NSPCA launches crowdfunding campaign for Gerrie Nel to take on Thandi Modise

07 August 2019 - 17:07 By Nonkululeko Njilo
Parliamentary speaker Thandi Modise is being taken to court by the NSPCA, backed by AfriForum and advocate Gerrie Nel, over allegations of animal abuse at her farm.
Parliamentary speaker Thandi Modise is being taken to court by the NSPCA, backed by AfriForum and advocate Gerrie Nel, over allegations of animal abuse at her farm.
Image: Tsheko Kabasia

The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCAs) has started a crowdfunding campaign to finance legal costs for advocate Gerrie Nel, who is representing them in a case of animal cruelty against National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise.

By Wednesday afternoon the BackaBuddy campaign had raised more than R39,000 of its R200,000 target.

Modise's case dates from 2014 and follows a visit to her farm in Modderfontein, east of Johannesburg, by SPCA inspectors who found scores of dead animals, including chickens, geese and sheep. Around 160 animals had to be euthanised because of their poor condition.

The council said officials were shocked by the sight of live pigs cannibalising on dead pigs to survive. Without water, the pigs had reportedly also been forced to drink their own urine.

"It’s the worst farm cruelty that I've come across in the 20 years that I've been with the SPCA. It’s horrific - we're all at a loss for words," said Andries Venter, who was with the NSPCA at the time.

After a decision by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) not to prosecute the case, lobby group AfriForum launched a private prosecution, headed by Nel.

"The fact that the NPA decided not to prosecute Thandi Modise, even though there was a strong case against her, is a serious breach of the principle of equality before the law,” said AfriForum CEO Kallie Kriel at the time.

The BackaBuddy campaign notice pleads with South Africans to support the cause because in the "fight for justice, the plight of animals is often ignored or found at the bottom of the agenda".

The council said it was unfortunate that one of the most effective ways of fighting animal cruelty was through the courts.

"With the support of the South African people, advocate Gerrie Nel will take on a high-profile case on behalf of the National Council of SPCAs in respect of inhumane treatment which led to the suffering of defenceless, voiceless animals," reads the message.

Explaining the reason for the campaign, the page suggests that such cases could take at least 30 days and therefore could be extremely expensive.

"This campaign is aimed at raising funds for the 'Animal Farm' case to successfully prosecute, raise awareness and to make the point to future perpetrators that no one is above the law, irrespective of political power, money and fame," reads the notice.

NSPCA spokesperson Meg Wilson confirmed that the campaign was genuine. “The campaign is legit. It was started to raise funds to pay for the services that Nel is rendering to us - not only to cover the legal side of things, but there’s a lot of time and investigation that went into the case,” she said.

Asked why the campaign was only started now, Wilson said it was not anticipated that the proceedings would be "hugely expensive", adding that the council never had finances for the case.

The funds raised are going directly into the account of the NSPCA, not to AfriForum, said Wilson. 

Kriel confirmed that the money was not going into AfriForum's account.

“I can confirm we are aware of the NSPCA campaign, but the money will not be coming into our account as an organisation. We had initially decided we wanted to take on the case for private prosecution when the NPA decided not to prosecute, but NSPCA felt they wanted to make a contribution to help cover some costs,” he said.

An anonymous donor on the BackaBuddy campaign, who contributed R205.64, said he hoped that Modise would pay for the alleged crime.

Another contributor, Helene Potgieter, who pledged over R5,000, added: "Treatment of animals and the elderly is a barometer of a nation's ethics."