Even during the most brutal wars this planet has experienced, combatants applied the rules of the various iterations of the Geneva Convention governing civilised behaviour.
The updated convention of 1949 stipulates that “medical personnel exclusively engaged in the search for, or the collection, transport or treatment of the wounded or sick … shall be respected and protected in all circumstances”.
Not only do thugs in this country not respect or protect medical personnel – in any circumstances, never mind all circumstances – they actively target them for rape, robbery and assault.
And this week that sick mentality of attacking a perceived “soft target” had tragic consequences in Cape Town.
An eight-year-old boy died after the ambulance transporting him to hospital was ambushed by robbers. After stealing various items, they disabled the vehicle and left the crew stranded.
The boy, who had been badly injured in an accident, might well have lived had the ambulance been able to get him to the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in time.
This uncaring cruelty cannot be blamed on poverty, on apartheid or any other scapegoat. This incident shows that many of us have lost our basic humanity and that, as a society, we should hang our collective heads in shame.