Head-scratching at accused’s version

THEFT CHARGES: Dries Marais at the Commerciaal Crimes Court in Port Elizabeth yesterday. Picture: FREDLIN ADRIAAN
THEFT CHARGES: Dries Marais at the Commerciaal Crimes Court in Port Elizabeth yesterday. Picture: FREDLIN ADRIAAN

Pensioner signed interdict, but ‘knows nothing about it’

PENSIONER Dries Marais confidently told the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes court yesterday he had no knowledge of an interdict served on him in 2008 – despite his signature being on it.

Often referred to as “Oom Dries”, Marais, 75, is facing charges of forgery, theft, fraud, attempting to defeat the ends of justice, perjury and uttering.

It is alleged that between July and September 2008, he stole railway tracks and sleepers in the Steynsburg area worth about R2.7-million.

He allegedly forged a letter from Transnet stating he had permission to remove the goods and then hired companies to transport the material to the Western Cape.

Marais is accused alongside Transnet security guard Bhuyekiso Damane, 52.

It is alleged Dumane, who was stationed in Queenstown at the time, helped forge the letter.

Dumane pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud.

Yesterday, state advocate Lionel Kroon called Hendrik Stefanus Coetzee, a lawyer who handled the incident on behalf of Transnet, to testify.

After the incident came to light in August 2008, Coetzee exchanged several e-mails and faxes with Marais’s attorney regarding Marais’s alleged removal of the items.

In October that year, Coetzee proceeded to obtain a permanent interdict preventing Marais from lifting or moving the rails and sleepers.

Marais – who is conducting his own defence – asked yesterday to see those documents.

After adjusting his glasses and glancing at the document, he said: “I have no knowledge of that document, but I acknowledge that my signature is on the docket.”

Coetzee then read out a signed letter from the sheriff of the court.

The letter stated that the sheriff had personally explained the implications of the interdict to Marais.

Marais responded: “I acknowledge that [I signed], but I didn’t have anything to do with the papers.”

With a confused look on his face, Coetzee later told The Herald: “I don’t understand why he said that.

“Initially, we applied for a temporary interdict from the Grahamstown Court because we were under the impression he lived in Steynsburg.

“We were then granted the interdict and given two months to act on it.

“Marais then filed his defence to the interdict and we found out that he in fact lived in Cape Town, so we then applied for a summons in Cape Town.

“The sheriff acknowledges giving it to him, he admits to signing it, but now says he has no knowledge of it.”

Marais was brought to Port Elizabeth on Monday from a prison in Bellville, where he is serving an eight-year sentence for selling fixed property that did not belong to him.

His run-ins with the law date back almost 40 years.

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