17 April 2024 | 06:51 AM

SPCA inspectors deny claims of racial abuse by Modise’s farm manager

Key Takeaways

Two inspectors from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) are expected to lay criminal charges against Thandi Modise’sfarm manager and spokesperson after they were allegedly threatened on her farmoutside Potchefstroom.

Inspectors Grace de Lange and Burt Coetzee claim their vehicle’skeys were confiscated and information from a cellphone was deleted when theytried to inspect the remaining cattle at Modderfontein on July 25.

On the same day seven criminal charges relating to the AnimalProtection Act were also laid against Modise, who chairs the national councilof provinces, after her pigs were found cannibalising one another earlier thismonth. At the time 117 animals were in such bad shape they had to beeuthanised, while 80 animals had already died from a lack of food and water.Another 120 animals were confiscated by the SPCA.

But in a counter claim to Sapa, Neo Moepi on Tuesday accused theinspectors of using a racial slur: “’n Kaffir kannie ‘n plaas beheer nie [A kaffir cannot control a farm].”

According to Moepi, this remark was made in thepresence of the farmworkers, which angered them and he stepped in to prevent apossible fight.

However, Coetzeedenies that racial slurs were ever used by either side.

‘Hidden political agenda’

“I was the only onethere who speaks Afrikaans. In that argument no Afrikaans was spoken,” Coetzeesaid to amaBhungane.

“I’m not sure if he’smistaking us for someone else, because he accused us of having a hiddenpolitical agenda and mentioned some of his relatives being killed on a farmsomewhere.”

De Lange and Coetzee said they visited Modise’s farm on Fridaywithout a court order to check on the remaining cattle after they handed overthe SPCA’s docket with charges against Modise to the police.

Cattle lying on the ground

One of the new workers – described as wearing dreadlocks – on the farm, who they saidrefused to give his name, apparently allowed them onto the premises.

They only had time to notice some of the cattle lying on theground – and cannot say if they had adequate food or water – before a man came“chasing in a blue Golf, screaming from far away that we should get away fromthe cattle”, De Lange told amaBhungane.

At the time the man refused to give his name, but De Langerecognised him from pictures published previously in the Mail& Guardian. She identified him as Neo Moepi, Modise’sspokesperson and now farm manager.

“Neo jumped out and continued to scream, ‘You should be afraid ofme and what I can do.’”

“This continued as he ordered us off the premises. We were afraidof the violent way he reacted, we didn’t have a warrant and subsequently wetried to leave the farm,” De Lange said.

‘We left the farm on foot’

But at the gate a cone blocked their way and once they stopped, the man withthe dreadlocks banged on the window.

“He and Burt got into a verbal argument and on the second attempthe managed to pull out the Chevrolet bakkie’s keys,” De Lange said. “He wasvery threatening and raised his fist in the air saying he’ll kick the bakkieand set it alight. I was afraid he might attack Burt and we left the farm onfoot.”

In the meantime, Moepi arrived at the gate and drove the Chevroletbakkie through after he could not succeed in coaxing the inspectors back ontothe premises.

“Moepi grabbed Burt’s cellphone, on which he made recordings ofthe abusive argument, and told the guy with the dreadlocks to ‘deal with this’.All the evidence from that phone was wiped out. We’ll definitely go to thepolice with this,” said De Lange.

Moepi denied the accusation to Sapa, however whenCoetzee was questioned by amaBhungane, he refered to a picture taken by De Lange where the man with dreadlocks is holding hisphone.

“Moepi cannot say that. We have proof.” AmaBhungane could not reach Moepi for comment.

No further contact

The SPCA’s case against Modise struck an unexpected pitfall last week when itbecame clear that the only veterinary surgeon that was on scene – andwho did postmortems on some of the carcasses – refused to submit a crucial report to accompany their docket.

Dr Sameer Abbas took his own photographs at the farm and tooktissue samples of the animals for analysis – and the SPCA expected him toprepare a report to be included in the docket for a criminal case againstModise.

But amaBhungane has seen an email dated July 22 inwhich Abbas informed the SPCA, “Kindly take note that I no longerwith [sic] to have any involvement in this matter. Please do not make anyfurther contact or send any further correspondence.”

Abbas refused to give reasons for his decision or to provide hisnotes as well as the carcasses still in his possession, said SPCA executivedirector Marcelle Meredith.

Meredith said the SPCA planned to lodge a complaint about Abbaswith the South African Veterinary Council.

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Before joining the amaBhungane team in 2017, Micah was the national coordinator for media freedom and diversity at the Right2Know Campaign. He holds a Masters in African Studies from Oxford University and a BA Honours in History from Wits University.

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