Vet testifies at Thandi Modise's animal cruelty case

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Speaker of Parliament Thandi Modise in the dock of the Potchefstroom Regional Court facing animal cruelty charges.
Speaker of Parliament Thandi Modise in the dock of the Potchefstroom Regional Court facing animal cruelty charges.
Alex Mitchley, News24
  • Speaker of Parliament Thandi Modise is being privately prosecuted for animal cruelty by AfriForum on behalf of the NSPCA.
  • The charges relate to the dozens of animals that died or were emaciated, due to starvation and dehydration, on her farm.
  • A vet testified in the trial on Monday, detailing the condition that the animals were in.

While many of the animals on National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise's North West farm died or were emaciated due to starvation and dehydration, it appeared that those intervening were more interested in the publicity and political ramifications. 

These were the views of Dr Sameet Abdullah Abass, a vet, who testified in the private prosecution of Modise for animal cruelty on Wednesday. 

Modise appeared in the Potchefstroom Regional Court on Monday, where AfriForum's Private Prosecution Unit is privately prosecuting her on behalf of the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA).

She had been charged with six counts of animal cruelty relating to the dozens of animals that died or were emaciated on her farm in the North West in 2014 while still the province's premier. 

READ | Speaker of Parliament Thandi Modise pleads not guilty to animal cruelty charges

Abass, who was at the farm and documented the animals' health, their state of decomposition and performed a postmortem of one of the sheep, gave evidence on his findings.

Advocate Gerrie Nel, for the private prosecution, took Abass through several photos that he had taken of carcasses and animals found on the farm. Abass detailed the stage of decomposition of every carcass he photographed and spoke of their emaciation levels. 

Wireworms, muscle waste and protruding spines 

He pointed out the condition of the animals that were still alive and noted that many of the animals, dead and alive, showed signs of muscle waste. 

He further noted that many animals had protruding spines and ribs because of the state they were in. 

Explaining his findings of the postmortem he had conducted, Abass said there were obvious signs of dehydration, with the animal's eyes sunken in the skull. 

PICS | Carcasses sprawled across Modise's farm as the stench of rotting flesh clung to the air

He found wireworms in the animal's insides and that many of its organs were pale in colour, which meant the sheep was anaemic.

A small amount of food material was also found in the sheep's stomach. 

During cross-examination by Modise's advocate, Dali Mpofu SC, Abass conceded that one or two of the pigs looked normal, but that most of the animals showed signs of emaciation. 

He could also not say whether there was feed on the farm and water in the tanks. 

Politics 

During cross-examination, Abass conceded that the DA seemed excited about the events unfolding and that the then DA North West leader Chris Hattingh was all over the story. 

Mpofu also put questions to Abass about the NSPCA and its role in the matter. 

Abass said he was asked permission to euthanise the surviving animals, but refused to give the go-ahead, saying that killing the animals should be a last resort. 

At the time, he said the animals should be fed for a couple of days first to see if their health improved. 

He said one of the SPCA inspectors was very unhappy with his opinion, that he still stood by. 

This also led to a complaint by the NSPCA being laid against Abass with the South African Veterinary Council.

READ | Prosecuting National Assembly Speaker for animal cruelty is a frivolous political stunt - Mpofu

Abass said he was guilty of not helping the NSPCA by referring them to another veterinarian for a second opinion.

In his statement to the council, parts of which were read out in court by Mpofu, Abass said he was lured to the farm under false pretences and that the people there did not care about the animals. 

"They were more interested in the publicity, financial gain and the political implications," Abass said.

Euthanasia 

In court, Abass said he stood by this statement, adding that the complaint against him was laid because he would not allow them to euthanise any more animals. 

He further testified that some animals had already been euthanised before he was called to the farm. 

News24 previously reported that dozens of carcasses were found on the farm, but that a total of 224 animals were euthanised by the NSPCA.

READ | Animals on Thandi Modise's farm were dying long before NSPCA received a complaint, court hears

NSPCA senior inspector Grace de Lange previously testified that 53 pigs were already dead when she first visited the farm in 2014. 

She said 19 sheep and goats had already perished, and seven chickens and one goose were also found dead.

De Lange told the court a number of the animals were so weak they could not get up, saying they just laid on the ground, moving their legs in an attempt to move - their breathing was also shallow.

"It's one of the most shocking incidents of animal cruelty that I have ever come across."

The trial is expected to continue on Thursday. 

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