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Game Theft

Our common law derives from the laws of ancient Rome. These were then imposed on the Roman Empire, during its days – and this included, of course, what was to become Holland. When the Dutch came out and settled in South Africa they imported with them the hybrid Roman-Dutch legal system.

One of these laws concerns the ownership of wild life. It stipulated that you only own an animal which, in its natural state would be classified as a wild animal, for so long as you keep it. It was only in 1991 when that old Roman law was changed by the Game Theft Act 1991.1 It now provides that you do not lose ownership of game just because it escapes from your enclosed land or kraal.

  1. It is an offence to enter another person’s land with intent to steal game.2

  2. It is an offence to enter another person’s land intending to disperse game from the land.3

  3. It is an offence if you disperse or lure away game from another person’s land even if you do not enter upon that land.4

  4. The Act provides that any owner or lawful occupier of land, on which there is game, can arrest someone upon reasonable suspicion that he is there for any of the above reasons, or that he has already hunted or caught game. However, it is an offence to arrest a person wrongfully, or maliciously, under the pretext of this Act.5

  5. If you are charged with the theft of game, and the evidence does not prove that game has been stolen, but it is proved that stock6 has been stolen, you may be found guilty of stock theft.7

  1. As amended, the latest amendment was effected by Act 62 of 2000. 

  2. Section 3(1)(a). 

  3. Section 3(1)(a). 

  4. Section 3(1)(b). 

  5. Section 5(1). 

  6. As defined in the Act. 

  7. Section 8.