- National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise is currently on trial for animal cruelty relating to dead and emaciated animals found on her farm in the North West.
- Modise’s legal representative brought a Section 174 application to have the case discharge based on the evidence.
- He argued there was no evidence linking Modise to the crimes or that she had not provided feed and water to the animals.
National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise wants the animal cruelty case against her discharged, arguing there is no evidence linking her to the crimes and the actual perpetrator was brought to court as a witness.
Modise appeared before the Potchefstroom Regional Court on Thursday, where she is being privately prosecuted for animal cruelty by AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit on behalf of the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA).
Modise had been charged with six counts of animal cruelty relating to the dozens of animals that died or were found emaciated on her farm in the North West in 2014 while she was still the province’s premier.
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 put down, the charge sheet read.
The private prosecution, led by advocate Gerrie Nel, closed its case just before the tea break on Thursday after presenting the evidence of several witnesses, including a veterinarian and the man employed to look after the animals on the farm.
Application to discharge case
The defence, led by advocate Dali Mpofu SC, did not present its case but instead brought a Section 174 application to discharge the case based on the evidence presented by the prosecution.
Mpofu argued there was no evidence before the court which could draw Modise to the charges against her.
The six charges fall under the Animals Protection Act, and it is alleged 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.
Mpofu told the court while there was a duplication of the charges, the prosecution had failed to prove that Modise intentionally ill-treated the animals, confined or restrained them, abandoned them and did not provide adequate feed or water.
“Has the prosecution produced evidence to prove that this was done? The answer is a big no; why? Because ironically, we have the exact opposite. The prosecution’s own evidence before this court right now is that there was sufficient and adequate feed and water on the farm,” he argued.
Mpofu said the onus was on the prosecution to prove that Modise did not provide feed and water to the animals. Instead, they established the absence of a crime committed by the speaker of Parliament, he argued.
He said it was never established if there was no food or water available to the animals and that there was no investigation or evidence led about the different storage houses or food facilities present on the farm.
“No evidence regarding the failure of the water tanks, the non-containment of the animals and allowing the animals to completely roam without any restriction was submitted.”
Mpofu added the private prosecution failed to prove Modise had intentionally harmed the animals through her actions but the accused was not present at the farm on their own evidence.
You have a situation where the prosecution has confirmed that not only was the accused nowhere near the crime, so to speak, but secondly, she was not aware of what was happening. She was unaware that the farm was deserted.
“The evidence presented by the State [prosecution] has failed to prove all the elements required to section the conviction of the accused.
“The State [prosecution] has proved nothing further than the fact that the accused owned the farm in question and that all the animals upon it belong to her.”
The real perpetrator
Mpofu, who said it was common cause that some of the animals were emaciated and others died due to starvation and dehydration, believed the actual perpetrator was brought to court as a witness against Modise.
“The crimes here, the prosecution has gifted this court by bringing the real perpetrator to the court. He locked them up.”
If AfriForum were really concerned about animal welfare, the accused would not be in the dock. It would be Tebogo.
Mpofu was referring to Tebogo Mokaedi who was hired to look after the animals on the farm after the previous caretaker, only known as Shadrack, left to look after his ill son in Zimbabwe.
Mokaedi previously testified he was hired to look after the animals, but left the farm 10 weeks later because he had no food, had not been paid and was hungry.
Mpofu conceded in court on Thursday that Mokaedi had not been paid.
Mokaedi admitted to leaving the farm but said he notified Nimrod Tlhoaele, known as Khoroba, that he was leaving.
Khorobo was asked by Modise’s secretary, only known as Wendy, to find someone to work on the farm.
Khorobo, who also gave evidence in the trial, said he attempted to contact Wendy to tell her Mokaedi was leaving but was unsuccessful.
Mokaedi also testified the feed for the animals ran out on two occasions and he alerted Khorobo after not getting through to Wendy.
As he had done previously during the trial, Mpofu told the court the prosecution was nothing more than a political ploy.
The case has been postponed to Friday for the private prosecution to oppose the Section 174 application. Nel originally asked for a week postponement to prepare, but the court dismissed this request.