Western Cape tackles attacks on emergency personnel

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Cape Town – The Western Cape Standing Committee on Community Development went to the violence-plagued Cape Flats suburb of Kalksteenfontein and the Khayelitsha townships on Friday to engage the public on the ongoing attacks on Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel.

A total of 231 attacks on EMS staff have been reported between 2012 and 2016 - prompting the move for police escort for ambulances called out to areas dubbed “red zones” between sunset and sunrise.

The highest number of attacks reported last year was in Kalksteenfontein and Khayelitsha with both areas making the red zone list, where paramedics won’t enter without a police escort. Stressing the urgency of the matter, Operations Manager EMS Cape Town, Stewart Taylor said there have been 75 attacks in the province in 2016 and four this year.

He said in November last year, there were four attacks alone in Kalksteenfontein, one of which was very serious.

Taylor said ambulance crews have been robbed, threatened with a gun, assaulted or have had their ambulances stoned.

He said the majority of the attacks happened late at night between midnight and three in the morning over weekends.

Community members highlighted the lack of proper lighting, police visibility and social ills like drug abuse plaguing the area - as major contributing factors to crime in the area.

“We don’t want [police] only when there are shootings, we want to see visible policing during the day as well,” one of the residents said.

Locals, including ward councillors, said they were in the dark about their area being on the no-go list for medics.

“It is worrying for us as a community to be on the red-zone. We don’t want to be on the red flag,” Ward Councillor Charles Esau said.

Local resident, Charles January, said people were too afraid to come out of their homes in the dark, after EMS staff indicated that a simple solution to ensure the criminals do not attack, is for residents to come out into the street when they are busy at a scene.

“Our area is a gang infested area. We live in a gangster’s paradise,” said Shaheed Africa.

Africa also asked authorities to invest in training community members in first aid, so that they could assist as first respondents.

Brigadier Christopher Jones, Bishop Lavis station commander, conceded that at times there are delays when vehicles are out at crimes scenes.

He said his precinct was well-manned and resourced.

Committee Chair Lorraine Botha said it was unacceptable that EMS personnel, who are there to save lives, have to be escorted by the Police when  responding to emergencies in certain areas.

Botha added that it is vital that all stakeholders play a role in finding immediate solutions to address the spate of attacks, because the continued violence is affecting the personnel’s ability to effectively respond to emergencies.

“We will not allow criminal elements to deny community members access to quality healthcare,” she added.


The other red zones include, Philippi, Nyanga, New Cross Roads, Gugulethu, Tafelsig, Heideveld, Site C, Mandela Park and Hanover Park. – TLM

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