Police at the scene. Picture: Tac Net APU
Police at the scene. Picture: Tac Net APU

Cops probe Fairview Racecourse riot

By Karen Singh Time of article published Sep 18, 2020

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Durban – Port Elizabeth police spokesperson Colonel Priscilla Naidu has confirmed an investigation has been launched following a riot at the Fairview Racecourse training centre in Port Elizabeth yesterday.

More than 150 rioting workers tortured and attacked 29 animals, leaving one dead, during a violent labour dispute.

The dead racehorse, Mark The Doorman, was owned by F H McGrath and A J van Huyssteen.

Racecourse operator Phumelela Gaming said the protest was initiated by grooms formerly employed by leading PE trainer Yvette Bremner.

It said the protest quickly escalated and turned violent.

“Several horses in Bremner’s care were let out of their stables and chased out of the complex by the crowd,” said Phumelela Gaming in a statement.

Public Order Police were called in and one of Bremner’s charges, Mark The Doorman, died after falling and breaking his neck as a result of the grooms’ actions, the statement read.

It added that several other horses suffered varying injuries, but a veterinary surgeon said that initial examinations indicated all were likely to recover.

“Phumelela is liaising with the Department of Labour in a bid to resolve the dispute between Bremner and her former employees, and has also called in additional private security personnel to assist the police in protecting people and horses in the complex.”

The situation is being monitored closely and a decision will be made about race meetings scheduled at the track for today, said the operator.

“Phumelela intends to pursue all avenues with law-and-order officials, to ensure that all those responsible for the unrest are prosecuted.”

Bremner declined to comment, saying she was “too sad right now”.

The SPCA handed the case over to the Eastern Cape Horse Care Unit, which was on scene with the Port Elizabeth Animal Anti-Cruelty League (AACL).

“We believe that charges should be laid against the perpetrators; we trust that the Horse Care Unit will take the necessary action in bringing the culprits to book,” said the SPCA.

Inspector Carla Hazel from the Horse Care Unit said when she left the scene yesterday afternoon, at least two more horses were in a critical condition.

Hazel said the group of rioters went into the stable yard, forced all the horses out, scattered them, tortured some by stabbing and beating them, while others had slit throats and injured legs.

The AACL’s Beverly Rademeyer said all the horses suffered a lot of trauma.

“Trauma was inflicted. Some had knife wounds to their bodies, others had back injuries, while those that took flight were also injured because of the weapons that were used,” she said.

Rademeyer said, thankfully, all the horses were caught and brought back.

She said these acts of cruelty were not expected to happen to any animal.

“Retaliating to get some sort of retribution on the animals for their grievances with whoever, that was not the route that should have been taken. They should have sought alternatives,” said Rademeyer.

She added South Africa had strong labour laws to deal with such matters.

“For them to take the law into their own hands, and inflict such pain and suffering, is just unacceptable,” she said.

As a result of the cruelty involved, Rademeyer said the AACL would be assisting with opening cases against the protesters.

Hazel said the unit was on standby in the event that the horses needed to be moved from the premises.

She said Mark The Doorman’s owner would be opening a case while they were waiting to find out who the groom in question is.

“We have all our information and reports in place but we will have to work with the trainer and owner to see how to move forward to prosecute,” said Hazel.

Port Elizabeth police spokesperson Colonel Priscilla Naidu said a mob of about 150-200 protesters from the Fairview Informal settlement stormed on to the property.

Naidu said one of the horses was found dead about 1km away, in an opening near the houses.

She said Public Order Policing, the community, security companies, specialised police units as well as SAPS Kabega Park members assisted the stabling staff in rounding up the traumatised racehorses.

A case of malicious injury to property was opened and under investigation. Naidu said additional charges may be added.

The Mercury

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