‘My baby is not kicking’: medics unable to reach patient as protests sweep across Bloemfontein
A heavily pregnant woman in distress in Bloemfontein in the Free State is afraid her unborn baby might not survive long enough for emergency services to be able to reach her.
Violent service delivery protests in the city have prevented medics from reaching her, disrupted phase 2 of the Covid-19 vaccination rollout and forced many businesses to close their doors.
Nomsa Nqwazana said emergency medical services (EMS) have been unable to reach her sister Dieketseng, who is nine months pregnant, since Monday afternoon.
The family lives in the township of Caleb Motshabi, near Bloemanda.
“Since yesterday morning she has been in a lot of pain. The pain stopped this morning, so we don’t know if the baby is OK or not,” she said on Tuesday.
“The department of health said they can’t reach us because of this strike. We are very scared for the safety of my sister and her baby,” added Nqwazana.
Provincial health spokesperson Mondli Mvambi confirmed that paramedics could not get to the 21-year-old patient due to road closures.
“She started experiencing pains yesterday and she needed EMS attention but EMS couldn’t go to her because the roads are closed and there were cars that were burnt. Emergency services have been trying to get police to escort them to get to her.”
Nqwazana said, “[My sister] is crying because she doesn’t feel pains and the baby is not kicking and it is just quiet.
“There is no way we can reach a hospital because we tried using a car and we tried the police, but they are afraid they [protesters] are going to break their vans. We don’t know what to do.”
Ambulance can't get into kasi, people gets sick and will die in their homes cause they can't get medical attention. Hospitals there's a shortage of staff because people can't get to work as the streets are closed, patients are going to suffer or even die.#MangaungshutDown— Betty Tlhone (@BTlhone) May 18, 2021
Violent protests rocked the city on Monday as several roads were blocked with burning tyres and rocks and vehicles were damaged. Several shops were also looted.
Free State police confirmed that a grade 7 school pupil was killed during the protests when a security guard, attempting to scare off a mob intent on attacking a warehouse, fired a warning shot on Monday.
Brig Motantsi Makhele said the 57-year-old guard had been arrested. On Tuesday police confirmed 13 foreign national-owned shops were looted and 19 people were arrested for public violence and looting.
Motlatsi Mokgatla, spokesperson for Mangaung Community Concern (MCC), the group behind the protests, said people took to the streets in a bid to remove the “dysfunctional” management of the municipality.
He said the municipality had failed to live up to the expectations of residents who were demanding change. He said they demanded the disbandment of the council and immediate dismissal of the city manager.
Mokgatla said they wanted a forensic investigation into municipal affairs including land deals and the high unemployment rate. “We are going to continue with our shutdown until the municipality is able to come and talk to us.”
Mokgatla condemned the violence, looting of shops and death of the teen.
“From the word go we made a pronouncement that we want it to be as peaceful as can be. The looting was never part of our shutdown. Condolences to the family of the boy who died, we condemn the loss of life and hope police bring those involved to book.”
On Tuesday morning, the department of labour said the Bloemfontein, Botshabelo and Zastron labour centres had closed.
“There is a possibility of the unrest continuing for the whole week. However, further assessments will be conducted ... to ascertain if it will be safe to reopen offices for operations on Thursday,” said the department.
Mangaung metro spokesperson Qondile Khedama said the municipality had escalated the protest to the department of co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) and premier Sisi Ntombela because the situation “now needs their intervention”.
Khedama said an urgent meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, which would include community leaders and other stakeholders.