Arrested Cathcart leader’s court appearance moved 120km away out of fear of protests

Mziwebongo Burwana was arrested during violent protests sparked by rumours that the Cathcart Hospital will be downgraded

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Photo of a building

The Eastern Cape Department of Health says no decision has been taken to close or downgrade the Cathcart Hospital. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

The Eastern Cape Department of Health says no decision has been taken to close the Cathcart Hospital or to downgrade it. Spokesperson Mkhululi Ndamase said the department has only just started internal discussions on how best to “rationalise” the service.

This comes after rumours that the province planned to downgrade the facility sparked nearly a week of protests in February that saw trucks torched and vehicles stoned on the N6 highway. Protesters also demanded the return of Home Affairs and SASSA offices in the town.

Cathcart residents are still up in arms, following the arrest of protest leader Mziwebongo Burwana at a community meeting a week ago. They are also angry that his court appearance will not be in the Cathcart Magistrates’ Court.

Burwana’s first brief appearance was in the Mdantsane Regional Court on Tuesday where the charges were read. His bail hearing will be on 25 March. Some community leaders travelled the 120kms from Cathcart to show support.

Burwana faces charges of public violence, robbery, attempted murder, possession of ammunition, and possession of an unlicensed firearm, according to police.

This after a police officer was attacked while chasing protesters who were stoning cars on the N6.

Police spokesperson Siphokazi Mawisa said the officer is still under medical attention. His firearm had been recovered in Cathcart.

Burwana was subsequently arrested.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Luxolo Tyali said Burwana’s case had been transferred to Mdantsane due to concerns over safety since Cathcart had on numerous occasions been shut down by protests.

Community leader Buyisile Booi said Burwana was first transferred from Cathcart Magistrates’ Court to Stutterheim, 50km away. But when supporters arrived, they were told that the case was now transferred to Mdantsane.

Booi said many people do not believe Burwana is guilty.

“The protest was started by residents not one person,” said Booi.

He confirmed that an officer was beaten by protesters and rescued by police.

Booi said the protest had turned violent after Health MEC Nomakhosazana Meth visited the Cathcart Hospital but refused to speak to residents about the rumours that it would close.

TOPICS:  Court Health

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