In a development that is regarded as a serious blow to the SPCA’s criminal case against Thandi Modise, the vet who performed the postmortems on several pigs’ carcasses now refuses to have “anything to do” with the horror he encountered.
Modise, who chairs the National Council of Provinces, was severely criticised earlier this month after starving pigs cannibalised one another on her farm in Modderfontein outside Potchefstroom because they were left without food and water for weeks.
On July 5 the SPCA called in Dr Sameer Abbas, a veterinary surgeon practising in Potchefstroom, to assist with its investigation. The SPCA had gained entrance to the farm under a court order.
Abbas took his own photographs at the farm and took tissue samples of the animals for analysis – and the SPCA expected him to prepare a report to be included in the docket for a criminal case against Modise.
But in an email dated July 22 that amaBhungane has seen, Abbas informed the SPCA: “Kindly take note that I no longer with [sic] to have any involvement in this matter. Please do not make any further contact or send any further correspondence.”
This week Abbas was apparently also not forthcoming in a telephone conversation with the executive director of the SPCA, Marcelle Meredith, who said she was “flabbergasted”.
“It’s the first time ever a veterinary [surgeon] has done work for us and later refused to provide his report,” Meredith said.
“I called him after receiving the mail and he referred me back to his letter just before saying that he’s not willing to provide a report, saying: ‘I repeat, I don’t want anything to do with this.’”
Abbas also refused to give reasons for his decision or to provide his notes as well as the carcasses still in his possession, said Meredith.
“We will report him to the South African Veterinary Council for his unethical behaviour, [which] makes me ask the question if he is willingly and knowingly sabotaging our case.”
Andries Venter, the SPCA’s chief inspector, related how the vet was shocked by the condition of the animals.
“His first reaction was that all the animals were in a shocking state and should be euthanised, but said the owner must be given the chance to provide food within 24 hours.”
AmaBhungane contacted Abbas shortly after the crisis in Modderfontein became known on July 5. At the time he said his report was not yet finished and he declined to comment on what he had seen.
On Thursday, Abbas repeatedly refused to comment on all questions.
About 80 animals were found dead on the farm and a further 117 had to be euthanised. Another 120 animals were confiscated by the SPCA.
Abbas’s crucial report would have been part of the dossier compiled by the SPCA.
The dossier, relating to seven charges under the Animal Protection Act, is expected to be handed over to police this week. It includes reports from the state vet and a well-known food and nutrition company that claims to have been asked to assist on the farm last year.
Modise claimed she left the farm under the care of a full-time manager, whom she refused to name.
Instead, amaBhungane determined from interviews with neighbours that the manager was her boyfriend, Abdul Mogale, described by Modise’s spokesperson Neo Moepi as “a bigwig in the ANC”.
Moepi refused to comment when asked whether Modise was in contact with veterinary surgeon Abbas. “We are not giving comment on the farm anymore; we are focusing on the workers and the animals.”
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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.