With local tensions continuing to simmer just below the surface, Phumelela have failed to engage with the public and general stakeholders over a week after the Black Thursday incident at Fairview Racecourse that claimed the life of a racehorse and caused injuries to many others, as well as certain individuals.
Between 150 and 200 protesters stormed the Fairview training centre and broke the locks of the stables, freeing around 28 horses early on the morning of Thursday 17 September.
The National Horseracing Authority reacted quickly on news of the incident, diverting senior management to Fairview.
A meeting was convened by NHRA CEO Vee Moodley on the same afternoon, where local trainers indicated their willingness to go ahead with the scheduled racemeeting the following day.
All of the Yvette Bremner runners were withdrawn, and after a Friday morning information catch-up with participants, the racemeeting went ahead without incident.
The Yvette Bremner yard, which was the apparent target of the attack, was subsequently closed, with the trainer and her partner Hedley McGrath– a longstanding leading owner – indicating in mainstream media articles that they may be moving overseas.
Racing operator Phumelela issued a statement to a local horseracing media platform, Clocking The Gallop, on Sunday 20 September stating that they did not wish to engage in debate via the media on the unfortunate incident. They said that their ‘focus has been and will remain on ensuring the continuation of undisturbed racing at Fairview and the safety of spectators, personnel employed at the track and the horses’.
The Sporting Post has learnt that the EFF have since laid criminal charges and intend pursuing a civil action against Nitro Security, the company owned by a DA ward councillor, and who were contracted to guard the Bremner yard.
This follows allegations that a dismissed worker was shot in the leg with live ammunition. The worker was apparently hospitalised for several days.
Zukile Matshisi, 49, was allegedly among the protesters who released 28 racehorses from Bremner’s yard at the racecourse.and was arrested on charges of public violence and malicious injury to property. The case was adjourned to October 26.
While there is clearly divided opinion in the inevitable blame game and finger pointing, the National Horseracing Authority appear to have actively played their role in terms of their sphere of control and responsibility in a highly charged and sensitive environment.
And the spotlight has once again shifted back to racing operator Phumelela, who run racing in the Eastern Cape and, very importantly, own the land on which the majority of the Grooms working at Fairview reside – including the employee who was dismissed after having been found guilty of stabbing a horse in February.
The lack of control and the cocktail of proven incendiary influences in a generally peaceful community are what is alarming certain stakeholders, who have expressed concern that the Fairview environment is a powder keg ready to explode at any time again – as nothing has effectively changed in terms of controls or policies post the 17 September incident.
The National Horseracing Authority have done their bit and their rules are clear:
Referring to compliance with legislation, rule 12.1 states that a trainer shall ensure that he complies with all legislative requirements and prescripts, and in particular the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, insofar as the employment of stable personnel is concerned.
Rule 12.2 states that a trainer found guilty by a competent body of non-compliance with the Labour requirements, may be required to re-apply for a trainer’s licence and the non-compliance will be taken into account when such re-application is considered by the licensing board.
NHRA CEO Vee Moodley, pictured above, told the Sporting Post on Monday that he was satisfied that his team had performed their duties with diligence and due urgency and that they were acting within the parameters of their rules and regulations.
He confirmed that based on all evidence and known facts to date, that no licenced individual had warranted a charge in terms of any of the NHRA’s rules.
He also said that the NHRA is satisfied that the Bremner yard had fulfilled their duties according to the abovementioned rules.
The NHRA chief said that he was unable to comment on any charges laid with the SAPS by any outside party.