Municipality ordered to address stray cattle and commonages
FOLLOWING years of frustration over stray cattle and mismanagement of municipal commonages, on Tuesday farmers obtained a high court order compelling Ndlambe Municipality to comply with its legal obligations.
The case was brought against the municipality by Agri Eastern Cape, the Alexandria Agricultural Association (AAA) and four farmers named as co-applicants, Brent McNamara, Ignatius Muller, Elizabeth Klopper and Koos van Rooyen.
McNamara acted as a representative of Agri EC and as chairman of the AAA. The other farmers have farms which adjoin the Kruisfontein Commonage in Alexandria and are directly affected by the condition of the municipal land.
In addition to the municipality, municipal manager Rolly Dumezweni, mayor Phindile Faxi and the MEC for local government were respondents in the case. The order by the Grahamstown High Court is applicable to the municipality, Dumezweni and Faxi.
It was an “order by agreement” in that the municipality conceded that it did in fact have an obligation to enforce the bylaws and relevant national legislation in this regard, and willingly entered into negotiations with the applicants to speedily find an acceptable solution to the problem, without entering into a lengthy court battle.
The court ordered that the municipality comply with the legislative responsibilities, obligations and duties set out in the municipality’s commonage bylaws, its prevention of public nuisance and keeping of animals bylaw, the Animal Identification Act, the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act, the Fencing Act and the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act.
The municipality has been ordered within 60 days of the order to put in place an animal traceability identification system to control the number of animals kept on municipal commonages, land under municipal control and residential areas.
The municipality also has to develop an internal system to keep a record of the number of traceability tags issued, to whom they were issued, the contact details of the recipients, the National Animal Identification Mark of the tagged animals, and inspections performed by municipal bylaw enforcement officers.
Within 12 months of the court order, the municipality has to ensure that the number of authorised animals kept on municipal commonages aligns with the carrying capacity on those commonages, and if not, to reduce that number.
Within six months the municipality has to establish the current health status of all animals de-pastured or kept on land under its control and within its residential jurisdiction.
All diseased or contagious animals must be kept in isolation and the relevant state department informed.
In the same timeframe, all unauthorised/unbranded animals have to be impounded.
Ndlambe Municipality also has to impose a tariff for use of its commonages or land under its control.
Another part of the comprehensive order relates to the repair and maintenance of boundary fences adjoining privately owned land. The municipality has to come up with a procedure within 30 days, and communicate this to relevant landowners within 60 days.
Within 30 days the municipality must also pay 50% of the total costs already incurred by Muller and Klopper for repair work already completed on common boundary fences.
Ndlambe has been given 18 months to effect repairs to the boundary fences in poor condition on all municipal properties used to keep animals.
Pertinent to the general public, within 30 days the municipality has to develop a procedure enabling the public to report stray animals on roads, road reserves and public spaces, and to notify the public of this procedure within 60 days.
Another problem identified by the farmers was the proliferation of alien invasive vegetation on the municipal commonage, and the court ordered Ndlambe to eradicate these species, particularly lantana and inkberry, from all municipal-owned or controlled land within three years.
If the municipality wants to lease its properties to be used for de-pasturing or keeping of animals, the terms of the lease have to contain the provisions of the Animal Identification Act and Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act.
Failing to comply with the order could see the municipality back in court.
Ndlambe, Dumezweni and Faxi are jointly or severally liable for the costs of the application. If one pays, the other is absolved.