Racehorse that died in chaotic groom protest 'hit a fence and broke its neck'

18 September 2020 - 12:26
By kgaugelo masweneng AND Kgaugelo Masweneng
On Thursday morning at about 6am, staff at the Fairview racecourse in Port Elizabeth began a violent protest.
Image: Annelisa Swana On Thursday morning at about 6am, staff at the Fairview racecourse in Port Elizabeth began a violent protest.

The racehorse that died during a violent protest over employment grievances at Fairview racecourse died from a neck injury after a fall, Phumelela Gaming said on Friday.

About 28 horses were released from their stables and chased by a crowd of 150 to 200 people, including residents from a nearby settlement, during the protests on Thursday in Port Elizabeth.

The incident drew widespread condemnation from the horse racing industry.

Police spokesperson Col Priscilla Naidu said a 49-year-old suspect had been arrested and a case of malicious injury to property was under investigation.

One racehorse was found dead about a kilometre away from the stables in an opening near the houses. It was initially claimed on Thursday that it had been stabbed or beaten. Phumelela Gaming Eastern Cape general manager Luciano Passerini, however, confirmed to TimesLIVE on Friday that it had died after hitting a fence and breaking its neck — apparently in the ensuing chaos.

“The horse stumbled over a fence and broke his neck. The situation is calm today, things are quiet and have returned to normal,” said Passerini. “The horses are under veterinary care. I haven’t heard any negative feedback.” 

Naidu said police were at Fairview where racing had resumed on Friday.

“We are monitoring the situation. There’s no congregation of people. We are still busy with investigations. The suspect will appear in court on Monday. Additional charges may be added,” she said.

After the intervention of police, the escaped horses were rounded up and treated for various injuries.

The National Council of SPCAs said it was devastated by the violence inflicted on the horses.

“This situation is incredibly disturbing — that the animals were targeted in what appears to be an employer/employee conflict is not only absurd but absolutely inexcusable. These kinds of disputes should be settled in the appropriate forums and should certainly never involve innocent creatures or incite violence.

“This is not only a contravention of the Animals Protection Act but it is also indicative of the state of our nation's integrity and morals — violence towards humans and animals alike should not even be a consideration. It is a sad day for horses — and a sad day for SA,” the NSPCA said in a statement.

The Eastern Cape Horse Care Unit and the Animal Anti Cruelty League in Port Elizabeth were pursuing the incident, it added.