KZN Health MEC condemns attacks and death threats against mobile workers, including abductions, and torching and destruction of vehicles at Umzinyathi District; as well as stone-throwing, fire and staff intimidation at Cato Manor Community Health Centre

19 January 2023

KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Ms Nomagugu Simelane has strongly condemned and described as "completely uncalled-for and reprehensible" recent attacks against mobile healthcare workers and the destruction of three vehicles, in the Magogo area, near Nkandla, today and yesterday.

Earlier today, a health inspector who was travelling to Monyane Clinic in Nkandla was abducted and held hostage by angry protesters about 500m from the clinic.

He and three female colleagues were blocked and forcibly removed from the vehicle, which was then extensively damaged. The man was subsequently freed after about three hours.

During a separate attack yesterday, at Umzinyathi District, a nurse had to pay her last R300 to a group of assailants in order to save the life of a colleague who had a tyre put around his neck by the men, who were threatening to douse it with petrol and set him alight.

It is alleged that the mobile health teams were en-route to various mobile health clinic points at Umzinyathi District when they were forced off the road by unknown gun-wielding men in a Toyota Quantum.

The mobile health teams, which included women, were assaulted, robbed of their valuables, sworn at, and asked by the men, "How are you working while we're unemployed?"

The men set alight one of the vehicles, and completely smashed the windows of two others. The highly-traumatised staff members have had to receive counselling.

In an unrelated incident, also yesterday, police had to use teargas to disperse a crowd that had thrown stones and threatened staff at the Cato Manor Community Health Centre in Durban, during a service delivery protest. The crowd had burnt tyres and trash at the entrance of the healthcare facility. Some staff members as well as healthcare users had to receive medical treatment for teargas inhalation while others were forced to leave to stop working during the fracas, which caused a lot of panic.

Reacting to these incidents, MEC Simelane said: “We are deeply disturbed, shocked, and concerned by these incidents. We appeal to communities not to attack our healthcare workers, or destroy public property, because it deprives communities of much-needed healthcare services and resources that are meant to assist them.

"These incidents are a serious setback to our gallant efforts to make healthcare accessible to everyone, including those in the rural areas. No-one will ever know the full effects of these attacks on the psyche of the staff who were affected. And destroying vehicles and property takes a serious toll on us due to the fact that our resources are scarce.

"Replacing these vehicles and repairing damaged buildings could mean we’re unable to pay staff, buy medication, health technology equipment, or do routine maintenance work. So, we strongly condemn these actions, and wish to call upon all right-thinking South Africans not to harbour these criminals within their ranks, but rather isolate and report them to law enforcement authorities. No matter how genuine you believe your cause to be, such reprehensible conduct can never be justified."

Issued by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health

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