Gugulethu residents march for health and safety

The protestors highlighted the inequality between health services available at township and suburban clinics. All photos by Sinethemba Mbewana

The Movement for Change and Social Justice joined with Realistic, Gugulethu Development Forum and Gugulethu Progressive Development Forum to march to various government entities around the township to deliver their memorandum of demands for better services.

The Western Cape Department of Health has disputed claims by the Movement for Change and Social Justice (MCSJ) that the community healthcare centre in Gugulethu is understaffed.

The MCSJ led a protest march with residents from Gugulethu and surrounding townships demanding better healthcare and policing in the area.

The residents raised concerns about how the community healthcare centre operates. Among many complaints, they said the clinic is overcrowded and that patients have to sleep on chairs and sometimes give birth while waiting for a vacant bed.

Mandla Majola, a member of MCSJ, said what they receive is poor quality healthcare while people in the suburbs get better healthcare.

“Section 27 of the constitution says we have a right to health and that means when we go to the clinic we must get quality services. But that doesn’t happen because our clinics are small and don’t have the capacity to provide quality services,” said Majola.

The health department disputed that the healthcare centre is understaffed. “The Western Cape Government: Health can confirm that the Gugulethu Community Health Centre has sufficient staff according to the Province’s approved post list. The 24-hour facility has 91 nurses, 6 doctors, 2 community service doctors and 24 clerks in its establishment. Patients tend to wait long for assistance, but this is also due to other contributing factors of patients defaulting on medication and not adhering to appointment times,” said the department’s principal communication officer, Monique Johnstone.

The protestors claimed that the clinic is not wheelchair friendly, something that the health department disputes.

The protestors also raised the issue of the lack of safety at Nobantu Primary in Gugulethu. They say that the school’s fences have been damaged and the school building has become a haven for drug addicts and criminals.

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“When the neighbourhood watch patrols at night, they find beer bottles and used condoms at the school, amapharaphara smoke drugs at the school because they have easy access to the school,” said Sandisa Dali, one of the parents.

Another parent, Grant Tambo, said that he is worried about his daughter’s safety especially at this time when girls are being abducted, raped and murdered. “My daughter attends that primary school; there should be CCTV cameras there so that I can be able to know that my daughter is looked after,” said Tambo.

The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) said it knows the situation the school is facing but priorities are made based on location risk factors.

“The school is on our priority fencing list for an upgrade. Interventions are prioritised according to risk, based on statistics from SAPS and the Safe Schools call centre, and we do not have the budget to provide security personnel, armed response and equipment such as CCTV to all our schools,” said the department’s director of communication, Bronagh Hammond.

The protestors want a mobile police station outside the clinic.

The march moved to the Gugulethu Police Station where residents spoke about issues of safety, saying that they don’t feel safe even at the clinics and schools. Their demand is for the police to be more visible.

“When you take a person to the clinic, you are asked to park outside the gate and if there are more than two people, one of you will be allowed inside and for that one that is outside it’s going to be a problem because you will be robbed,” said Phelisa Dlangamandla.

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One of the protestors, Mhlobo Gunguluzi. recalled a murder committed by a member of the public inside the clinic: “A staff member at the clinic was stabbed and killed in 2018 because a commotion occurred and the culprit came back and stabbed the staff member,” said Gunguluzi.

The protestors gave the various state entities 14 days to respond to their demands.

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