Pietermaritzburg - The organisers of the Dusi Canoe Marathon from 14 to 16 February 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 were robbed by a trio of criminals operating in the Second Saddle area just above the confluence of the uMsindusi and uMngeni Rivers.
Dusi GM Steve Botha has slammed the incidents and reassured paddlers that the safety plan already in place for the Dusi will ensure that there is no repeat of these incidents when the three day classic takes place in a month’s time.
"It is deeply upsetting to learn of these incidents," said Botha. "This is a small criminal element that is operating in an area that has been very supportive of paddling events for many years now."
"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."
"The Dusi Canoe Marathon has an extremely good relationship with the chiefs down the Dusi valley and a number of meetings are 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 that the law enforcement agencies would work tirelessly to identify the perpetrators and bring them to book.
He added that the comprehensive safety plan that is in place for the Dusi would ensure a co-ordinated security will deny criminal elements any opportunity to operate.
"The Dusi committee also has extensive relationships with all departments of the SAP 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 and preparing at the end of each day.
"On each day of the Dusi there is a command post situated at all overnight stops manned by police services where all operations are managed.
"At 5pm every day of the Dusi all departments of the security services meet in the ops room at the overnight stops and discuss any security incidents and final planning for the next day with Race Director
"During the Dusi Canoe Marathon thirty bikers patrol each day of the Dusi and move to points on the race route otherwise not accessible by vehicle.
"There are two reputable security companies employed for the duration of Dusi to supply security at the overnight stops and finish."
The Dusi canoe marathon has two helicopters in the air at all times, for the Dusi Canoe Marathon Security Officer and Medic and a second chopper carrying the race director.