News / South Africa
The South African Private Ambulance and Emergency Services Association (Sapaesa) has called on Police Minister Bheki Cele to act swiftly and effectively to arrest and prosecute those responsible for the senseless killing of paramedic Phumzile Dlamini and the wounding of her colleague at the weekend.
On Sunday, two paramedics were shot while attending to a shooting near Mabhanoyini in the Estcourt area, where they were attacked in the back of the ambulance.
Sapaesa chief executive Oliver Wright said attacks on paramedic crews were despicable and shameful.
“There is no excuse for the ongoing and horrific acts of violence that are being perpetrated against our paramedic colleagues in the emergency medical service industry,” he said.
Unfortunately, he said, if the attacks continued, there would be no other choice but to withdraw ambulance services to communities considered high risk. ER24 spokesperson Russel Meiring said the number of incidents where paramedics were attacked had steadily increased in recent years.
“Unfortunately, emergency workers are at risk due to the times they respond to calls as well as the areas [in which] these incidents occur. Most of these attacks are opportunistic,” he said.
Meiring said these incidents had a negative effect on staff, who feared being attacked.
“ER24 performs ongoing training with its staff on situational awareness, emergencies in hostile environments and other such incidents. We also make use of security and local authorities, should the need arise. We strive to ensure the safety of our staff at all times,” Meiring said.
Albert Jansen van Vuuren, who has been a paramedic for 13 years, said: “I’m not going to argue, it’s scary.
“We could be attacked at any place where we stop or where we react to an accident scene. It scares us because we don’t know what to expect when we are on a scene or when we drive around.”
Senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies Dr Johan Burger said attacks on emergency workers happened regularly.
“In the Western Cape, emergency services and fire brigades have been regular victims of these types of attacks.
“This type of crime could make emergency services reluctant to respond or, in some cases, refuse to enter such areas without the police.
“It has simply became too dangerous.” Burger said some criminals had no empathy for the people for whom these services were intended.
“For them, it is purely about having a soft prey,” he added. Criminals knew emergency workers had cellphones and valuable equipment with them.
“This is part of a common crime situation in the country,” Burger said.
Following last year’s strict restrictions, crime was already back to the previous high crime levels.
“In some cases, it has surpassed those high levels. Our crime, specifically serious violent crime, has been rising for nine years in a row, from 2011-12.
“There is something seriously wrong with our nation because if we do not even spare people who have to provide emergency services for other people.”