Board of inquiry convened in wake of military horse deaths


Conditions at the SA Army Specialised Infantry Capability (SAASIC) unit that saw 25 horses put down are now under the scrutiny of a board of inquiry.
“The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) has convened a board of inquiry to expeditiously determine what might have gone wrong to expose the animals to harm and ensure that where there was neglect; necessary corrective actions are taken to ensure it does not occur again,” a statement attributed to Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi of Defence Corporate Communication maintains.

The statement was issued for general release following an earlier defenceWeb enquiry.

Nobody at the specialist unit in Potchefstroom has been suspended in connection with allegations made by the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) as regards mistreatment of horses, including little or no feed.

In response to the defenceWeb enquiry, the SANDF said: “No veterinary personnel will be appointed to assess the condition of the horses and the environment they are kept in, rather the personnel from Military Veterinary Institute (MVI) will visit Rooiwal on a regular basis to inspect the animals”.

The Rooiwal military base, north of Pretoria, has been identified as the new home for at least 60 of the horses previously kept at SAASIC, in what the NSPCA said an was an over-stocked, inadequate and hazardous environment for animals. The Rooiwal base is, according to Mgobozi, “conducive to grazing as it previously accommodated a large number of zebra and blesbok”.

Only 40 horses will be left at SAASIC in Potchefstroom with the understanding that the facility will be adequate to cater for all these animals’ needs.

The SANDF confirmed that 25 of its horses were euthanized at SAASIC unit last month “due to compromised health”.

A senior SANDF officer, requesting anonymity for obvious reasons, asked what the rationale was behind moving horses 200 km from the medics and their home unit.

There will be no appointment of extra, suitably qualified personnel to care for the horses, the SANDF said.
“Extra personnel required are from within the SANDF and will be redeployed under the strict supervision of the MVI to assist with alleviation of the challenges raised at the facility,” the statement said.

The NSPCA will, according to executive director Marcelle Meredith, be keeping a watchful eye on developments at both SAASIC in Potchefstroom as well as the Rooiwal site. She told defenceWeb charges “would definitely be laid” but would not elaborate.
“The findings of the convened board of inquiry will play a crucial role on how the SANDF moves forward in as far as taking care of horses and other animals in its care are concerned. As a law abiding organisation, the SANDF will always co-operate with any form of investigation to allow the law to take its course,” according to the statement.

In 2013, the SANDF and the NSPCA entered into a Memorandum of Understanding which was formally signed in May 2016 but the SANDF has continually reneged on the agreement, particularly the SAASIC Unit, with regards to their responsibilities to adequately care for the animals in their control.

According to the NSPCA, SANDF failure to secure suitably qualified personnel or adequate facilities, combined with a non-empathetic infrastructure that has repeatedly failed the animals in their care, has resulted in a complete breakdown in the welfare conditions afforded to the horses.