High court orders NSPCA to pay legal costs over their failed bid to ban live exports
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The National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) suffered another blow after its latest application failed at the Makanda High Court in the Eastern Cape in their quest to ban live exports.and it was ordered to foot the legal bill.
NSPCA’s two-prong legal strategy which began in June 2020 was divided in two sections:
Part A sought an interdict to prohibit Middle East food security company Al Mawashi from exporting sheep north of the equator pending the outcome of Part B, where the NSPCA sought an indefinite ban on live exports at the High Court.
After its legal arguments resulted in numerous losses and cost orders at the High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal between 2020 and 2021, NSPCA’s legal team, represented by Advocate Kevin Hopkins and Dominique Wright from Wright Attorneys, in April this year approached the Makanda High Court with a fresh application.
They requested leave to amend the NSPCA’s notice of motion from application proceedings to trial-based proceedings for Part B.
The case was heard on 22 April 2021 in a virtual sitting and in the ruling delivered yesterday (15 July 2021), the Makanda High Court’s Judge GNZ Mjali dismissed NSPCA’s application and ordered NSPCA to pay the costs of two legal counsels representing Al Mawashi South Africa and several government departments.
Al Mawashi South Africa legal counsel argued that the NSPCA’s request was not an amendment but in fact a variation, and secondly that the NSPCA’s legal counsel used the incorrect rules of court.
The High Court also criticized certain allegations in the NSPCA’s founding affidavit as vexatious, scandalous, irrelevant and designed to embarrass Al Mawashi, and instructed that it “must be struck out with costs”.
In recent months, the NSPCA’s legal teams has made several costly legal blunders. In 2020, for example, it filed incorrect court papers with the Makanda High Court resulting in the case being struck off the roll. To date, the NSPCA lost several cases in a period of 18 months sadly at the expense of public donations including possible grant donations from the National Lotteries Commission directly to the NSPCA or indirectly to SPCA branches.
Mr. Ilyaas Ally, managing director of Al Mawashi South Africa, welcomed the latest court ruling.
“The April case was done in stealth because the NSPCA usually sirens its court proceedings against Al Mawashi in news media and on its social media platforms. It is our opinion that the NSPCA deliberately kept a low profile in the media with this specific case on the basis of ongoing court losses, and the fear of criticism by SPCA branches and the public for misdirecting and squandering funds. NSPCA’s failure to address real issues relating to animal cruelty was also sharply criticized last month in a statement issued by organised agriculture.” (Read article).
JP Roodt, Al Mawashi SA spokesperson, said it was further disingenuous of the NSPCA to claim in their April application that they were unaware of the superior ventilation systems in Al Mawashi vessels used for transporting animals to the Middle East. “We embarked on a massive public education programme to educate all stakeholders, including NSPCA, on the animal health and welfare provisions during shipments, including vessel ventilation systems,” he said.
“In fact, the NSPCA when invited with the Red Meat Industry Forum to inspect the vessel never attended,” he said.
The High Court ruling noted: “The applicant (NSPCA) urged this court if it finds that Rule 28 is not applicable in the circumstances of this case, to exercise its inherent jurisdiction in terms of section 173 of the Constitution and allow the envisaged amendment in the interests of justice.”
“The interests of justice include inter alia the consideration of prejudice to the other party/parties (Al Mawashi). I have already found that to allow the envisaged amendment to take place, the respondents (Al Mawashi) will be prejudiced. The rules make provision for the resolution of serious dispute of facts which cannot be resolved on paper in Rule 6(5)(g) and there exists no reason for this court to act in terms of section 173 of the Constitution in this matter.”
Mr. Ally said NSPCA maliciously timed its court action with hopes to disrupt the company’s shipment that was important for the upcoming religious festival and food security in the Middle East.
Recently, the NSPCA was the subject of public outcry and social media storm for double standards, this following a video filmed on the Al Mawashi feedlot where inspectors were seen and heard laughing after euthanizing a sheep.
“It is time for the SPCA branches to hold its leadership accountable. It continues to squander public donations at the cost of struggling SPCA branches, some that are on the cusp of closure.”
“It is further our opinion that the systemic leadership failures at the NSPCA with emphasis on the witch hunt against farmers and live exporters is adversely affecting support to SPCA branches and creating a further disenabling environment. The squandered donations to ban live exports should rather be used to support the much-needed work of SPCA branches in the country.”