Maverick Citizen


Strikers shot with rubber bullets at Mthatha hospital

Strikers shot with rubber bullets at Mthatha hospital
Security guards armed with imvubu (sjambok ) preventing health workers from entering the premises of Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital and Mthatha General Hospital on 9 March 2023. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

Private security guards with covered faces, in full riot gear openly displaying their firearms and wielding sjamboks, on Thursday 9 March fired rubber bullets at striking workers who had gathered at the entrance of the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital. Four protestors were hit.

Four protestors were hit by rubber bullets on Thursday morning as security guards were deployed to enforce a court order obtained by the Eastern Cape Department of Health.

One of the patients caught in the crossfire was distraught.

“We were dodging rubber bullets this morning! Those security guards were shooting at everyone. Patients like me can’t walk properly but let me tell you when they started shooting we ran for our lives. We didn’t expect that from the security guards,” he said.

“I have been here since yesterday, but we didn’t get any help yesterday. I decided to sleep here, and the police officers were also here, but I don’t know what exactly happened today to the security guards,” said Abongile Mabaso who witnessed the shooting.

The Eastern Cape Department of Health had obtained a court order late on Wednesday to allow for striking workers who come closer than 200 metres to a hospital entrance to be removed.

See more in Daily Maverick  here: In photos – the chaos sweeping South Africa, and the patients bearing the brunt

“I am in desperate need of help,” Mabaso said. “I was hit by a car and my injuries need serious attention.”

Bulelani Naki, chairperson of Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital branch said of the situation:

“It is chaotic. We thought the police will manage the strike. We didn’t think there will be security guards. Now we are seeing security guards shooting at workers claiming that they are following a court order.

Security guards sitting in the Nelson Mandela Hospital entrance preventing health workers from entering the premises on 9 March 2023. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

“They didn’t even warn us. They just opened fire. As the leadership, we are still discussing the matter but we were surprised by the response of the security guards.”

He said four of their workers were injured as well as some members of the public.

About 25 security guards were deployed at the gate at Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital and Mthatha General Hospital on Thursday.

Eastern Cape Department of Health spokesperson Yonela Dekeda said they were advised by the National Department of Health not to comment further on the strike as communication will be handled by the Minister of Health, Joe Phaahla. DM/MC


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • James Francis says:

    Well, if the police do nothing and the unions have been allowed to act with violence for years, this was bound to happen. I don’t blame the security groups. We cannot allow violent striking thugs to keep holding us hostage. All these union members will just vote for the ANC and EFF again because then they can continue to behave like this while SA falls apart.

  • Paul T says:

    You get no sympathy from me if you behave in ways the Nehawu members have behaved. Im sorry the patients were frightened, but a tougher hand is required for lawless, destructive strikers.

  • Richard Thompson says:

    Protesters, with an “e”, not protestors.

  • Rob Wilson says:

    It is very unfortunately when innocent people get impacted by protest action. Unfortunately, we must choose-do we want police to protect life and property, or do we want to allow protest action to proceed without bounds? Protests in Africa have a habit of gaining a life of their own which invariably results in violence, destruction, broken heads and loss of life. Governing a few people has taught the Chinese that you cannot have both.

  • Abel Mngadi says:

    I seem to have a gripe with the media. When union people get out of hand and breaks the law to an extent of taking other people’s lives , we are given an impression that it’s ok to do so. Look at Marikana! Union members killed a number of innocent people but the media only reported on the those killed by the police. It’s like they are condoning barbaric union actions. In this article as well I get the same impression. They say nothing about what the union members have been doing during the strike. Let them protest but also be held accountable for trampling on other people’s rights and freedom to go into the hospital and get treatment. Report on the lives lost because of the strike that puts money over the lives of the poor who can’t go to private hospitals and doctors to get medical treatment. They have a right to strike, no doubt about that, but do so with some Ubuntu/ humanity as well. It’s about time the union come up with something innovative to pressure the employer that doesn’t violate the poor’s lives as well. Striking this way is outdated

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