On 8 February the government announced new draft regulations permitting the internal trade in rhino horn.
This follows a decision in November 2015 when the North Gauteng High Court, Pretoria overturned the previous moratorium on the trade in rhino horn.
Author, investigative journalist and environmental activist, Don Pinnock, suggests in articles published in the Daily Maverick and in Independent Online that the moratorium on the trade in rhino horn was overturned on legal a technicality. The “technicality” he refers to was the Department of Environmental Affairs failure to properly advertise the measure for public comment as required in terms of the applicable law and its failure to provide the public with sufficient information about the proposed measure so as to allow us a reasonable opportunity to acquaint ourselves with its complexities and to have an adequate say about them.
However the Constitutional Court does not see this failure as a mere technicality. It has ruled repeatedly that the obligation to consult is fundamental to our system of participatory democracy. The Court has held that a proper consultation process is essential so that citizens not only to have a chance to speak on the laws that government makes but also to enjoy the assurance that we will be listened to. This is seen as vital to the process of transforming South Africa given the fact that so many South Africans were “historically silenced”.
This is probably explains why two courts have already refused to grant the Department of Environmental Affairs leave to appeal the judgement.
However, it does not explain why the department now seeks to legalise the trade in rhino horn. After all, the court found that the idea of a moratorium on the trade of rhino horn was rational and could be legally enforced provided this was done properly. This change in approach is no doubt why conservationists are outraged that trade in rhino horn will now be legalised within South Africa.