SAASIC equine abuse now an AfriForum investigation


Four years of fruitless police investigation into charges of animal maltreatment at the SA Army Specialist Infantry Capability (SAASIC) have not gone unnoticed by the eagle eyes of AfriForum’s private prosecution unit.

The unit, headed by Advocate Gerrie Nel, has taken up cudgels on behalf of the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA).

First port of call for the Centurion-based private prosecution unit was North West provincial police commissioner, Lieutenant General SJ Kwena. He received a service complaint against two senior detectives “due to a perceived lack of progress with an investigation,” according to an AfriForum statement.

“These detectives are the police officers appointed to oversee and conclude investigations in the matter of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) allegedly abusing and neglecting their horses. The Private Prosecution Unit is acting on behalf of the NSPCA.”

The alleged maltreatment and abuse of SAASIC equine assets at the unit’s Potchefstroom base resulted in charges brought by NSPCA inspectors as well as 25 horses euthanased and a further 76 moved to a military facility north-west of Pretoria in 2018.

The NSPCA inspectors assigned to the equine maltreatment case had, according to the then NSPCA public relations officer in 2020, experienced problems. These included “disinformation” relating to the dockets and apparent non-arrival of the dockets at court.

“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,” defenceWeb was told in May 2020. At the same time this publication heard the private prosecution option was not available to the animal welfare organisation because the State “took it on”.

Two more years down the line and AfriForum’s private prosecution unit has set the wheels turning in anticipation of legal proceedings.

“AfriForum shares the NSPCA’s frustration with the lacklustre approach to the investigation. It seems the investigating officers are inexplicably dragging their feet with this investigation. The only inference is the SAPS (SA Police Service) is either inept or being influenced to drop the case. We form the ineluctable conclusion the proverbial tail is wagging the dog and the SANDF and the suspects – instead of the police – are directing the pace of the investigation,” is how Andrew Leask, the unit’s chief investigator, sees the situation.

“Four years elapsed since animal abuse charges were filed. When added to the NSPCA’s comprehensive case dockets provided to police for further investigation, it seems there’s no progress with the investigation.

“Further, despite numerous requests for feedback, SAPS detective management refuse to respond or provide any feedback on the matter to AfriForum or the NSPCA,” Leask is quoted as saying in an AfriForum statement.