Saai files High Court application on behalf of game farmers

Saai, an organisation that protects the rights and interests of family farmers- including game farmers – has filed an urgent application in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria today to lift the ban on interprovincial travel for subsistence hunting purposes.

The application is filed on behalf of 368 game farm owners and operators and seeks to set aside directives 2, 3(a) and 3(b) of the Amended Directives relating to the Biodiversity Sector published in Government Notice No. 822 in Government Gazette No. 43564 of 28 July 2020 (as well as the amendments made on 7 August 2020).

Because of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown, subsistence hunting was only allowed during Level 3, with the publication of the amended Biodiversity Directives on 5 June 2020, – more than a month after the hunting season commenced. The Department of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries confirmed to Saai, in a letter dated 22 June 2020, that a person may travel across provincial borders for subsistence hunting purposes and stated: “We are cognisant of the fact that game farm owners are in dire need of generating income that is much needed for the successful continuation of the business ventures …”.

“This year South African game farmers were unable to host international hunters, which resulted in a loss of approximately R2 billion in income. That is why we were relieved to receive the news that local subsistence hunting was allowed. Our organisation assisted with the generation of more than 18 000 hunting travel permits between 5 June 2020 and 28 July 2020 as we knew that this was the only income game farmers would be able to get this year,” says Francois Rossouw, CEO of Saai.

On 28 July 2020, to the utter surprise of all stakeholders involved, the Department of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries published the amended Biodiversity Directives which removed subsistence hunting as a permitted service under the Level 3 regulations. On 31 July 2020, Barbara Creecy, the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries, clarified her decision by saying hunters are allowed to sleep over at their hunting destinations, within the province in which they live.

“Our data shows that approximately 88% of hunters hunt outside their province and thus the prohibition on interprovincial travel was a huge blow to an industry that contributes approximately R12 billion a year to the South African economy,” adds Rossouw.

It is Saai’s contention that the latest regulations violate the constitutional rights of game farmers, is extremely vague and was made in an irrational manner – both decisional and procedurally.