Thandi Modise admitted she wasn’t coping with farm, ignored advice

2014-07-13 15:00

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Eight months ago, farmers in North West lent a hand to try to save Thandi Modise’s farm after she told them she wasn’t coping.

Modise, the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), is being investigated by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) after more than 300 animals were found dead or starving on her farm near Potchefstroom.

Modise has insisted she did not know anything was wrong and claims the farm workers who were supposed to care for the animals inexplicably left without notice.

By Saturday afternoon however Modise claimed that “new information” suggested that her enemies had deliberately caused her employees to abandon the farm, leading to the death-by-starvation of hundreds of animals.

But an investigation by City Press’ sister newspaper, Afrikaans weekly Rapport, has revealed that Modise was warned of problems like underfeeding late last year.

Boeta du Toit, the CEO of Agri North West, said Modise – then the premier of North West – met with Agri’s management in November to discuss the province’s drought relief scheme.

According to Du Toit, Modise admitted during the meeting that her farming wasn’t doing well: she was struggling to get feed, didn’t know where to get her pigs slaughtered or where to sell the pork.

“My immediate reaction was, ‘let’s make a plan’, and we got to work,” he said.

Du Toit said he called on farmers and specialists in the area to help fix up Modise’s farm, Modderfontein.

He put Dr Benjani Chauke, Modise’s political adviser who was communicating with Agri on her behalf, in contact with the feed company Meadow Feeds.

Ferdi van Aswegen, an animal feeding specialist at Meadow Feeds at the time, was sent to the farm to assess the situation, determine what feed was needed and deliver five tons of pig feed, which Chauke had ordered.

“There was one worker on the farm who took me to the pigs,” Van Aswegen said.

“It was terrible and shocking to see. The pigs were thin and emaciated. There were four carcases of piglets lying there. I asked the farm worker when they last had feed and his answer was ‘two weeks ago.’”

On that day – November 6 2013, according to Van Aswegen’s notes – he phoned Chauke and told him about the problems on the farm.

“I said he must order feed soon again because this feed would only last for a week or two.”

Du Toit contacted David Phosa, the co-owner of Dreamland Piggery, and asked if he could help Modise.

Phosa confirmed this to Rapport and said “people from Modderfontein” came to the abattoir and agreed to send a number of pigs, but he never heard from them again.

“I went to the SA Pork Producers’ Organisation and obtained the numbers of good vets and gave these numbers to Chauke,” Du Toit said.

Naudé Pienaar, the assistant general manager of Agri North West, gave Chauke advice about the marketing of the pigs and phoned Modise’s farm manager every two weeks for two months to find out how it was going and to see if he needed any help. “We really went the extra mile to try to help her,” Pienaar said.

Farmers who spoke to Rapport this week were shocked that Modise apparently ignored their advice and warnings, and claimed she was not aware of the crisis on her farm.

The workers were “influenced by her [Modise’s] detractors acting in concert with those who had a personal score to settle with her in order to tarnish her image,” reads a statement released late yesterday by Modise’s spokesperson Neo Moepi. There is no indication who these detractors are, but according to the statement, Modise’s lawyers are looking into it.

Chauke promised Rapport an interview with Modise and himself, but backed out on Friday.

Chauke said he knows who Du Toit is, but insisted it wasn’t true that the farmers had helped.

“I only ordered the feed – it was a business transaction.” He denied having been warned there was a crisis on the farm.

“The chair [Modise] and I did not know before now there are problems.”

Records show Modise, who earns R2.5?million a year as chairperson of the NCOP, bought Modderfontein in 2011 with a Land Bank loan of R4.88?million.

She told farmers in the area she had bought the farm for her then boyfriend, Abdul Mogale.

Neighbours say Mogale visited the farm every two weeks, but disappeared after the couple’s relationship ended “about four months ago”. Mogale declined to comment.

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