EMERGENCY services workers have taken to the streets for the second time in as many weeks to raise awareness about skollies targeting them on the job.
Hundreds of police officers, traffic officials and paramedics picketed in front of Maitland Town Hall in Voortrekker Road yesterday, saying first respondents have become the “new victims on the Cape Flats”.
Nearly 400 officials were part of the peaceful placard demonstration which started at noon, and motorists were asked to hoot as they passed in support of their safety.
Officials say since January this year, 42 incidents have been recorded, which include assault, robbery, theft, vandalism and hijacking.
Nyanga, Hanover Park, Crossroads, Manenberg, Bonteheuwel, Delft and Elsies River have been identified as hotspots.
Justin Kumlehm, spokesperson for the Maitland Community Policing Forum, says the community must help keep paramedics safe.
“We need to raise awareness. It is like people don’t even know that we are there to assist,” he says.
“The police and emergency services staff and their vehicles are an aid and not to be stoned, killed and assaulted. We want to help you, so stop hurting us,” says Justin.
He says residents are offering to escort emergency personnel into dangerous areas, but this should not become the norm or a solution.
“We are already in danger and do not feel it fair for others to do so, as well,” says Justin.
Paramedic Nonkeliseko Ndzimela, 29, who is pregnant, adds: “Why must we be killed for trying to help people? We have nothing you can use, but you take our lives. I don’t feel safe.
“We need the community to respect us and what we do. We only want to help.”
Captain Louis Solomons of Maitland Police Station says emergency workers do not discriminate against criminals and law-abiding citizens.
“It is just 1% of the community that are attacking us, but we are even there for them also,” says Solomons.
Two weeks ago about 500 Western Cape EMS staffers marched through Phillipi, identified as a crime hotspot, over the same issue.
At that rally, Western Cape Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo warned she would stop sending emergency staff into danger zones unless the attacks stopped.