Dozens of patients hoping to get medical attention were turned away from Ikhwezi Clinic in Nomzamo township in Strand, Cape Town on Friday.
This clinic burnt during the night and appears to have been deliberately torched. The remains of petrol bombs could be seen in some of the rooms. Strand has been the location of housing protests over the past few weeks.
Nkululeko Swaartbooi said he was meant to see a nurse at the facility.
“I have been sick for a long time and the doctors could not tell what I was suffering from.” He was expecting to have blood drawn for tests to be done, but this was impossible following the fire.
“The nurse said my folder also burnt and they cannot send me to the other clinic. If I die, the people who burnt it will bury me.”
On Friday there was a strong smell of chemicals. Inside, the pharmacy was totally gutted. The TB and HIV area was also affected. The office where records were kept was consumed by the fire.
According to Mayco Member for Health Zahid Badroodien, the clinic saw about 500 people daily, and is City Health’s largest facility. (There are larger clinics in Cape Town, but they are run by the provincial government, not the City.)
“The facility also has the biggest cohort of patients on antiretroviral treatment (5,238),” according to Badroodien.
The City is offering a reward of R50,000 to anyone who has information that could lead to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the fire. The damage to the facility is currently estimated by the City to be R10 million.
Also vandalised overnight was the councillor’s office for Ward 85. It was forced open and pig food was thrown in. Councillor Simthembile Mfecane was clearly shaken when speaking to GroundUp.
“For now I do not know what to say,” he said. “We have been making noise to the City about the land issue but they have been dragging their feet. This issue no longer needs the police. As the community we need to discuss what must happen for the arsonist to stop.”
Last month, shops were ransacked and looted when protests for land turned violent. Most of the businesses which were affected have not recovered.
But Moleleki Fulumane, a land occupier, said the torching of the clinic had nothing to do with the occupiers. “We are against the destruction of property and we are only occupying the land. We will work with the police to find those responsible for this.”
Fire and Rescue Service said they responded to the fire at approximately 2:30am on Friday morning and extinguished it just after 4am.