ISOLATION: Dog kennels in Isipingo. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo.
Durban’s metro police are awaiting the arrival of 20 police dogs - 10 for patrol, five that can detect explosives and five for narcotics detection - in a R1.2-million deal with arms manufacturer Denel.

Denel confirmed the deal with the eThekwini Municipality but claimed it had yet to be finalised.

None of the police officers or managers in the city’s metro police dog unit were consulted nor involved with the purchase.

Documents leaked to Independent Media showed the “requisition of stock” was negotiated and signed off by operational constable Nhlanhla Makhanya, while the deputy head of supply chain operations, Zandile Sithole, accepted the offer and signed off the letter of award.

“Makhanya is an operational constable irregularly deployed into the logistics function while there are capable internal logistics staff available. He has no logistics experience,” said a source.

Metro police officers are accusing their head, Eugene Nzama, of delegating the procurement to the transport unit.

eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Tozi Mthethwa refused to give details, saying the purchase was linked to Durban’s crime-fighting plan and could not be openly discussed.

Denel spokesperson Pamela Malinda pleaded client confidentiality and refused to give details saying it would be “unethical” and “in bad faith”.

Metro police spokesperson Sibonelo Mchunu said he was unaware of the purchase as was Nhlanhla Madikizela of the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu).

The cost of the 20 dogs - of unknown breeds - is R123 0915. This fee includes their transportation to Durban, according to the leaked documents.

The purchase was from Denel Land Systems in Pretoria.

Denel Land Systems is a division of Denel SOC Ltd, and, according to its website, is a diversified hi-tech industrial group registered under the South African Companies Act, with the state as the sole share- holder.

Officers in the dog unit said the new dogs were being brought in pre-trained when they would meet their handlers for the first time.

“Who trained them in Tshwane and how were they trained? Normally a dog is trained with the handler to bond and know each other,” said the source.

“How will they work together if they don’t know each other? This is dangerous. These are vicious dogs who even their handlers won’t know. What’s going to happen if a dog bites a member of the public?”

Officers said despite their high cost, the dogs would be left in the kennels because no one would touch them.

“How can people acquire dogs when they don’t know what’s happening in a unit and which dogs are required?

“Let’s say you bring 20 dogs now to Durban and you choose 20 people as handlers and the dogs don’t get on with the people. What’s going to happen?” said another source.

“Police dogs must be trained under the supervision of South African Police Services. At the end of the course the SAPS must mark and pass those who have done the training - that is both the dog and its handler.

“There is a need for more dogs in the dog unit, but the way this has been done is wrong and scary,” said the source.

Another source said the unit had not paid for dogs in a long time and depended on the public to donate suitable dogs.

Currently the unit has 10 active patrol dogs. Five other dogs were kept in kennels as they still had to be trained.

Sources said the dogs were donated by the members of the public in September last year. While the dogs await training, they are being kept in kennels and officers take them for walks.

“Had this been left to the unit it would have cost R300 000 to train the donated dogs, thus saving eThekwini a lot of money. The procurement process for the new dogs is strange and raises a lot of questions,” said a police officer.

The only training instructor for patrol dogs retired in April and has not been replaced.

Narcotics and explosives dogs were of concern as the unit had no capabilities to look after such dogs. Metro officers normally work with the SAPS in search operations such as for drugs and explosives.

“Metro usually uses patrol dogs to search for suspects but, when it comes to searching for things like drugs, SAPS must be involved. Even if the president is coming, metro’s dogs can’t search the building for explosives because they don’t have the capabilities. I don’t even think it’s in our mandate.

“Now that they have bought narcotics and explosives dogs, who will train and assess the dogs? It’s a mess,” said another metro officer.

Police spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo said the SAPS was responsible for prescribing training standards for the metro police.

“The SAPS is not in a position to dictate to metro police which providers they must use to procure dogs,” Naidoo said.

“The SAPS can be invited to inspect the dogs to see if they are suitable for training. Dogs can be trained without handlers but further training will be required when they are paired with dog handlers before deployment.”

Animal activist Jessica Singh was angry when she heard the five donated dogs were being kept in kennels.

“Members of the public obviously donated them to serve a purpose. Why are they being kept in kennels? Those dogs will develop kennel stress because they are confined in one space without socialisation. They should be active and bonding with the handlers.

“This is animal cruelty. How can they train new dogs and leave behind those that have been there? No animal must be kept in kennels and excluded from socialising. If there is no need for those dogs, they must be taken back or moved to where they can be used,” said Singh.

Sunday Tribune