Giving away 150 live sheep in Soweto

As part of our effort to get 50 million people united around braai fires on 24 September, I thought it would be a good idea if we gave away some meat, for people to braai. So I approached editor of the Daily Sun Deon du Plessis, and asked whether they would be interested in giving away 100 live sheep to their readers, courtesy of Braai4Heritage. There were a few logistical questions, but in principle Deon agreed. The sheep needed to come from a trustworthy source, so for that I phoned a personal friend from university WJ Botha who farms outside Trompsburg in the Freestate, a farm that I have visited to hunt, and of course to braai, in the past. Braai4Heritage was now temporarily the proud owner of 100 live sheep.

This is a real photo. All the background detail is real. Take your time to study and enjoy it properly.

WJ suggested a trustworthy transporter for the animals and we contracted his suggested transporter for that part of the plan*. Daily Sun and myself agreed that the animals would be handed out from one central location in Soweto, and next we obtained permission from the Soweto police to do this. They were incredibly helpful and suggested that we hand out the sheep on a grass field right next to the station, so that they can assist us with logistics as well as crowd control. Most people that heard about what we were up to reacted quite positively (especially the ones living in Soweto) so another 50 sheep was ordered from the farm in the Freestate and these were given to Jozi FM, the Soweto community radio station, for them to give away to their listeners. All 150 sheep would be handed out to the chosen winners on the morning of 24 September in Thokoza park in Soweto (next to the police station).

Daily Sun, 22 September 2010

On Monday 20 September the SPCA got wind of the operation, and were understandably concerned. With complete transparency the whole operation was explained to them. Two positive things came from this. They agreed to have representatives on site at the hand out, which was great for us in terms of making sure that everything did indeed happen correctly, and secondly, SPCA provided us with a list of guidelines explaining how livestock should correctly be transported and dealt with by the winners. Daily Sun published these guidelines every day of that week leading up to the 24th, so an added bonus was that there was a bit of general animal rights education to their millions of readers. On the eve of 23 September the sheep were loaded onto a truck in the Freestate and started the journey to Soweto.

Me, a winner, and some of the prizes.

At 08:00 on the 24th, we met the truck at Thokoza Park together with the Soweto police, SPCA, Daily Sun representatives, JoziFM representatives, and a growing queue of exited winners. (The Daily Sun and JoziFM announced all the winners in the week leading up to 24 September, so everybody there already knew whether they won). As an individual moved to the front of the queue he/she showed their ID, their name was then checked on a list, and they received and affidavit from us to them proving their legal ownership of the sheep. The Soweto police provided a template of this affidavit to us; this is used in all livestock sales to the public to help the police combat cattle theft. The SPCA reps then joined each winner to his or her vehicle to ensure that the mode of transport met their requirements. A few guys wanted to put their sheep in the boots of their cars, but this is against SPCA rules. They then had the choice of leaving the prize, or putting the animal on the back seat of the car. No one left his or her prize. This made for some fantastic scenes of sheep on back seats of sedan cars driving away from the park. A special moment that stuck in my mind is that of a sheep casually sitting on the back seat of Golf 5 being driven away by two yuppies. Events proceeded smoothly, but there was a moment of chaos when one sheep was not properly controlled by its new owner and set off down the street. The sight of 50 people and two police vans chasing it down the streets of Soweto was pretty special. At about 11:00 all the sheep were handed out, the owners left with their winnings and the park was quiet yet again. The SPCA sent us the following email afterwards, quite a nice touch I think.

“The SPCA does not support the giving of Live animals as prizes, however we would like to applaud all members of the public who were present at the open field next to the Moroka Police station for the way they handled the animals. All animals were humanely handled and transported correctly to their destination. Thank you once again!”

*The identity of the sheep transporter is not a secret, but I don’t know him well enough to publish his name here.

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