Brave Uitenhage school principal dies after chase

Tributes stream in for Daniel Pienaar head who collapsed as he apprehended alleged robbe

Samuel Marais
Samuel Marais
Image: Supplied

“He had the heart of a lion.” This is how teachers at Daniel Pienaar Technical High School in Uitenhage described their principal Samuel Marais, 59, who died of an apparent heart attack after chasing down two suspected robbers on Thursday afternoon.

Sampie, as he was affectionately known, died after chasing two youths who had allegedly robbed two pupils of their cell- phones.

The robbery happened at about 2.30pm.

Marais died about an hour later after catching one of the suspects, a 17-year-old, less than a kilometre away.

According to police, two pupils ran to the hostel saying they had been robbed.

Marais and another teacher jumped into his car and sped after the alleged robbers.

Police spokesperson Captain Gerda Swart said the two pupils had been walking down Daniel Pienaar Street when they were approached by two youths.

“One of the men suddenly threatened the pupils with a knife and demanded their cellphones.

“The suspects took the two cellphones and ran away.

“The two pupils immediately ran back to the hostel and reported the robbery to their principal [Marais].”

Swart said Marais had taken off in his car searching for the two suspects.

“One of the suspects, a 17- year-old boy, was recognised by one of the pupils as he was walking in Channer Street, Uitenhage,” she said.

“Upon seeing the vehicle, the suspect ran into Buxton Avenue, Uitenhage, and was apprehended with the assistance of another community member who stopped to assist.”

Swart said Marais had been standing next to the suspect when he suddenly collapsed.

“Community members contacted the ambulance services and Marais was declared dead on the scene.

“The cause of his death is not known at this stage and an inquest was opened for investigation.”

The minor was arrested for the robbery and detained at a juvenile detention centre.

Pupils at the school were dismissed early on Friday morning following the news of his death.

A sombre atmosphere filled the corridors at the school, with the doors closed before noon.

Friday morning saw former pupils dropping off flowers at

the school while friends and colleagues shared their tributes to Marais on Facebook.

Teachers said they were saddened by his passing, adding that Marais had been very proud of the school where he had not only taught but also matriculated in 1978.

He was part of the Daniel Pienaar staff for 35 years.

Education MEC Fundile Gade sent condolences to the family.

“We thank Mr Marais for his meaningful contribution to the education in this province and we hope others will follow suit because he led by example, and he died while trying to safeguard the school,” Gade said.

A tribute from a Facebook friend, Chezney Louw, read: “Rest in Peace Mr Sampie Marais. He was not only a great presence in school – whether or not he was your teacher you knew you could talk to him, have a laugh or receive support – but he was also a hero!”