AfriForum’s bid to prosecute National Council of Provinces chairperson Thandi Modise on animal cruelty charges moved a step closer on Friday when a witness agreed to provide a statement, notes TimesLIVE. The organisation’s private prosecution unit had summoned Bejani Chauke and Captain Tebogo Mokolobate to appear in the Potchefstroom Magistrate's Court.

AfriForum wanted the two to provide the prosecution team with essential and applicable information in the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ (NSPCA’s) case against Modise. AfriForum’s private prosecution unit was forced to take this drastic step of summoning the men under section 205 of the Criminal Procedure Act after their refusal to provide statements to the unit.

Chauke, who was Modise’s adviser and is now President Cyril Ramaphosa’s adviser, did not attend the court proceedings. His legal representatives explained that he could not testify on Friday because of medical reasons. AfriForum did not accept the apology but instead applied for a warrant for his arrest. The warrant will stand over until 29 April, when the matter is set to continue.

Mokolobate did appear and agreed to make a statement at AfriForum’s private prosecution unit office on Wednesday.

‘AfriForum’s private prosecution unit welcomes this turn in the case, which means that we are now yet another step closer to getting Modise in court,’ said its investigator Elias Maangwale. Maangwale said it remained unique in SA legal history that witnesses were compelled in terms of section 205 to make statements.

‘The private prosecution unit has a very strong case against Modise, and it is one of our main aims to ensure that no person escapes prosecution simply because they are being protected through political alliances,’ TimesLIVE quotes Maangwale as saying. The NSPCA decided to privately prosecute in 2017 after the NPA decided not to prosecute Modise on animal cruelty charges.

In July 2014‚ the NSPCA obtained a warrant to inspect animals on a farm in the North West province belonging to Modise. This was after receiving a tip-off that animals on the property had been abandoned. Modise’s farm was littered with the carcasses of more than 50 pigs and other dead animals‚ such as geese‚ ducks‚ sheep‚ and goats. More than 100 pigs‚ sheep‚ chickens and goats were found without food and water.

Full TimesLIVE report

Another witness who has decided to co-operate is Dr Sameer Abbas, the veterinary surgeon who inspected the animals. According to Rapport, Abbas initially refused to co-operate with the NSPCA and AfriForum after being threatened. The Veterinary Council has since found him guilty of unprofessional conduct for his refusal to co-operate. Maangwale says Abbas is now one of their main witnesses.

Full report in Rapport (subscription needed)