By The Citizen- Tensions flared at Kalafong Hospital in Atteridgeville, west of Pretoria, Thursday as disgruntled members of Operation Dudula and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) attacked one another, following weeks of protests outside institutions which have provided healthcare services to “suspected migrants”.
Following the clashes, the union Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa)slammed the government’s slow response to the crisis, saying it was disappointing that it took more than two weeks for Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla to deal with the issue.
Denosa’s Bongani Banda blamed the department and police for failing to intervene before the matter descended into violence, while the situation has “clearly placed the lives of healthcare workers, patients and now bystanders in danger”.
“It’s disappointing that it has come to this for the department, hospital and police to take this matter seriously,” he said.
Hospital management obtained a court interdict last Friday against Operation Dudula, which ordered the movement to disperse, and stated that the picket outside the facility was illegal.
However, police and management have failed to enforce the interdict. The interdict with case number 017921/2022 – which was placed outside the hospital entrance – did not have a signature or stamp from the court, “which is why we won’t even consider it”, said Dudula members when asked why they disregarded the order.
During a site visit to assess the impact of the current sporadic protests on access to health services, Phaahla condemned the protesters and urged Dudula members to let the government do its work.
“These activities are a violation of the South African constitution and deprives people of their fundamental rights and are consequently illegal,” he said.
Phaahla said as government, they were obliged by the constitution and the law to make sure that people had access to healthcare services and that “no one may be refused emergency medical treatment”.
However, Elias Makgwadi, Dudula chair in Atteridgeville, said residents were not happy with the services provided at the hospital.
He said the sick and frail were “always turned away because the hospital has no beds and then we find out that they are giving those beds to illegal foreigners”.
Makgwadi claimed the hospital was lenient on foreigners when it comes to producing documentation and paying medical fees.
“They would rather tell locals they don’t have beds. They even fail to hand over illegal foreigners, whom they’ve treated, to immigration officers when they can’t produce documentation,” he said.