Police Minister Bheki Cele said Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato informed police officers at Clifton Fourth Beach in December that a by-law would have been contravened were a sheep to be slaughtered, but "to date", no such by-law had been provided to the police.
"The risk of creating more violence outweighed the enforcement of a by-law that proved not to exist," Cele said in an answer to a written parliamentary question from Cope MP Willie Madisha.
Madisha asked whether the slaughter of a sheep on the beach was lawful and if the police were justified in not intervening when officials from the City of Cape Town tried to stop the slaughter.
The incident happened on December 28 when members of the lobby group Black People's National Crisis Committee slaughtered a sheep after private security guards had allegedly forced beachgoers to leave the beach on December 23. The incident escalated to an #OccupyCliftonBeach movement which alleged that the removals were racist.
"It was determined that the slaughter of an animal on Clifton Beach was not unlawful," Cele said.
The police minister explained that section 7 of the Meat Safety Act 2000 prohibits the slaughter of animals at places other than at abattoirs. However, section 7(2) of the act does provide for exemptions, including the slaughter of animals for cultural or religious purposes.
Cele noted that "regulation does not contain an offence or penalty clause and the conduct is, therefore, not criminalised and is merely a prohibition".
Cele further stated that the police's non-intervention in City of Cape Town officials' attempts to try and stop the slaughter came about as "no other by-law and/or act can be found that criminalises the slaughtering of animals" and "no employee of the City of Cape Town could advise the senior SAPS officers, who were at the scene, of any offence that would be committed if the animal was slaughtered on the beach".
Regulation 129, of the Red Meat Regulations of 2004, in terms of the Meat Safety Act, does, however, require the person who does the slaughtering to obtain prior written permission from the local authority of the area, Cele said.
"At no stage, did any of the senior officers present, prevent any employee or representative of the City of Cape Town to act against those that intended to slaughter the sheep," Cele added.
He continued that, at the time, Plato informed police officers that a by-law would be transgressed in this case.
Cele said Major General Jeremy Vearey advised Plato "it would not be operationally appropriate to act" because there was "confusion about the legislation" and "risk associated with police action at the time, taking into account the size and mood of the crowd that had gathered for the event".