Royals back ship, SPCA heads for court

Sheep wait on trucks at the entrance to the EL Harbour.
ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER LOAD Sheep wait on trucks at the entrance to the EL Harbour.

Eastern Cape royals have backed the shipping of 60,000 live Eastern Cape merino sheep to the Middle East, saying the economic benefits of the deal should not be forgotten.

There was a ruction on the ship on Wednesday, with the NSPCA stating on Thursday they would be taking legal action after one of their inspectors was obstructed.

The deal is estimated to be worth R120m for the first Eastern Cape shipment to Kuwait.

Nkosi Mkhanyiseli Dudumayo, provincial secretary of Contralesa, said the congress would “always support any business deal that will benefit the communities”.

“We strongly believe these emerging farmers, through their legal representatives and according to their expertise, are getting into a good deal. Contralesa respects international trade relations,” Dudumayo said.

Contralesa also appreciated the SPCA’s mandate to fight for the rights of animals.

“We don’t want to interfere with their core business and values. We are of the view that each ship that transports the animals is friendly to the lives of those animals,” he said.

The NSCPA said their inspector was obstructed while evaluating the health of sheep being loaded onto the Al Shuwaikh live cargo vessel in East London harbour. The animal rights organisation says it was met with “hostility” and “obstruction” as it conducted its inspections.

The NSPCA is authorised to inspect the ship in terms of the Animal Protection Act, and also has also an open warrant from a magistrate. Spokesperson Meg Wilson said they would be laying a complaint with police.

The NSPCA said the ship’s owner, Al Mawashi, is using Page Farming Trust to facilitate the acquisition of the sheep. The trust’s John Page said: “I don’t want to comment, it just gets me into trouble. The less said, the better.”

As the loading of the vessel entered a third day on Thursday, the NSPCA also announced it would lay criminal charges against the state as a result of what it had found on the ship.

Among the contraventions of the Animal Protection Act it found during the inspections were high ammonia levels and “inhumane” handling of animals during the loading.

Businessman Prince Sivile Mabandla, a key figure in the deal, said he appreciated that “we have touched a nerve centre. Core to the resistance to this project is the destabilisation of monopolies of established livestock markets. Ordinary emerging farmers and village communities will now have access to global meat markets and local white commercial farmers have also welcomed this initiative as an equaliser.”

Prince Xhanti Sigcau said: “I see this as something lucrative, and it will be beneficial for the rural farmers.

“I would be lying if I said I knew a lot about the SPCA’s concerns, but Kuwait is doing a good thing for our farmers.

“Who would miss out on a market that will mean something to him or her? The sheep we sell are healthy.”

Prince Zolile Burns-Ncamashe, of the Rharhabe kingdom, said foreign direct investment should be encouraged.

“This thrills us, but we also want to ensure that we don’t just participate at the primary production level, but at all levels of the value chain,” he said.

Asked about claims that the sea journey to Kuwait would be detrimental to the sheep, he said “our innovators” should develop technology that took into account “all the checks and balances” to ensure humane treatment of animal cargo. “We need to conduct business that is humane,” he said.

A source told the Dispatch the laden Al Shuwaikh would be leaving port some time after 4.30pm on Friday.