By Sanette Viljoen
In South Africa it is not uncommon to see animals walking in the road, especially in rural areas where goats, cattle and sheep are regularly found next to the road. In areas close to the Kruger National Park it also is not unusual to see antelope or even hippopotamuses crossing the road. Many court cases have taken place to determine if a farmer can be held liable for the fact that his livestock caused an accident.
According to the National Road Traffic Act no. 93 of 1996, no animals may be present in a road, except when the animal is being transported, or is hauling a vehicle. It is also important that when animals are being driven next to the road, there has to be a shepherd waving a red flag. If more than 10 animals are being driven, there should be one shepherd at the front and another at the back of the animals. If this is not done, the owner of those animals can be held liable. Farmers have to supervise their animals.
In the case of Coreejes v Carnarvon Municipality and another 1964 (2) SA 454 (C) a farmer was found to be liable as his fences had not been maintained properly. In such a case the circumstances of the case are looked at. When a farmer’s fences were cut the previous evening and he has no idea that his animals are walking in the road, a court might possibly find him not liable. However, should a farmer’s fences clearly be very old, are disintegrating and not being maintained, the farmer will be held liable should his livestock occupy the road and cause an accident.
There are several cases where it could be proven that the public had on various occasions spoken to the farmer about the condition of his fences and asked him to remove his cattle from the road. However, the owner failed to improve the situation and this matter then becomes a case of gross negligence on the part of the owner.
If you should be so unfortunate to hit an animal and incur damages to your vehicle or injuries to yourself, it is very important to gather all evidence on the scene. Photograph the brand on the animal’s body, tag or tattoo in his ear. Also take photos of the condition of the fence next to the road and the open gate. If the animals next to the road do not belong to the farmer who is farming next to the road, they usually belong to the occupant of the land. Ask the police to ask the occupant if the animals belong to him.