Sergeant Clinton Odayar of the Umhlali K9 Search and Rescue Unit with his canine partner, Dante. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - An Umhlali K9 search and rescue police officer, recognised for his efforts in servicing the community, has been selected as one of five finalists for the title Integrity Icon South Africa 2019.

Sergeant Clinton Odayar, of the Umhlali K9 Search and Rescue Unit, was nominated by a member of the community and was recently named a finalist.

Integrity Icon is a global movement, which was started in South Africa in 2018 by the non-profit organisation Accountability Lab South Africa, to celebrate and encourage civil servants who demonstrate integrity in their work.

Odayar, 38, of Tongaat, and his canine-partner, Dante, were lauded after they rescued a missing 18-month-old child near his home in Ntuzuma in 2016.

The child had been missing for three days and was found in nearby bushes.

“The community and the local police searched the area and could not locate the baby. I was called out on the third night. However, due to bad lighting and stormy weather, we could not do much at that time, and we returned the next morning.

Sergeant Clinton Odayar of the Umhlali K9 Search and Rescue Unit gets a kiss from the family of Picture: Sibusiso Ndlovu

“Within 30 minutes of searching, Dante located the baby. My worst fear was that the child was not alive, but when I got to the spot and the child looked up into my eyes, I felt relieved. It was an emotional and rewarding moment.”

The pair also recovered the body of a Stanger woman who was buried under cement. They were also part of a team that searched for illegal miners trapped in gold mines in Pongola.

Odayar said he was honoured at being a finalist and recognised as someone with integrity.

“It shows the community appreciates what I do,” said Odayar, who joined the police in 2001, and the K9 Unit in 2008.

Odayar, who is married and has two daughters aged 6 and 4, said his late aunt, who was a member of the police, inspired him to join the force.

“I saw the work my aunt did and the manner in which she carried herself as she climbed up the ranks and I wanted to follow in her footsteps.”

Odayar, who was part of the Durban Flying Squad, met his canine sidekick, six-year-old German Shepherd Dante, in 2015. He said there was not an instant connection and that their relationship developed over the weeks.

“Playing with Dante is my favourite past-time. He is all about playing.

“Everything is a game for him, even when it comes to working.

“He is conditioned to search for a human scent, which he believes is searching for a ball, and is a game to him. He also loves to snack on his favourite treat, which is biltong.”

Odayar added that the unit’s dogs often retired between 10 and 12 years old, depending on their medical condition, and that the handler would thereafter be able to take them home. He also hopes to one day run the K9 division.

Odayar, who works throughout the province, encouraged other police to join the unit as there was a shortage of members.

“We have 11 members and six dogs at the Umhlali unit, but ideally we should have at least 16 members and 10 dogs. It is an excellent field to be in, especially to see a dog working and bringing about results.”

In 2018, Odayar was given a certificate of commendation by Police Minister Bheki Cele for his outstanding service and commitment.

Other finalists include Sakhile Nkosi, a clinical audiologist at the Lydenburg Hospital in Mpumalanga; Moshalagae Malatji, mathematics teacher and head of library and information services division in the Limpopo Department of Education; Gugu Mlotshwa, a community health facilitator at the Eshowe District Hospital; and Helimamy Moeng, a manager of pharmaceutical services at the Southern Western Substructure in the Western Cape.

Voting ends on Thursday and the winner will be announced at a ceremony at Constitution Hill, Johannesburg, on October 10. 

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