Court order needs teeth

There is now another court order against Ndlambe Municipality for its neglect of the stray cattle issue and its mismanagement of commonages.

But will it make any difference?

Residents who follow the issue might remember a very similar court order in July 2018, then by Judge Clive Plasket, instructing the municipality to ensure the tagging and branding of animals, implement a tariff system for those who keep animals on municipal land or commonages, determine the health status of such animals, comply with the carrying capacity of its commonages, repair and maintain fences, and impound all unauthorised animals found on municipal land, commonages and wandering in residential areas.

There were strict deadlines attached to each part of the order, from three months to two years from the date of the order.

Farmers who had been frustrated for years with problems associated with commonage mismanagement, broken fences, stock theft, and straying and diseased cattle on their land believed they finally had attained a legal victory and the municipality would be compelled to obey it.

Likewise residents who have long had to deal with the hazards of stray cattle on public roads, especially on the R72 on Port Alfred’s east bank, rejoiced that something would finally be done.

Not so. The situation remained the same, and in some ways became worse.

Almost daily, the Port Alfred CPF WhatsApp traffic group receives messages from irate residents complaining about the latest incident of motorists having to avoid stray cattle in the road.

There are apparently “rangers” that are meant to herd these cattle away from the road, who by some convoluted measure, have to be called by the fire department. It’s a wholly inadequate way of addressing the problem.

The municipality makes no effort to impound the stray cattle or fine the owners.

Farmers also got no joy from the court order. It was utterly lacking any consequence for non-compliance.

But Agri EC did not let the matter rest. Behind the scenes the legal battle continued.

Thus far the high court in Makhanda has been reluctant to grant a contempt order against the municipality and the municipal manager and mayor in their personal capacities, for failing to address the issue, more than three years after the court instructed the municipality to implement the very same things in the latest order.

Organs of state are given much leeway by the courts and appear to be shielded from repercussions which would rain down on private citizens.

We hope that there are actual consequences for the municipality for further failure to comply. This problem must be resolved.

– Jon Houzet

High court again orders Ndlambe to sort out cattle and commonages

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