Anger over hospital jobs turns violent

Angry protesters demanding jobs for locals at the newly built Khayelitsha District Hospital burnt tyres, stoned ambulances and clashed with police on Tuesday.

Police fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowd and 10 people were arrested for public violence.

About 50 residents took to the streets for the second day, claiming Khayelitsha residents had been overlooked for jobs at the hospital.

On Tuesday, they stoned two ambulances and burnt tyres in Walter Sisulu Road.

At about 8am, the frustrated job-seekers barricaded the hospital entrance, preventing vehicles from entering the premises. The windows of two ambulances were smashed and the vehicles’ bodywork damaged.

The protest was orchestrated by the Mandela Park Backyarders’ Association, with representative Khaya Xitolo saying non-professional job positions at the hospital appeared to have been filled without having been advertised.

A memorandum of grievances had been handed to a hospital official on Monday morning. The protesters demanded that 60 percent of non-professional jobs be given to people living in the surrounding Wards 94 and 97.

“Often, when we protest in a quieter way, we are ignored. Yesterday (Monday), they refused to take us seriously,” Xitolo said.

Following Monday’s protest, which had been peaceful, residents of Wards 94 and 97 met in Khayelitsha’s Andile Nose community hall.

At the community meeting it was agreed to request a meeting with hospital officials.

It was decided to protest further and demand a public meeting with hospital officials, Xitolo said.

“Every resident must get a chance to ask questions and have answers. Residents closed the road and burnt tyres in order to show government and hospital management that they are serious about their demands.”

Residents claim they had never been consulted about developments related to the hospital. They alleged the Khayelitsha Development Forum leadership and ward councillors had failed to communicate job opportunities to residents.

But Mandela Park backyarder Xolani Krweqe did not agree with the protest action.

“Burning tyres is a crime, it won’t solve our problem. We need to have a meeting with hospital management and we will speak on behalf of residents,” he said.

The Western Cape Health Department advertised 329 posts for nursing and general staff at the end of November 2011 and received more than 70 000 applications, department communication officer Sithembiso Magubane said.

The department has been, and continues to be, in consultation with the community via the community forum and was following the recruitment and selection procedure in filling the advertised posts, he said.

Forty-five enrolled nursing assistants and 25 enrolled nurses assumed duty at the hospital on Monday.

Provincial police liaison officer Frederick van Wyk said police warned the protesters that they were taking part in an illegal gathering and that they must disperse.

“The protesters then divided into smaller groups and started to burn tyres … and started throwing stones,” Van Wyk said.

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