Durban hospital's managers get bodyguards after death threats

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Top managers at a Durban hospital, where the labour relations manager was shot last month during the course of a corruption probe, turned up for work on Monday morning accompanied by a phalanx of bodyguards.

Business Day reports that this was after Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital’s acting CEO Dr Linda Sobekwa and HR manager Nokulunga Mthombeni, last week, fled the hospital fearing for their lives after receiving anonymous death threats.

The report says the hospital, in Phoenix township, has long been beset by turmoil. The institution’s labour relations manager, Themba Zulu, is on the mend after being shot earlier this month. Soon after this, Sobekwa and Mthombeni found notes stuck under their office doors which read: "You are next."

Sobekwa, Mthombeni and Zulu have been at the forefront of an internal investigation involving members of the hospital security team accused of corruption. The investigation is believed to have focused on a number of issues at the hospital, including a security tender, the loss of medical supplies, and allegations of kickbacks for tenders involving staff members, some of which have since been suspended and are under investigation.

The report says KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo has justified his department’s decision to hire bodyguards for the trio. "We have decided on this after their lives were threatened. They are conducting a sensitive probe into allegations of tender rigging and theft of hospital property worth a lot of money. We don’t want to lose them, hence we have decided to arrange bodyguards for them. We take these threats seriously." Dhlomo added that some of those under investigations are not happy that the two are back at work: "Our actions are not to please them because the investigations have so far uncovered a lot of rot at the hospital."

Bongani Vilakazi, spokesperson of the National Health Education and Allied Workers’ Union confirmed that the situation was tense at the hospital.

Hospital board member Mervin Reddy said they were surprised when the top management returned to work with bodyguards. There had been eight acting CEOs in less than four years, a situation causing instability at the institution, Reddy said.

Business Day report

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