First African woman joins special unit

An East London policewoman is the pride of South Africa and the Eastern Cape after becoming the first African female South African Police Services (SAPS) Search and Rescue handler.

Constable Phelisa Dyantyi, a passionate mother of one said she chose to be in the K9 Unit as a challenge to herself. She can climb, swim and even scale cliffs.

“It’s a male-dominated space but I chose to do it anyway. I was doing what is seldom done by others because it requires dedication and bravery,” she said.

One has to be “mentally and physically fit for this job” as she sometimes deals with situations that involve death, diving and searching for decomposed bodies in very deep water.

“This job can traumatise you. Many drownings we deal with involve young children, but we have counselling services at our disposal,” she said.

Eastern Cape provincial commissioner Lt-Gen Liziwe Ntshinga said this was a scarce skill in a male-dominated industry and they were proud to help produce this humble trendsetter.

“Our vision is to ensure that young constables are developed as future leaders,” she said.

Constable Dyantyi said she believes they need more hands and she will gladly assist upcoming female police officers and boost the image of the SAPS. “If you can’t swim, there are courses available. Last year I was in Pretoria and met my partner, Cindy.”

Cindy is a Belgian Shepherd dog who is her K9 partner. “She’s like my last born, naughty but obedient,” she said.

The challenging thing is when the search starts at night and the person is presumed to have drowned.

“You are not familiar with the area at that time but we always try our best, considering our safety and that of our dogs.

“You also have a responsibility to give hope to the families affected and assure them that you tried all you could to find them even though they may have passed away,” she said.

Constable Dyantyi is attached to the East London K9 Unit where they also work closely together with other Search and Rescue Unit members in the province, often travelling all over the province.

In motivating young girls, she said no individual should believe in negative words about their dreams and she encouraged other young constables who are starting their careers not to be afraid of challenges.

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