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

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

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

On the same day seven criminal charges relating to the Animal Protection Act were also laid against Modise, who chairs the national council of provinces, after her pigs were found cannibalising one another earlier this month. At the time 117 animals were in such bad shape they had to be euthanised, 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 the inspectors of using a racial slur: “’n Kaffir kan nie ‘n plaas beheer nie [A kaffir cannot control a farm].”

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

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

‘Hidden political agenda’
“I was the only one there who speaks Afrikaans. In that argument no Afrikaans was spoken,” Coetzee said to amaBhungane.

“I’m not sure if he’s mistaking us for someone else, because he accused us of having a hidden political agenda and mentioned some of his relatives being killed on a farm somewhere.”

De Lange and Coetzee said they visited Modise’s farm on Friday without a court order to check on the remaining cattle after they handed over the 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 said refused to give his name, apparently allowed them onto the premises.

They only had time to notice some of the cattle lying on the ground – 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 from the cattle”, De Lange told amaBhungane.

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

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

“This continued as he ordered us off the premises. We were afraid of the violent way he reacted, we didn’t have a warrant and subsequently we tried 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 with the dreadlocks banged on the window.

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

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

“Moepi grabbed Burt’s cellphone, on which he made recordings of the 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 the police with this,” said De Lange.

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

“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 it became clear that the only veterinary surgeon that was on scene – and who 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 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 amaBhungane has seen an email dated July 22 in which 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.”

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

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

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