Vandals steal heritage statue
There is a price of R5 000 on the head of Doman, the first real freedom fighter from our history, who died in 1663.
The long-awaited opening of the grand new Heritage Monument in Pretoria on Tuesday had to be cancelled at the last minute after a life-size bronze statue of Doman was stolen.
The statue by Sarah Richards, a well-known sculptor from KwaZulu Natal, is worth about R380 000.
The department of arts and culture has been left red-faced by the shock loss in the Groenkloof Nature Reserve in the Fountains Valley.
Departmental spokesperson Baile Maunye claimed that the opening was cancelled because Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa could not attend because of “other commitments”.
But Tshwane metro council acting police chief Leon Lessing said theft was the real reason.
Doman is one of 55 statues – including King Shaka, Sol Plaatje, Sefako Makgatho, Steve Biko, Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo, and Walter and Albertina Sisulu – that were moved from the Oliewenhuis Museum in Bloemfontein to the Fountains Valley two weeks ago.
Lessing said the thieves entered the security gates at the Fountains in a bakkie last Saturday night.
The robbers broke Doman’s statue from its pedestal, carried it up the hill to the far end of the site and loaded it into their bakkie. “The statue was very heavy and the robbers’ footsteps could still be seen clearly on the ground the next day,” said Lessing.
With the statue on the back of the bakkie, the robbers drove right past the security staff without being noticed.
On Tuesday, all the statues were covered in black material and the area was cordoned off with a green plastic cover.
Lessing said the statues were covered because they feared the robbers were selective about which heroes they stole.
“We do not know if an art collector is behind the theft, or whether it was merely stolen to be sold as scrap metal,” he said.
A charge of theft has been reported to the police.
On Sunday, a pamphlet was placed on the notice board at the Fountains offering a reward of R5 000 to anyone who could help to find the statue. It was also distributed at taxi ranks in Pretoria and Johannesburg.
The safety of the statues is the responsibility of the National Heritage Project Company. Dali Tambo, chief executive of the company, failed to respond to repeated enquiries.
Tambo earlier described the project as “the largest national heritage monument” in South Africa.
The plan is to put up statues of 500 struggle and historical figures at the monument.
According to the department of arts and culture, the monument is financed by “generous” subsidies from the Lotteries Board and the departments of arts and culture, and tourism.
The statue of Doman, the first freedom fighter from SA’s history, who died in 1663
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