Lobby group AfriForum says an arrest warrant has been reserved for Thandi Modise, National Assembly speaker, after she reportedly failed to appear in the Potchefstroom Regional Court on charges of animal cruelty on Tuesday.
This follows the announcement by AfriForum’s private prosecution unit in 2019 that it would privately prosecute Modise on behalf of the National Council of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA).
The magistrate in the case reportedly reserved a warrant for her arrest on Tuesday, pending her appearance in court on 31 March.
AfriForum is accusing her of leaving her farm in North West unattended, causing the death of more than 50 pigs and other animals, including geese, ducks, sheep and goats in 2014.
In October 2019, the head of AfriForum’s private prosecuting unit, advocate Gerrie Nel, informed the court sitting before Magistrate Ben Mtebele that the matter was ready to go to trial. He said pre-trial issues had been resolved and the unit would hand over a case docket to the defence.
At the time, Nel said provisional trial dates had been set for 24 to 26 March.
According to AfriForum, Modise’s legal representative argued that President Cyril Ramaphosa asked her to help during the Covid-19 pandemic.
AfriForum said the magistrate wanted reasons why Modise could not delegate her duties.
“Modise will have to explain on 31 March why she had been absent, after which the prosecution can hopefully commence. It is unacceptable for Modise not appearing in court today [Tuesday], and simply arguing that the reason for her absence is her office,” said Andrew Leask, the unit’s head investigator.
“No one is above the law, not even the speaker of the National Assembly. AfriForum’s private prosecution unit is looking forward to the commencement of the hearing on 31 March.”
In 2019, Modise said she had deliberately kept quiet about the animal cruelty case against her, News24 reported.
Modise said she had been closely watching all the role players in the case and believed the delays in the matter were deliberate in order to weaken her chances of winning the matter.
“They drag it (the case) until you know that you cannot afford lawyers and you have to stand by yourself. It is deliberately being dragged out, but we come from Umkhonto [we Sizwe]. We were taught patience, discipline. So, that discipline is still there, it will persevere. We will conquer,” she said.
In August 2019, the NSPCA launched a crowdfunding campaign to assist with the costs of AfriForum’s case against Modise.
A request for comment has been sent to Parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo and will be added once received.
In an earlier statement, Mothapo said: “Ms Modise respects the rule of law and the principle of equality before the law. However, she regards the motives of this grouping as curious, as they smack of abuse of judicial processes for narrow political ends.”