Time running out for SAPS horse unit

2009-07-16 00:00

TIME is running out for the SAPS equestrian unit which is set to be displaced from its stables at Townhill Hospital to make way for the construction of the new legislature complex, scheduled for later this year.

In a June 10 e-mail sent by Irene Nel of the Durban Regional Office of the National Public Works Department (NPWD), the police horse unit was given until the end of August to vacate its leased premises at the hospital in the heart of the city.

Nel noted that attempts by the NPWD to find suitable premises for the unit have failed and that the department is “entirely reliant” on further instructions from the SAPS.

A likely property in Howick — state-owned land at the defence force shooting range currently leased by the Howick Flying Club — has become unavailable because of a land claim against it, she said.

Nel’s e-mail also referred to the “withdrawal” by the SAPS of a capital works budget which, she said, would have implications for the services required by the horse unit.

This week, national police spokesperson Director Phuti Setati would only say that the chain management of the SAPS is “engaged in discussions with the department of Public Works on the matter”. He said the SAPS reserves further comments pending a final decision.

In a statement on June 26, NPWD spokesman Lucky Mochalibane said his department was confident that there was sufficient time to source alternative accommodation for the unit.

Mochalibane confirmed that responsibility for funding the relocation rests with the SAPS.

Equestrian unit commander Sean Jacklin told The Witness that his main concern in the face of uncertainty over future accommodation is to continue to provide an “operational service” to the public.

“A big role for the horse unit is foreseen during the upcoming 2010 World Cup. We need to be settled in order to prepare for this busy period.”

Jacklin said the horse unit needs about 12 acres of land for grazing, paddocks, stables and infrastructure such as tack rooms, storerooms, barns, administration buildings, a tannery workshop, ablution facilities and a residence for the unit’s on-site caretaker.

Officially started in 1997, the horse unit was able, almost immediately, to offer effective and visible policing in rural and urban areas, Jacklin said.

In 2008, the unit spent at least half the year performing duties in Richmond, Greytown, Kranskop, Durban and the Lesotho border, besides Pietermaritzburg and other centres.

The unit is also visible during high-profile events such as the Dusi Canoe Marathon, the Howick Midmar Mile and among festive-season holiday-makers on the Durban beach front.

“Moving won’t be a major disruption to our operation, but we need to know where we are going,” Jacklin added.


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