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Unions concerned by attacks on council workers

City firefighter department’s damaged vehicles will need to go for repairs after residents pelted them with stones. Picture: City of Cape Town

City firefighter department’s damaged vehicles will need to go for repairs after residents pelted them with stones. Picture: City of Cape Town

Published Oct 10, 2023


The SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) has raised its concern over the safety of firefighters who have come under-siege following a spate of attacks on vehicles in communities across the metro.

In the latest incident, teams who responded to a structural fire in Uitsig, Elsies River, on Thursday, were allegedly intimidated by gunshots and then pelted with stones.

It followed an incident last Tuesday when firefighters in Greenville, Kraaifontein, were also attacked.

“As the union, we are currently engaging our Samwu safety structures, but in general, we are very concerned with the attacks that happen across various departments, such as the fire department, solid waste department, housing department, water and sanitation department, roads department, law enforcement and the electricity department,” said Samwu.

Last week, the City’s Urban Waste Management Department temporarily withdrew its services in Gugulethu, Philippi East, Nyanga and Manenberg amid ongoing alleged extortion threats and attacks on its staff.

Urban waste mayco member Grant Twigg said the staff were threatened with demands for money in order for them to carry on with their work in the area.

The City has offered a reward of up to R5 000 for any information, including cellphone videos, that could help identify perpetrators who attack municipal workers.

Safety and security mayco member JP Smith urged residents to protect the emergency response services.

“In both instances, firefighters continued with their duties and extinguished these fires before hurriedly retreating out of these areas. While the firefighters were fortunate themselves not to have suffered injuries, both fire engines were damaged and will need to be taken out of service for repairs to be undertaken.

“We condemn the hostile actions of those who target our firefighters or those responding to similar emergencies as often occurs with paramedics and ambulance staff.

“While firefighters are accustomed to risking their own safety on a daily basis against unforgiving flames, they are not trained to handle violent and aggressive, direct attacks from criminals while responding to emergencies.

“The resulting trauma inflicted upon members in this regard is therefore unacceptable,” said Smith.

He expressed frustration that the attacks were happening as the City boosted much-needed resources in communities.

“As a municipality, we have worked hard to ensure our Fire and Rescue service is well equipped, arguably the best in South Africa.

“Just recently, we expanded our coverage by adding two new fire stations close to communities in need, that of Sir Lowry's Pass and then the Masiphumele and Ocean View areas getting the Kommetjie fire station, bringing our total now to 32 stations.

“Both of these damaged vehicles will now need to be booked in for repairs, insurance assessments completed, claims finalized, parts ordered from the manufacturers and repairs completed, a timeous exercise we need to comply with according to legislation,” he said.

Tip-offs can be relayed 24-hours a day on 0800 110 077.

Cape Times