Soweto doctors fear for their lives as attacks on surgeries rise

Soweto Independent Practitioners Association’s Brenda Sibeko said that these attacks started as far back as 2019 and they had been on the rise.

Image:  © slasny/123rf

JOHANNESBURG - Eyewitness News has learned that at least one surgery a week has been attacked in Soweto since the beginning of February.

This is according to the Soweto Independent Practitioners Association.

There is grave concern about the attacks on doctors, which seems to be on the rise.

Last month, much-loved general practitioner Dr Geroge Koboka was gunned down in his practice in Diepkloof when four men stormed into the surgery. One person has been arrested and charged with his murder.

Now, at least 10 Soweto surgeries have been attacked in the past three months.

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Dr Koboka was known as the people’s doctor, on-call 24/7 to help those in need.

At Dr Koboka’s funeral, doctors and patients shed tears when speaking about how loved he was and the dire working conditions of Soweto doctors.

With rampant unemployment and dire socio-economic conditions, affordable healthcare within reach is important for residents but serving the community is coming at a huge price for doctors.

Soweto doctors say that it has simply been a nightmare as each doctor worries whether they will be next.

Soweto Independent Practitioners Association’s Brenda Sibeko said that these attacks started as far back as 2019 and they had been on the rise.

"We intended, as doctors running these practices, to have a march. Unfortunately, the Sunday before it, President Ramaphosa announced the lockdown. Since then we have been under attack. For this year, from Saturday 5th of February to date, every week we have a surgery which is robbed," Sibeko explained.

She said that they first brought the increase in attacks on doctors to the police’s attention in March of 2020.

She said that more than two years later, nothing had changed.

"General Masha, who's the head of the station commanders, told police officers to go around to the practices once a day just to check whether everything is in order. It happened that week. From there onwards everything took a dip," Sibeko said.

She said that doctors had been forced to run their practices as though they were prisons.

"We have to check every patient that comes in for whether he's armed or not. It's not on, it's not what we're here for," Sibeko said.

She said that many doctors were considering leaving the township because of the crime and attacks on their surgeries.

"When we grew up we used to know that we had all the security from our community as doctors, priests, pastors and reverends," Sibeko said.

Gauteng police spokesperson said the association was advised to strengthen its security measures.

The police's Dimakatso Sello told Eyewitness News that the police had increased visibility around surgeries, however, for Sibeko, the loss of life and increase in attacks against doctors remained a big worry.