Western Cape community safety MEC Dan Plato has welcomed a ‘hefty’ prison sentence handed down to a man involved in robbing an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) worker, after evidence was given in aggravation of sentence, reports The Times. Siphelo Manunga was sentenced to a 12-year prison term after being found guilty of robbing an EMS member of a phone in Khayelitsha in December.
The incident took place in the last week of December when an ambulance was stopped at Walter Sisulu Road in Mandela Park to give assistance to an injured person. Three young men attacked the EMS personnel and robbed them of two cellphones.
“Key to this sentence is the fact that the court recognised the impact such attacks has on the ability of the Western Cape government to provide critical services‚ especially to poor communities‚” Plato is quoted in the report as saying. He said the court also recognised the direct and negative impact of such opportunistic crimes on the EMS members of staff and the trauma it caused.
Plato said the Department of Community Safety played a significant role in facilitating the process required to put such evidence before the court in aggravation of sentence.
EMS provincial chief Pumzile Papu‚ who testified in aggravation of sentence last week‚ said the EMS had some staff who had been absent for about a year because of attacks. Papu said EMS staff experienced about three attacks a week.
It has been reported, meanwhile, that two paramedics were robbed at gunpoint in Alexandra, north of Johannesburg, on Tuesday morning. City of Johannesburg EMS spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi is quoted in News24 as saying that the paramedics had just picked up a patient in Second Street at around 02:00, and had started driving when two armed men confronted them and forced them to stop. “They took their wallets and cellphones,” said Mulaudzi.
The paramedics and the patient were not physically injured, but are very traumatised, he said.
The report says a similar incident occurred in Cosmos City, west of Johannesburg, in September, and emergency services staff are frightened. “I can safely confirm that that all 1 500 EMS staff, including fire fighters and paramedics, are very much traumatised. It affects them. You can imagine: They must report for duty tonight and they wonder if they will be attacked,” said Mulaudzi. “I am on my knees urging our residents to protect us.”
The report says if they are not able to work safely, they might have to review where their services go, and possibly create no-go zones. Western Cape paramedics no longer enter certain suburbs in the City of Cape Town without a police escort as a result of attacks on them. Some have been attacked more than once.
But, the report says, even the police escort has not deterred robbers. In August, a police officer was shot and wounded while escorting an ambulance in Gugulethu. A suspected robber was also killed when police countered that attack.