Animal activist sees furniture hauled off
● ‘Dog mother’ tells of nightmare removal for someone else’s debt
At the age of 70 and after a lifetime of charity work, animal activist Patsy Wagner has told of the humiliation she felt when a sheriff of the court hauled furniture from her home in full view of her neighbours – all for a debt she said was not even hers.
Wagner said her nightmare had started three years ago – on the day her husband died – and while she staved off that attempt by the sheriff of the court to attach her lounge suite, dining room table, chairs and electronic appliances, her goods were finally removed from her Hillside home in July this year.
The household goods were attached as a result of a debt her son-in-law – who used to live in an outbuilding of her home – owed to a lawyer.
Now there is a court order for the lawyer, Paul Fouche, to return Wagner’s goods, but Fouche says he will fight to have that rescinded.
A devastated Wagner – who earlier this year bade farewell to the Animal Anti-Cruelty League which she served for 35 years – can remember the first of the attempts to attach her goods all too well because it happened at the same time undertakers were removing her husband John’s body from her home.
Indicating a room of her Kriel Street home, Wagner said: “He died in that [bedroom] over there on October 8 2015 and while the undertaker was still busy removing the body, the sheriff arrived with an inventory to remove my goods with a big truck.
“The neighbours and family members stood there in dismay and when I asked what was going on, the sheriff said there was a case between attorney Paul Fouche and my son-inlaw, Hilton Prinsloo.
“We did not know anything about this case. I was devastated and embarrassed,” Wagner said.
While on that occasion the sheriff of the court had not attached Wagner’s goods, they were ultimately removed on July 12 2018 after a lengthy legal wrangle.
And now a severely distressed Wagner is struggling to get her goods back despite the court order that compels Fouche to return the goods and pay storage costs.
But Fouche is determined to hold on to the items and insisted he would return to the court in a bid to have the judgment rescinded.
He said he had become aware of the judgment, handed down in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court only on October 17, after it was delivered in his absence on October 4.
“The rules then make provision for said third party to approach the court, as the claimant, to satisfy the court as to alleged ownership and, in this regard, the court has a discretion to issue an appropriate order, not only relevant to the issue of ownership, per se, but also legal costs and storage costs of the sheriff.
“Accordingly, as I had not been able to be heard on October 4 to test the evidence given in my absence, I intend to apply for the judgment to be rescinded and set aside,” he said.
Wagner said having her pos- sessions taken away was traumatic as she had grown up poor and she and her husband had built their lives “from the ground up [and] now someone took it away”.
“I have never cried like that. I am disappointed over the fact that we built up our lives for the past 48 years and out of nowhere somebody just walked into my house and took my furniture. Is this the law?”
Leonie Hart, of the state attorney’s office, stepped in to help the widow on a pro bono basis.
Hart said there was ample evidence to show, through affidavits submitted to court, that the goods did not belong to Prinsloo and that Fouche was well aware of the court date when judgment was taken against him to have the goods returned.
Prinsloo said the case dated back to 2010 when he approached Fouche seeking help with the drafting of a certificate that would have enabled him to rent out accommodation for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
He claimed no work had been done for him by Fouche, who then slapped him with a bill of R7,136.87.
“He did not do anything to help me. I am very angry. Why attach the goods of my motherin-law? We only stayed there in the backyard and the goods do not belong to me and now he comes and attaches her goods.
“If he wants to fight, let him come after me and not my mother-in-law,” Prinsloo said.
Fouche denied he had done nothing for Prinsloo, saying the capital judgment granted in the magistrate’s court against Prinsloo dates back to May 22 2015. It was in respect of wasted costs incurred by his firm and, hence, translated into corresponding liability by Prinsloo for reparation.
“The record reflects that Prinsloo did make payments in the past in reduction of the judgment debt, inclusive of interest and legal costs and, in admission of his indebtedness.
“It is simply untrue that I did not render professional services to him in the past,” he said.
Affectionately known as the “dog mother”, Wagner has been at the forefront of educating community members on the importance of taking proper care of animals – being attacked on occasion while out in the field.
‘While the undertaker was still busy removing the body, the sheriff arrived with an inventory to remove my goods with a big truck. The neighbours stood there in dismay’
DEEPLY HUMILIATED: Animal activist Patsy Wagner, 70, was horrified when a sheriff of the court hauled her furniture from her home in full view of her neighbours – all for a debt she says was not even hers