Speaker of Parliament Thandi Modise has pleaded not guilty to six counts of animal cruelty in a case dating back to 2014, when dozens of carcasses and emaciated animals were found on her farm in the North West.
Modise appeared in the dock of the Potchefstroom Regional Court on Tuesday as a private prosecution against her got under way.
Lobby group AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit is prosecuting her on behalf of the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA).
This is the first AfriForum private prosecution that has gone to trial. In 2017, the National Prosecuting Authority decided that it would not prosecute Modise.
A nolle prosequi certificate was not issued because the NSPCA has the statutory powers to privately prosecute offenders.
The NSPCA subsequently instituted the private prosecution. AfriForum’s advocate, Gerrie Nel, and advocate Phyllis Vorster will prosecute the matter on its behalf.
According to the charge sheet, some animals were found dead on the farm and others were neglected and in an ill-treated state on Modise’s Modderfontein farm in Tlokwe on 5 July 2014.
More than 50 pigs and a number of other animals, including sheep, chickens and geese, were already dead when the NSPCA first inspected the farm. A further 224 animals had to be euthanised, the charge sheet read.
Modise faces six charges of animal cruelty.
The six charges fall under the Animals Protection Act and it is alleged that Modise:
- ill-treated and neglected the animals on her farm by failing to procure and/or provide adequate feed for the animals on her farm;
- unnecessarily starved and/or under-fed and/or denied water or food to the animals on her farm by failing to procure and/or provide adequate feed and water for the animals on her farm;
- confined and restrained the animals on her farm without making adequate provision for suitable food, potable water and rest for such animals in circumstances where it was necessary;
- deliberately or without reasonable cause or excuse, abandoned the animals, whether permanently or not, in circumstances that were likely to cause the animals unnecessary suffering.
Nel told the court that the alleged neglect of more than 147 pigs, more than 59 sheep, more than 11 lambs, more than 54 goats and more than 25 chickens and geese led to the alleged emaciation, and even death, of the animals.
After Modise pleaded not guilty to the charges, her legal representative, advocate Dali Mpofu SC, said a plea explanation was not available and that the trial could proceed.
Former North West Public Works, Roads and Transport MEC Raymond Elisha told media outside court that the charges against Modise were political in nature and that there was sabotage to the farm.
Elisha suggested that an ANC faction in the North West had plotted with opposition parties to sabotage the food and water on the farm. He added that they would expose those who put Modise in that position and that she had no idea of what was happening on the farm.
The case continues.