The organisers of the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon have stepped in to reassure paddlers that their safely will be guaranteed, following incidents of theft that marred the 50 Miler one-day race on the weekend.
Several participants in the important Dusi qualifier were robbed by a trio of criminals operating in the Second Saddle area, just above the confluence of the uMsindusi and uMngeni Rivers.
Dusi general manager Steve Botha has slammed the incidents and reassured paddlers that the safety plan in place for the 2019 Dusi will ensure that there is no repeat of these incidents when the three-day classic takes place from February 14-16.
“It is deeply upsetting,” said Botha. “This is a small criminal element operating in an area that has been very supportive of paddling events for many years.
“It is a two-way relationship that has seen the paddling community invest heavily in the area, building school classrooms, crèches and clinics over the years through the Valley Chiefs Fund.”
He said the Dusi event had an extremely good relationship with local leaders and a number of meetings were convened where, among other things, safety of paddlers is discussed.
“The chiefs are also well aware of the dates of the event and when all the vehicles will be in the valley and of the money raised to uplift their communities.”
Botha said he hoped law enforcement agencies would work bring the perpetrators to book quickly.
He explained the comprehensive, co-ordinated security plan in place.
“The Dusi committee has extensive relationships with all departments of the SAPS services and on Wednesday we will hold the Dusi Canoe Marathon safety and security meeting with the Pietermaritzburg SAPS, the Horse Mounted Unit, the Motorcycle Unit, the Air Wing Unit, Search and Rescue, the K9 Dog Unit, Durban Metro Police, the Durban Horse Mounted Unit and the SA Navy personnel.
“At this meeting all planning and contingency strategies are discussed,” he added.
During the race, the Dusi committee and all security service providers spend many hours reviewing events and how the plans went, and preparing at the end of each day.
“On each day of the Dusi there is a command post situated at overnight stops manned by police services, where all operations are managed,” said Botha.
“At 5pm every day of the Dusi all departments of the security services meet in the ops room.
“Thirty bikers patrol each day of the Dusi and move to points on the race route otherwise not accessible by vehicle.”
He said two reputable security companies were employed for the duration of the event to ensure security at overnight stops and at the finish.
The Dusi canoe marathon has two helicopters in the air at all times, one for the Security Officer and Medic, and a second chopper carrying the Race Director.
Entry details and more information can be found at www.dusi.co.za