The world’s largest rhino breeder has won a court bid permitting him to proceed with the auction of 264 of his rhino horns.
The auction‚ which is the first legal horn auction in decades‚ had been advertised in Chinese and Vietnamese via breeder John Hume’s website.
The matter involving Hume was heard through an urgent application in the Pretoria High Court on Sunday afternoon.
Hume had taken the Department of Environmental Affairs to court to force it to release a permit he was granted for the online auction‚ which is scheduled to kick off on Monday afternoon.
After receiving an email from the department two weeks ago informing him his permit was granted‚ the department made a u-turn with Minister Edna Molewa arguing that the official who had informed Hume that he had been awarded the permit had no authority to do so.
In papers filed in court‚ Molewa argued that only she had the powers to grant such a permit.
She called for the court to set aside the permit‚ saying it was invalid.
“The defence is that we cannot give over something which is unlawful‚” said Soraya Hassim SC for the department.
Delivering his judgment‚ Judge Neil Tuchten said it was not for the high court to decide on whether or not the dealing of rhino horn was a good or bad idea.
He said there was no “valid defence given by the Minister“‚ adding that she had received Hume’s application in May.
The application should have taken 20 working days to be completed.
Tuchten said Molewa should have rather filed for a stay of the auction.
He ordered her department to grant Hume his permit within 12 hours and pay his legal costs.
Hume has more than 1‚500 rhinos on his ranch in the North West province.
He won a series of court cases earlier this year to overturn an eight-year long moratorium on rhino horns being sold inside South African borders.
Though the commercial sale of horns to international buyers has been banned for four decades under a global conservation treaty‚ Hume won the legal right to sell them domestically in April.
All the horns Hume plans to auction were taken either from dead rhino or the horns were removed while under sedation‚ ensuring that they stay alive to grow more horns.
He does not permit hunting at his ranch.