/ 25 April 2018

North West town eerily calm after protest

(Oupa Nkosi/M&G)
(Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

In Jouberton a small township in Klerksdorp, partially burnt car tyres and rubble are the only signs a protest took place earlier. Now the streets are empty, save for a few pedestrians.

But it was mayhem earlier.

“Even we were scared to travel,” a group of friends tell the Mail & Guardian. “These people were violent and very scary.”

A few meters away from the hospital [Tshepong Hospital complex] were two groups, one was of “tsotsis” taking advantage of the situation and the others were suspected to be Nehawu members dressed in blue and red t-shirt, Mampo Dikhing-Mahole, clinical manager at the Tshepong Hospital told the Mail & Guardian.

“When we came in the morning, there were people blocking and barricading the roads. We could see gore ke tsotsi batho ba…( we could these are tsotsis), burning the tires and we had to pay R20 to pass, some of our staff like doctors parked their cars and walked to the hospital,” Dikhing-Mahole explains.

Although some staff struggled to enter the hospital, Dikhing-Mahole denies the South African Defence Force had been deployed to the hospital.

“We know that they would come but we would first start with the South African Police Service and then if they cant cope, we would go to the South African Defence Force,” she said.

“Fortunately there were staff members on the ground, we managed to cook, we have about eight staff members in the kitchen and clerks also helped to distribute the food to the wards, most people that were absent were cleaners, but we had a lot of nurses…our only problem was access and safety but otherwise all the wards had staff”.

There are 75 staff members that reported for duty according to a roll-call register that was taken between 7:30 and 8:15 seen by the Mail & Guardian.

The protest however has particularly affected day patients who usually actually access health services at the hospital.

Ntate Thabo Leseba* is left stranded outside the hospital and has been waiting almost 45 minutes for a sign of any touting local taxis to give a ride back home. “ They have barricaded the roads…the taxis that you see do not go to extension 12-where he lives”.

Extension 12 is 10 minutes away from the hospital and Ntathe Lesiba usually comes by taxi to collect his chronic medications for his arthritis that has given him excruciating pain on his right foot and has to use a stick to help him walk.

“I woke up at six and I am even hungry now, I do not know what I will do because i have to take my pills”

He is not waiting alone, John Motsidi is also a chronic patient at the hospital, and comes every three months for his bronchitis treatment.

They have both seen the doctor and have been sent home with their medication pack until their next appointment, and the only thing standing in their way is transport to go home.

“I am just waiting for papa (Ntate Lesiba) to get on a cab, otherwise I am fine because I can walk home.”

The protest has apparently affected most of the Klerksdorp area, roads such as the N12 Potchefstroom was closed as motorist were warned that that protesters would hit their cars.

Cars trickle in every ten minutes into the hospital a sign reading, “Welcome to Tshepong Hospital” hangs. There are no patients coming out and security is dressed in casual clothes as told by management to protect them from being attacked by protesters.

“We heard rumours and we made plans because we cannot relax and we were making plans because of the rumours we heard,” said head of security Smanga Mvala

Even though, there were casualties, one staff member was robbed of her cellphone and protesters did manage to invade the hospital premises.

“They were singing and overpowered our security and got into the hospital and disposed the waste around the hospital, they went into the wards to take staff out, but they did not hit them, they just said come and some joined and some stayed”.

Tshepong’s Dikhing-Mahole also explains that this is first time the hospital has been affected by the strikes, as it been operating normally and taking patients from the whole of North West. However this has put pressure on the hospital as it takes about 800 patients normally and had to see 80 more due to the protest.

She also adds that they were well prepared for the strike and some patients: “Only those patients that were due to be discharged and the critical ones have been retained and others are waiting for transport to be moved to relevant hospitals”.

Transport is not the only part of business that has been inconvenienced in Jouberton,businesses have also been severely affected. A Caltex garage situated 500 meters from Tshepong hospital has been left abandoned with no sign of operating soon.

A further 200 meters away from the hospital; is a vandalised and burnt-down SomalI-owned shop amongst others allegedly looted by protestors before burning it down.

Zweli Magobe a local in the area expresses that he is greatly disappointed at how locals have used this an advantage to do crime. He explains that local businesses such as supermarkets, butcheries and some spaza shops have been looted and he doubts they will ever be open for business once the strike is over.

“I heard guys say it is Friday and I did not understand what they meant by that”, Zweli Magobe told the Mail & Guardian, as he walks around with his son who is carrying a pair of flip-flops he picked up from the streets.

He says he did not join protest because he does not know what it is about and apart from the he has a job. “I have two children and every morning I buy them snacks and now…Ke tlso yetsang jwang sesi? (what am i going to do sister)”

*Not his real name