mthatha were blocked, as taxi violence erupted. 

According to reports, the taxi drivers allegedly hijacked trucks and used them to block both sides of the N2 and R61 roads. 

Reports suggest that the taxi operators’ actions were because of a crackdown by authorities following an outbreak of violence last week.

The actions have since forced hospitals to operate with a skeleton staff. 

“As soon as roads reopen, those who are supposed to be on duty will go to work to relieve those who worked the night shift. 

“The blocked roads mean patients in desperate need of higher level of care cannot get it as ambulances cannot get to Mthatha.” 

In emergency cases, the department said it will use aeromedical services to transfer patients.

Eastern Cape Transport Department spokesperson, Unathi Binqose, told reporters that law enforcement is on the ground and that they are getting reinforcement from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to try to bring the situation back to normality.  

“Unfortunately, it has affected a lot of things, including schools and airports — just about everything,” he said. 

Those travelling to, from and through the Mthatha area are urged to either delay their travel time or avoid the town, as law enforcement is busy trying to control the situation.

Meanwhile, according to the South African Police Service (SAPS), five suspects were arrested at about 9am on Monday after shots were fired at Public Order Policing and Mthatha Vispol members. 

“Two suspects sustained injuries while the other three were arrested. Two firearms were also confiscated. A case of attempted murder and possession of firearms is opened for further investigation,” the SAPS statement read.

SAPS said Public Order Policing, the National Intervention Unit and Tactical Response Teams are in Mthatha policing the situation.

Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant General Nomthetheleli Mene, has since issued a stern warning against those circulating videos and messages that appear to incite unrest. 

“Such actions are not only irresponsible but also illegal. We will take strict action against anyone found to be engaging in activities that threaten the safety and security of the public and the integrity of the election process,” warned Mene. –