Gongqose v Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries–a tale of customary rituals and practices in Marine Protected Areas

16 February 2022

The correct application of customary law post constitutionalism continues to be the subject of much judicial and academic deliberation. This is especially true where the existence and/or scope of customary rights and cultural practices are not well defined in a specific case. Gongqose v Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries 2018 5 SA 104 (SCA) presents a perfect example of the dissonance between the recognition of customary law by the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 and the regulation of rights and cultural practices emanating from customary law. The case grapples with the meeting point of customary rights and customs and the need to preserve the environment. This intersection is considered in view of earth jurisprudence as an emerging legal thought topic in environmental law. On the whole, the decision of the SCA demonstrates encouraging signs of an appreciation of customary law as deserving of an equal place on the legal podium.