Mabuyane calls for 50 Butterworth cops to be tested for virus

Provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Liziwe Ntshinga
Provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Liziwe Ntshinga
Image: Andisa Bonani

Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane has stepped in and heeded the call of 50 Butterworth police cluster officers  demanding they be tested for the coronavirus after one of their colleagues was placed in quarantine.

Mabuyane phoned provincial police commissioner Lt-Gen Liziwe Ntshinga and asked that the officers be tested as soon as possible.

Their colleague’s son contracted the virus, and because they had been working with his mother,  they not only fear for their own safety, but also that of their families and the public they serve.

The woman, who went to fetch her son from Bloemfontein, came forward last Friday to inform management that he had tested positive.

While she was immediately placed in quarantine, her colleagues demanded  they should also be tested and sent home for the stipulated 14-day  observation period.

This situation, and others, has raised questions over whether all eventualities are being covered by the government’s screening and testing programme, currently being rolled out across the Eastern Cape.

In the latest example, relatives of correctional services officials in East London are complaining that while their family members have been tested, they have not been.

This comes after two  correctional  services officials tested positive for the virus.

Mabuyane’s spokesperson, Mvusi Sicwetsha, confirmed with DispatchLIVE that the premier had called Ntshinga to ask that the 50 Butterworth officers be screened and tested.

“He engaged with the Eastern Cape police commissioner Lt-Gen Ntshinga to ensure that those members are screened and tested with special emphasis on testing. The premier has ensured that the department of health and the police services work together to provide support to these members.

“This is standard practice. We are seeing it everywhere. That is why we are tracing people all over the province — people who came close to the people that were infected,” added Sicwetsha.

But by yesterday  afternoon, none of the officers at the Butterworth station had yet been tested.

One officer, speaking to DispatchLIVE on condition of anonymity, said they would be back at work at the weekend, yet nothing had happened.

“We are expected back at work on Saturday to start a new shift, yet our managers are not caring because they are not on the front-line. I suspect they do not even want to come close to us.”

A senior officer at the same station said: “We don’t want to take a decision and not to come to work, hence we’ve decided to engage our union if by today [Thursday] there’s nothing happening.”

Meanwhile, a relative of a correctional services officer who was working with one of the Covid-19 positive women at the East London Correctional Centre in West Bank is concerned about her family’s wellbeing.

“My relative was tested and is awaiting the results but the problem is we are five here at home, including children. Why has the department not come to test all of those who were in contact with the colleagues of positive people,” the woman said.

According to Sicwetsha, Mabuyane said correctional services officials who were in contact with the first confirmed case had been tested and were asked to stay at home until the results come back.

Correctional services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo confirmed they had been asked to stay at home.

Nxumalo also confirmed the second case.

 “A second female official, who used the services of a private laboratory for testing much earlier in the week, has received her results and it is also a positive case.

 “Inmates were also screened, and a total of 31 had already been tested by the end of business day on 8 April 2020. The screening and testing for officials and inmates is ongoing, and measures are in place to provide support to those who may test positive.

 “Correctional services would like to appeal for calm during this period. We are committed to the wellbeing of offenders and officials in the department.”

Questions were sent to the police's provincial office but, at the time of writing, they had yet to respond.

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