Durban - The failure by the eThekwini Municipality to pay for the services of three groomsmen has led to the metro police’s mounted unit halting horse patrols.
The city allegedly owed about R40 000 to New Market Stables, whose groomsmen are hired out to the unit.
With no money forthcoming, New Market withdrew its employees, leaving patrol officers caring for the horses instead of going out on patrol.
“We’re not going to provide a service if we’re not getting paid,” said a New Market Stables official who requested anonymity.
A metro police source said that, as of the beginning of this month, the funding had stopped.
“We now have two general workers who have no horse grooming experience cleaning out the stables and feeding the horses. The police are not going on the road (patrolling) because they are grooming the horses.”
There are 11 metro officers and 14 horses in the Mounted Unit. The unit began in 1997 and has always hired groomsmen from New Market Stables.
The officers are often seen patrolling the Durban beachfront.
“They can see things that police patrolling in cars can’t see. They can also access areas that vehicles can’t access,” the source said.
Patrol routes are also along uMhlanga beachfront, in the suburbs and sometimes in rural areas.
A senior member of the New Market Stables, who asked to remain anonymous, said there had originally been a contract with the city where New Market provided groomsmen as well as services such as skip hire and manure removal.
However, the contract had since fallen away and there was a verbal agreement working on a month-to-month basis, although no funds had been received from the city for the past two months.
“We (New Market Stables committee members) met metro in the middle of August (when) they discussed terminating services with us and taking on the three groomsman directly as of October 1,” he said.
“We all agreed but the date passed and no payment was made.”
He said when he questioned city officials about this, they said there was nothing in writing and they would not pay the outstanding R40 000. New Market Stables then stopped the groomsmen from working with the metro police horses.
The official said hiring one groomsman cost about R3 500 a month.
“It’s been working well until now and we’d happily resume,” he said. “These groomsmen are trained and you can’t just have anyone off the street handling horses.”
Another New Market Stables member said sourcing groomsmen and services from elsewhere would be a potentially bigger cost and an inconvenience.
“We used to assist with fixing the metro paddock, replacing poles where we could.
“The horses are much bigger than the (52) we keep and when they break through the paddock, they can cause problems for our horses.”
Vusi Ncabe, one of the groomsmen working with the metro horses for 10 years, said he was upset he had to stop.
“I’ve been working with them for such a long time. I enjoyed it,” he said.
“I would like to go back.”
Metro Police spokesman, Eugene Msomi, said he could only respond to questions on Monday.
City mayor, James Nxumalo, said he was unaware of the problem but would investigate.