S.Africa: Johannesburg residents in crime hotspots left hanging amid withdrawal of emergency medical, e-hailing services


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The withdrawal of emergency medical and e-hailing services for safety reasons in some crime-ridden areas in Johannesburg is a blow for residents and commuters.

In a medical emergency, it must be a scary thought that services are out of reach. This is the situation many crime-ridden Johannesburg communities find themselves in. E-hailing services are also out of reach for some of these communities as drivers take precautions and avoid the areas to guard their safety.

On Monday, Sandra Suzanne Buyole, Bolt Africa PR manager, told Daily Maverick that crimes against ride-hailing drivers continue to be “a national issue of great concern … While we cannot comment on specific incidents, the safety of the drivers who use the Bolt platform is of utmost importance to us,” said Buyole.

Trevor Manuel, Prof Thuli Madonsela and Minister Ronald Lamola are among the latest panellists confirmed for Daily Maverick The Gathering Twenty Twenty-Four.

She said drivers and passengers on the Bolt platform have access to a number of new safety measures and initiatives. These include Bolt’s partnership with the Automobile Association to enable access to emergency response services for drivers and passengers.

Emergency Medical Services have been withheld in Eldorado Park following a January attack on Johannesburg Emergency
Medical Services (EMS) staff who were responding to a fire that had been started by residents during a protest.

Its spokesperson, Xolile Khumalo, said six staff members sustained minor injuries, with three being treated briefly in hospital.

Eldorado Park ward councillor Juwairiya Kaldine condemned the residents’ actions. “It was totally unacceptable that [the] community harmed innocent service providers and damaged city infrastructure. It can never be correct or condoned,” Kaldine said. “The community was informed of the withdrawal, and they were also informed that three firefighters were injured in the strike that took place. The crime rate increased, because we have a station commander, Brigadier Maluleke, who refuses to work with ward councillors, ward committee members, stakeholders in the community.”

The withdrawal of EMS services in Eldorado Park comes on the back of e-hailing services also being sporadically suspended in areasdeemed as high risk for crime such as Eldorado Park and other hot spots. Drivers who withdraw services resume their services if and when the threat subsides.

Spokesperson for e-hailing services Vhatuka Mbelengwa said that despite services being “seasonally” withdrawn, the crime
rate in Eldorado Park was constantly high.

Services are sporadically/ provisionally withdrawn in accordance with the frequency of the attacks. “We have seen it happening in Alexandra and parts of Pretoria, mainly because crime peaks in those areas,’’ he said.

Frene Jacobs, a Westbury resident, said: “Ambulance services, it’s a disaster waiting to happen. How can such services be denied. They must deploy adequate resources when staff goes out. You cannot deny ambulance services.”

According to the EMS, most of the attacks occur sporadically, but there are hotspots to look out for. Khumalo said these include Alexandra, where services have also been seasonally suspended, the Johannesburg CBD, Cosmo City, Ivory Park and Eldorado Park.

Bolt also flagged many areas as hotspots for crime, and drivers sporadically withdraw services in most of these areas including:

Johannesburg Central;
Eldorado Park;
Alex and neighbouring areas;
Johannesburg CBD;
Pretoria Central;
Pretoria East;
Tembisa and neighbouring areas;
Kempton Park;
Katlehong and Vosloorus;
Vereeniging and Vanderbijlpark; and
Randburg – Whiteridge, Claremont, Montclare, Newclare, Westbury, Crosby, Coronationville and Newlands.
Seeking alternative solutions
Mbelengwa said the withdrawal of services is not the answer. “The right solution would be to vet every driver and capture positive identification of the drivers to be able to trace them when the need arose,’’ he said. The withdrawal of services has been done before but it’s a temporary measure, and in my opinion will not yield any positive results,” said Mbelengwa.

A Soweto Uber driver, who asked to be named only as Msholozi, said. “A legal solution should also be considered. Laws should be in favour of drivers who in such dangerous situations can only try to protect themselves. The law must always lean towards the drivers.”

Asked whether criminal syndicates were behind the attacks, Khumalo said: “There are noticeable systematic attacks other than just the communities misdirecting their frustrations on EMS staff, who are often carrying out their lawful duties.”

It has been suggested that EMS staff be accompanied by security or the police, but EMS has said this would be expensive.

Khumalo said this idea had been piloted but turned out to be impractical because law-enforcement agencies are under-resourced.

Roping in security or the police could also compromise response times and ultimately the risk to affected residents, Khumalo added.

The councillor, Aldine said that not everyone can be blamed for what transpired in Eldorado Park. “Those who were not involved have committed to protecting public representatives when they enter the community.”

Kaldine thanked Brigadier Mxolisi Xhosa who he said was trying to send fire engines from other areas to Eldorado Park.

Bolt’s Buyable said as a response to drivers’ feedback, Bolt was testing rider verification to upgrade driver safety. “As part of this in-app feature, new customers will be asked to take a selfie before they are able to place a ride-hailing order.”

Over the past few years, e-hailing drivers have voiced concern about the low prosecution rates for perpetrators of crime. “Most police stations keep a separate stack of files for e-hailing matters because they do not put much effort on them. In fact, some are not even registered as crimes, they are registered as incidents … Because that’s just how frequently cellphones are stolen, smash-and-grabs, and hijackings,” he said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Behind the barbed wire – how soaring crime affects two very different Joburg neighbourhoods

Mbelengwa revealed that some hijacked cars were recovered with the help of the e-hailing network itself and without police intervention.

According to the EMS, not a single person has been prosecuted for any of the attacks that took place in Johannesburg in the past year. “There are a lot of trip opportunities in Eldorado Park but it’s just increasingly unsafe.”

Source: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2024-02-23-joburg-crime-emergency-e-hailing-services-pull-out-of-hotspots/?utm_source=Sailthru

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