5 December 2017

South Africa: Army Must Accompany EMS Staff Into Hotspots - Unions

Imagine a trip to the hospital under the guard of an armed soldier. If Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) general secretary Dennis George has his way, this will become a reality.

"We want protection," he said on Tuesday, following a march to Parliament by public health and rail passenger service workers.

"When our emergency services workers go into hotspot areas, they must be accompanied by [members] of the defence force, they must be fully armed. We know these criminals use hard weapons and it's important that we can respond as a nation in a way that will give a clear message."

About 50 members of Fedusa, Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa), Public Servants Association of South Africa (PSA) and United National Transport Union (Untu) took part in the march, demanding that Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula deploy the army to the "embattled Cape Town region".

According to the memorandum - addressed to the ministers of defence, labour, health and police - Fedusa and their affiliated unions are demanding the "urgent and fast-tracked active participation of the military health personnel", to accompany EMS staff into hotspot areas during the festive season, as well as a summit to deal with their concerns.

It also demanded the urgent deployment of military police to protect Metrorail employees and commuters "reliant on an effective transport system".

A government official accepted the memorandum and committed to relay it to the relevant ministers, as Parliament is currently in recess.

Attacks on paramedics and train staff have been brought to the attention of government, which "doesn't respond appropriately", George said.

"While they are executing their duties, criminals are targeting them to rob them of their cellphones and personal possessions, putting their lives in danger.

"Our government deploys our army to other places in the world. Why can't they deploy the army that we pay for as taxpayers to make our townships safer?

"It's incredible that the government has refused to help its own people. And if that is the case, then we must change our government."

Last month, Police Minister Fikile Mbalula said the army would be deployed to areas worst affected by gang activity by Christmas, once "operational plans" had been processed.

Source: News24

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