The South African Agri Initiative (Saai) has filed an urgent application in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria 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).
As a result 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 – more than a month after the hunting season commenced. In a letter to Saai dated 22 June, the Department of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) confirmed that hunters 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 and 28 July, as we knew that this was the only income game farmers would be able to get this year,” says Francois Rossouw, CEO of Saai.
Amended directive is unconstitutional
On 28 July, to the utter surprise of all stakeholders involved, DEFF published the amended Biodiversity Directives that removed subsistence hunting as a permitted service under the Level 3 regulations. On 31 July, Barbara Creecy, minister of environmental affairs, forestry and fisheries, clarified her decision by saying hunters are allowed to sleep over at hunting destinations in 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 nearly 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, are extremely vague and were made in an irrational manner in terms of decision-making and procedures. – Press release, Saai