‘It felt like war’ – Doctor details grim scenes inside Hillbrow clinic amid violent Zuma unrest | News24


  • A doctor at the Hillbrow clinic described war-like scenes as violent unrest persisted in the Johannesburg inner city.
  • Dr Suhail Essa detailed how the violence spilled over into the clinic on Sunday.
  • He said the clinic had run out of resources, and the two doctors on duty struggled to keep up with the injuries.

A six-month-old baby shot in the head, a man dying from stab wounds, patients attacking each other and a mob trying to break into the clinic.

These were the nightmarish scenes that unfolded at the Hillbrow clinic in central Johannesburg on Sunday, which a doctor described as “a war-like situation”.

Dr Suhail Essa was on duty when dozens of people were injured as a result of the mass looting and violence that gripped the Johannesburg inner city.

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“It was a nightmare. There was no chance for us (doctors) to keep up with the injured patients. We were in war mode, dealing with the sickest and helping those who could be saved,” he added.

He said the day started with people, some suspected to have Covid-19 symptoms and others injured in overnight altercations around Hillbrow, trickling into the clinic.

But by 13:00, the floodgates were open as dozens of injured people flocked to the clinic.

Essa said:

There was a six-month-old-baby who was shot in the head with a rubber bullet. The mother was on the road trying to get home, and she was shot at.

Police resorted to using rubber bullets in an attempt to control the violence in the Johannesburg CBD.

“We saw people injured with rubber bullets… There were lots of lethal stabbings of foreign nationals. There were intoxicated people, and you wonder where they got alcohol from,” Essa said.

He said it was a dire situation and a “glimpse into hell”.

Essa said:

Because of how many people were stabbed in the chest, we had run out of chest drains. We had to use tubes used to ventilate patients. We didn’t have anything to tape IV lines so we used bandages. It felt like war. We were listening to gunshots and screams, and then people were running in for help.

He said the rubber bullet injuries were “nasty”, with one person shot in the eye.

Stab wounds, he said, were also frequent, with many foreign nationals being the victims.

An injured man lies on the ground after being beaten up by an angry mob of protesters and being accused of robbery in Jeppestown, in downtown Johannesburg.

“It became xenophobic,” Essa explained.

He said as the evening progressed, the clinic ran out of resources, and the two doctors on duty were completely overwhelmed.

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“It became violent inside the clinic. Patients were fighting with each other. They were fighting with us… It was chaos inside,” Essa said.

He said the family of a man stabbed to death did not take kindly to the news, causing pandemonium in the clinic, fighting patients and doctors.

After 21:00, a mob descended on the clinic and attempted to storm it.


An auto spare parts shop, owned by a migrant, burns during protests in Hillbrow, Johannesburg on July 11, 2021.


Essa said police officers patrolling nearby dispersed the crowd and tried to restore order inside the clinic.

“They picked up people suspected to be part of the mob inside the clinic,” he added.

Essa said by the time he left the clinic, emergency medical services had suspended services to Hillbrow given the safety concerns, and there was talk of evacuating the clinic.

“The situation is dire,” he repeated.

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