Residents go on rampage over jobs
Ongoing protests at Dora Nginza Hospital in Port Elizabeth led to massive property damage yesterday when residents set fire to building equipment at a new section of the hospital that is still under construction.
Firefighters battled until late last night to extinguish the blaze in a section of the new structure that will house the emergency medical services wing.
Residents from Zwide and New Brighton have been protesting for weeks about job opportunities at the construction site going to people from outside their community.
Police spokesman Captain Andre Beetge said the fire had started at about 6pm when protesters gained access to the structure after the site had been closed for the day.
“Our initial investigation shows the protesters somehow went onto the closed site and set fire to wooden building material and equipment used during construction,” he said.
“Luckily, there was no one else on the site at that stage.” “Security guards tried to extinguish the fire, but the wind picked up and quickly caused the fire to burn out of control, ” Beetge said.
“By that time, the fire department had already been notified and were on their way.”
Huge plumes of smoke were blown across the very busy Spondo Street, limiting visibility during heavy traffic.
The wood used to start the fire came from moulds for pouring concrete foundations to support structures while the concrete hardens.
These are removed once the concrete has set, leaving only the structure behind.
Beetge said no official charges had been laid yet, but he believed a case of arson or malicious damage to property would be investigated once the construction company opened a case.
The company, Transtruct, could not be reached for comment.
Provincial health spokesman Siyanda Manana said the department condemned the incident and hoped the police would bring the criminal elements to book.
“What these community members do not seem to realise is that they are shooting themselves in the foot,” Manana said.
“This centre is being built to improve the health services provided to the community, but the more this project is delayed, the longer it will be until we can provide better services.
“Their actions are only hurting themselves.”
Manana said it was unclear at this point what the extent of the damage was or how much this would push out the building’s completion date.
“We are leaving the matter in the hands of the police,” he said.
“They must find these protesters and bring this criminal element in the community to book.”