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Last Updated: Monday, 29 March, 2004, 14:23 GMT 15:23 UK
Female recruits for elite police
South African police force
Male recruits often fail the test
An 86-hour endurance test through South Africa's bush, with almost no sleep or food, is not something that most people would do voluntarily.

But a group of South Africa's female police officers have done just that.

The women have taken part in "Vasbyt" - which means "grit your teeth" - part of the selection process to join the country's elite Special Task Force.

Of the 32 recruits who began the test, 29 are now on their way to becoming the first women to join the unit.

The women had to:

  • March 50km with fully loaded packs and rifles at night;
  • Cross a dam on a thick rope;
  • Abseil down a 24m dam wall
They also had to cope with the sorts of scenarios they could face as members of the task force: hostage situations, escapes, helicopter lifts, a VIP rescue and a farm attack.

Spider woman

The course has a notoriously high dropout rate, with many men struggling to pass.

They are determined not to fail and have banished the word from their minds
Mike Fryer
Head of special forces
According to South Africa's Mercury Times, earlier in March, 79 male recruits embarked on the "Vasbyt" but only 25 completed it.

Three women could not see it through, but one woman, who was bitten by a spider, was determined not to give in.

Doctors told her that she risked losing her leg if she was not treated.

She received the treatment but then insisted on returning to her team.

The head of the Special Task Force, Mike Fryer, praised the recruits.

"They are determined not to fail and have banished the word from their minds," the Pretoria Times quoted him as saying.

The women now have some time to recover from their test, before their 10-month training course begins in May.

SA gets tough on crime
07 Oct 03  |  Africa

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