Paramedics shot while saving lives, peers give comment

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

On Sunday night, 3 September 2021, two paramedics were shot in the Mabhanoyini area near Estcourt while responding to a call out.

Media Liaison Officer for KZN Emergency Medical Services, Robert McKenzie, explains, “Two of our paramedics responded to a shooting incident when the ambulance was shot at.”

Sadly, one of the paramedics, a 40-year-old mother of three, sustained fatal injuries, while the other paramedic was critically injured.

According to the KZN Department of Health, the deceased, Phumzile Dlamini, and her crewmate, whose name is being withheld, were ambushed while in the back of the ambulance as they were preparing to rush a gunshot patient to hospital.

KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane explains that the paramedics had already picked up a patient who had sustained a fractured leg when they had to detour to the home of the wounded man. After securing him, they suddenly heard gunshots coming from outside.

Dlamini, an Intermediate Life Support paramedic with ten years’ service, hailing from Greytown, was hit twice and passed away on the scene.

Her crewmate sustained three gunshots and was rushed to hospital, where he remains in critical condition. None of the gunshots reached the two patients in the bullet-riddled ambulance.

Cartridges of high-caliber bullets found at the scene deepen the mystery of why innocent paramedics found themselves at the receiving end of such untold brutality.  

A profoundly concerned and distraught MEC Simelane condemned the incident in the strongest possible terms. She has sent her condolences to the Dlamini family and called on law enforcement authorities to do everything possible to bring the perpetrators to book.

“An incident like this is spine-chilling. It is barbaric, cowardly, and completely shocking. It’s a strong signal that something has gone horribly wrong in our society when innocent first responders, whose core responsibility is to save lives by helping those in emergency situations, get attacked and murdered like this. It’s outrageous.”

Moreover, the MEC explains that the Department has been notified that Dlamini had a 21-year-old daughter at university and two sons aged 19 and 12.

“She had a husband and had worked for the Department for 10 years. What must her family do, now that her life has been snuffed out so suddenly, and so senselessly? We don’t even know whether her crewmate will survive this attack; or, if he does, how his life will be from now on. We can only wish him a full and speedy recovery, while our healthcare practitioners attend to him.”

Unfortunately, this atrocious incident is not an isolated attack. MEC Simelane describes, “Incidents where paramedics get called out to emergency scenes, only to get robbed and stabbed, or subjected to various other forms of violence and hostility, have become commonplace. This really, really has to stop. That is why we are calling on our communities to isolate and expose these heartless thugs. These criminals are in our communities. Someone, somewhere, knows something about what they have done. That is why we are urging our people to bring forward any information that might lead to their arrest so that they can be brought to book.”

The MEC stresses that the matter cannot escalate to the point where paramedics refuse to work at night, which will put multiple lives at risk. “So, it’s in the interest of all of us that justice is served and that paramedics are protected at all times.”  

As police investigations into the matter are in full swing, the shooting has left its mark within the Emergency Medical Services sector.

Branch manager for ER24, Willem Rossouw, says he and his team’s heart goes out to the KZN EMS team during this time. “It is alarming that incidents such as this happen, and it is sad to see it happening more and more.”

Rossouw explains that violence towards paramedics has escalated to the point where EMS staff are often scared to respond to calls in certain areas.

To read more about the violence and dangers paramedics face, click here.

Base manager at KZN Private Ambulance, Sifiso Zwane, points out that he and his team would like to extend their condolences and support to the KZN EMS team.

“From the moment we as paramedics wake up, it is to serve our communities and avail ourselves to reach out to them. Imagine, waking up and going out with the intention of saving people and dying. How can someone shoot medics?”

Sifiso Zwane

To learn about the challenges EMS staff face, click here.

As the EMS sector now deals with the murder of one paramedic, while the second one is in critical condition, Zwane explains that when it comes to the safety of paramedics, the SAPS will have to look at identifying hotspots in the various communities across South Africa. Thereafter possibly escorting EMS staff to areas deemed dangerous.

The Newcastillian – Online News salutes all EMS staff who selflessly put their lives in danger to serve their communities while extending its heartfelt condolences to the KZN EMS team.

To read about other forms of abuse that paramedics face, click here.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Share your views in the comment section below.

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