National Council of Provinces chairperson Thandi Modise’s spokesperson yesterday slammed the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty against Animals’ (NSPCA) threat by AfriForum’s prosecution unit, led by Gerrie Nel, as an abuse of judicial processes for narrow political ends.
NSPCA inspector Grace de Lange said after four years it was an “absolute relief” someone would finally be held accountable for what she found on the farm when she visited it in 2014.
Modise’s farm was littered with the carcasses of more than 50 pigs, sheep, goats and various water fowl. NSPCA euthanised 162 animals which could not be saved.
“The threat to privately prosecute coincides with the process led by parliament regarding possible amendment to section 25 of the constitution, to expropriate land without compensation,” said Modise’s spokesperson, Moloto Mothapo.
“At the heart of the action is exploiting the incident to advance a narrow narrative of failure of black farming, as implicitly stated by the group’s spokesperson yesterday.”
In terms of the constitution, a member of parliament no longer qualified if convicted of an offence and sentenced to more than 12 months’ imprisonment without the option of a fine.
With the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) having declined to prosecute due to an apparent lack of evidence, coupled with the NSPCA’s Constitutional Court-given right to institute private prosecution, Nel’s lead investigator, Slang Maangwale – also formerly of the NPA and Scorpions – had been chasing down witnesses to retake their statements and conduct a separate investigation.
“The docket wasn’t to the standard Mr Maangwale and I were used to. It wasn’t at the standard one would necessarily take to court,” Nel told The Citizen. “Mr Maangwale has very high standards. I’ve been working with him since the Selebi days. He knows what I need and, certainly, we take our own statements.”
Tellingly, Maangwale said he had encountered no resistance when he had gone to take statements.
NSPCA executive director Marcelle Meredith said she was “exceptionally pleased” at being approached by Nel.
“Prosecution costs a lot of money. We would have had to go out and find the money to pay the advocates’ fees and that of a team to investigate the matter.
“We absolutely didn’t have the money. Normally that would have been done by the state,” Meredith said, noting the organisation was more than happy to work with anybody who would help it.
Criminal defence lawyer Ulrich Roux said the team would have a battle on its hands as intent to cause harm would have to be proved.
“She may own the farm, but were the animals under her direct care? That will certainly come into play and, if they weren’t, then they will have to try and prove a vicarious liability, which in our criminal law is nonexistent,” Roux said. “You can’t prove Modise is guilty because one of her farm managers neglected to look after the animals.”
Mothapo said it was important to note the NPA had abandoned its case, citing absence of prospects for a successful prosecution.