Fourteen months after the first charges were laid against an SA Army specialist unit in connection with neglect and maltreatment of horses, the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) reports “a clear lack of interest” by police investigators in the case.
Additionally, the national animal welfare organisation said the investigation is hampered by senior SA Army Specialist Infantry Capability (SAASIC) officers, including the officer commanding, who allegedly told detectives neither he nor anyone else at the unit would provide information to police.
The criminal charges against laid against SAASIC in Potchefstroom last May were for the starvation and neglect of horses. These were followed six months ago, in January, by another charge: that of deliberate brutality to horses.
There has been no progress in both cases notwithstanding many follow-ups from the NSPCA, Wendy Wilson, the national animal welfare body’s special investigations unit manager, said this week.
“Failing to get hold of detectives DT Smous and WB Tyukatha in Potchefstroom on a number of occasions, a senior inspector from the NSPCA travelled to Potchefstroom to follow up in person with Potchefstroom SAPS only to realise both dockets were missing.
“Misinformation relating to the dockets was given by the SAPS, stating both were delivered to court. It was later established this was not the case.
“The detectives confirmed they attempted to obtain statements from the accused on a number of occasions but were met with scornful refusal and hindrance into the investigation. The Officer Commanding SAASIC allegedly told police neither he nor any SAASIC member would provide statements.
“Both cases received widespread publicity, outraged the country and it is clear SAASIC has a complete disregard for the country’s legal system and no remorse for the cruelty at their Potchefstroom base,” Wilson said adding: “The detectives involved could not be less interested”.
In a further effort to provide forward movement to NSPCA efforts a PAIA (Promotion of Access to Information Act) application was launched for the records and outcome of inquiries into SAASIC and its leadership for neglect and abuse of horses at the unit. This formed the basis of an SA Army board of inquiry into the unit following an NSPCA visit that resulted in 25 horses having to be put down and a further 76 removed and taken to where they would be better cared for. The SA Army also indicated it would move the majority of its equine assets from Potchefstroom to another base at Rooiwal, north-west of Pretoria.
According to the national defence force’s Corporate Communications Directorate, the finding of the official board of inquiry were not made public with a “legal review” cited as the reason in November last year.
“That no information has been forthcoming yet leads one to drawing their own conclusions about the outcomes of the inquiries, especially in the light of the SAASIC officer commanding’s refusal to co-operate with the police investigation and the seeming general lack of accountability,” Wilson said.