Durban - More than 60 volunteers from Upper Highway neighbourhood watches joined police in their search on Sunday for Chaka the police dog who went missing after chasing thieves into bushes near Mariannhill.
Search teams concentrated on a 10km square radius around Wiltshire Road in Mariannhill – where Chaka was last seen – stretching to Mariann Industrial Park in the south to Mariannridge in the north, handing out flyers to communities and calling out for the Rottweiler.
Chaka went missing just before midnight on Thursday after he and his handler, Constable Elliot Mdadane of the Shongweni K9 Unit, responded to a business break-in in Wiltshire Road. They found four thieves fleeing the business and chased them into dense bushes nearby.
The thieves split and Mdadane released Chaka to chase after one of the suspects. However, the man he chased dived into a river and swam to the other side.
“Chaka picked up another spoor and started chasing another suspect,” Mdadane said on Sunday.
The pair have been partners since January last year, including on a six-month training stint in Pretoria.
“I tried to call him back so that I could tie him up again but because he was so excited to chase the suspect he ignored me and went after the suspect,” he said.
All four got away.
A police helicopter was deployed to search the area on Friday but did not find Chaka.
As word of his disappearance spread, members of the newly formed Neighbourhood Watch Association swung into action and volunteered to help in the search.
Andreas Mathios, the Neighbourhood Watch Association co-ordinator, said they had conducted a reconnaissance of the area on Saturday and mapped out the routes they were going to follow.
As day broke on Sunday more than 60 volunteers gathered in Wiltshire Road where a mobile command centre was set up to co-ordinate the search.
The volunteers searched along the uMhlatuzana River, and followed the railway tracks that snaked from Thornwood to Klaarwater where they kept in contact with the command centre and the police.
A member of the community who owns a remote controlled aircraft that has a camera attached assisted in the search by scouring dense bushes inaccessible on foot.
Corne Broodryk, chairman of the Kloof CPF, said the community had no hesitation in helping to search for Chaka.
“It costs a huge amount of money to train a dog, upward of R30 000. The value we get from having a dog unit available to us is immense as they are always ready to help out,” he said.
Several residents reported sightings of a big black dog wandering the area. Late on Sunday afternoon a woman directed the search team to an area around the Mariannhill police station where she had seen “a black dog with a big head and no tail”.
The reward for finding Chaka grew from R1 000 in the morning to R6 000 by midday – thanks to a donation by an association member – spurring communities in Mariannhill to launch their own search.
Anyone with information on Chaka is urged to contact SA Can at 086 167 226 or Captain Neil Thaver of the Shongweni K9 Unit at 083 321 7285.