Women's Month | Please teach children to swim, urges police diver

26 August 2021 - 11:36 By naledi shange
For the past 12 years, Lt-Col Anzari Fourie has been recovering bodies, fishing for evidence and getting into the deep end of things to ensure the job is done.
For the past 12 years, Lt-Col Anzari Fourie has been recovering bodies, fishing for evidence and getting into the deep end of things to ensure the job is done.
Image: Supplied / SAPS

When a child drowns, a person goes missing in flood waters or irrigation systems or a body surfaces in a dam, someone from the SA Police Service is tasked with recovering the body.

This is what Lt-Col Anzari Fourie has been doing for the past 12 years.

The 52-year-old officer also dives deep to fish for clues that help solve these cases — whether they be drownings, or murders, or dumping spots for those killed elsewhere.

Fourie was born in Klerksdorp in the North West — and is the only female diver in the province. As August marked women’s month, she was one of the women in blue honoured for the great work they do, particularly in a male-dominated environment.

She has been in the police service since 1990, is the provincial commander responsible for emergency response services and holds a BA degree in policing.

Fourie’s job is not one for the faint-hearted. In the past year, she and her team have responded to at least 80 drowning incidents and she admits it’s not always easy to do her job.

Just last week, she assisted in recovering the bodies of two children, aged five and eight, from an irrigation canal in Brits.

Most of her work is done in murky waters where it is almost impossible to see. 

“Ninety percent of our diving work is done in dark waters where you must feel to recover a body or an object,” she said.

But there are some days when her skills and expertise are used to save lives — like in February when she and her team assisted in saving Taung residents who found themselves stranded after devastating floods in the province.

“The floods were so severe that the roads were submerged in water and people tried to drive through the flooded areas. Some vehicles were swept away and people were trapped inside and on top of vehicles and we had two people trapped in trees because their vehicles had been washed away,” Fourie said.

Lt-Col Anzari Fourie advocates for children to be taught to swim from an early age to avoid the drowning incidents she has witnessed over the years.
Lt-Col Anzari Fourie advocates for children to be taught to swim from an early age to avoid the drowning incidents she has witnessed over the years.
Image: Suppled / SAPS

“Our North West police divers together with the Search and Rescue K9 handlers assisted us in this operation and we fortunately were able to save lives. Our members walked and swam in those raging waters and managed to give each survivor a life jacket, whereafter they would assist them back to safety”.

In her line of work, Fourie has seen and experienced a lot. Sadly, she says, most of the casualties involved in the drownings to which she responds are children.

It is for this reason that she advocates for teaching children to swim from as early as possible.

“In most of the cases, children play around water sources such as quarries, rivers, dams and irrigation channels. Our biggest challenge is the irrigation channels because they have rapid flowing water.

“Water education is very important and I wish all schools and communities, especially those living near water sources, would focus on educating children on the dangers of playing near water and also, if possible, giving swimming lessons to children. So basically children must be taught about swimming and water safety,” she said.

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