An ‘important purpose of section 34 [of the Constitution] is to guarantee the protection of the judicial process to persons who have disputes that can be resolved by law’ and that the right of access to court is ‘foundational to the stability of an orderly society. It ensures the peaceful, regulated and institutionalised mechanisms to resolve disputes, without resorting to self-help. The right of access to court is a bulwark against vigilantism, and the chaos and anarchy which it causes. Construed in this context of the rule of law and the principle against self-help in particular, access to court is indeed of cardinal importance’.The right guaranteed s34 would be rendered meaningless if court orders could be ignored with impunity:the underlying purposes of the right — and particularly that of avoidance of self-help — would be undermined if litigants could decide which orders they wished to obey and which they wished to ignore.
Here is a question for the next South African edition of Trivial Pursuit: When can one “infuriate” or “goad” an animal without exposing oneself to criminal sanction and a one year jail term?
No, THIS time the answer is not that one can do so as long as one happens to be an ex chief whip of the ruling party or some other high up in the ANC hierarchy. It so happens that all of us can infuriate or goad (or neglect or torture or terrify) animals as we wish – as long as the said animals are not living in captivity.
This, in any case, is what the Animal Protection Act 71 of 1962 says. The Act states that anyone who, amongst others, “overloads, overdrives, overrides, ill-treats, neglects, infuriates [I kid you not!], tortures or maims or cruelly beats, kicks, goads or terrifies any animal is guilty of a criminal offence”.
An animal is defined as:
any equine, bovine, sheep, goat, pig, fowl, ostrich, dog, cat, or other domestic animal or bird, or any wild animal, wild animal, wild bird or reptile which is in captivity or under control of any person.
Now the SPCA wants to use this act to have Mr Tony Yengeni prosecuted for cruelty towards the bull for the ritual stabbing of the bull before it was slaughtered and presumably eaten as part of a cleansing ceremony (although I would hope that, like lady Macbeth, Mr Yengeni is never going to feel completely cleansed again).
The poor bull must indeed have been quite infuriated after being stabbed by Mr Yengeni – of all people. Being stabbed by Mr Yengeni must almost have been as infuriating as being killed with your brothers and sisters at an abattoir and then put in little plastic packets and sold at the Checkers.
To my mind the SPCA’s move against Mr Yengeni is both laughable and culturally arrogant.
It is laughable because the relevant legislation is anachronistic in the extreme and reminds us all of the hypocritical way in which our society deals with animals. Just think:
As a matter of personal virtue one might say that it is better not kill an animal unless its absolutely necessary because the animal is infuriating you by, say, being as ugly as a cockroach. But to criminalise bad behaviour towards all animals in captivity while sanctioning the wholesale commercial slaughter of the same animals, seem very weird.
It is also culturally arrogant because the law encompasses a certain uptight, Calvinist view of how so called “civilized” people have to behave towards animals. It does not take into account the cultural attitudes of the vast majority of South Africans who may not be able to afford to have such sentimental and confusing views of (certain) animals.
Cleansing ceremonies involving the slaughter of cattle is a deeply rooted cultural practice – up there with the twirling of koeksisters and drinking oneself stupid and aggressive at a braai.
This law was adopted in 1962 by the apartheid Parliament as a attempt to impose certain so called Western standards on people living in cities. To now use such a law against individuals who are merely practicing their cultural traditions seem perverse.
Some regulation of the slaughtering of animals or even the treatment of animals held in captivity by humans, may be acceptable or even required, although given our warped attitudes towards different kinds of animals such regulation will always be anachronistic in some way or another.
Of course, one can also ask why this law has not been amended or repealed, more than 12 years after the advent of democracy? Some ANC types may well holler about the racists who are trying to use the law against fraudster Yengeni, acting as if the Parliament does not have the power to amend the law. But that is a story for another day.BACK TO TOP