Cape Town - Emergency Medical Services (EMS) staff working in Cape Town’s townships have called for more policing as they are now allegedly forced to pay extortion syndicates for protection.
Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz said they had noted with concern the way in which the issue of extortion now extended to the EMS workers and health services.
Fritz said it was an attack on the dignity of the citizens and their right to access to health-care services. He called on the police and law enforcement to do everything in their power to bring a halt to the emerging trend.
Khayelitsha Community Policing Forum chairperson Fransina Lukas said the extortion rackets were really out to destroy communities, because the EMS was rendering a service aimed at saving lives.
Lukas said the police and other law-enforcement agencies must devise a strategy to deal with and completely dismantle those groups and put a stop to their activities as soon as possible, “otherwise things would go from bad to worse”.
National Union of Education, Health and Allied Workers (Nehawu) spokesperson Khaya Xaba condemned the attack on EMS members, and called on law enforcement to provide protection while the department of health was still looking into ensuring the health and safety of the workers.
Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA (Hospersa) spokesperson Kevin Halama said the cases had not yet been reported to their provincial office.
However, he said the challenge was relevant and there was a possibility that it was happening, but members feared reporting to the employer as well as the police.
ANC provincial spokesperson for community safety, Mesuli Kama, said crime in the Cape Flats and townships has been slowly escalating to an uncontrollable level.
Kama said they had heard of allegations that more government services - including Eskom, EMS personnel and municipal workers - have to pay protection fees to work safely in communities.
Kama said the extortion rackets were getting out of hand, the gangs were organised and well resourced. He said at that point, the police and other crime-fighting stakeholders needed more resources to be deployed to hot-spot areas for stabilisation purposes.
“It is now high time for more members of crime intelligence to be deployed to these areas to break the back of the extortion ring,” said Kama.
“In this regard, we make no apologies when we call on police leadership and the minister to urgently revise the formula used to deploy police resources in the Western Cape. More resources must be deployed to hot-spot areas where they are needed the most,” he said.
He said resources should be taken away from the leafy suburbs and brought to where they were needed the most, to increase visibility and reclaim the streets from the extortionists.
Safety and Security Mayco member JP Smith said if that was the case, they needed to report it to the integrated extortion task team that was being co-ordinated between all the enforcement agencies in the city.
EMS spokesperson Deanna Bessick did not respond to inquiries by the time of publication.