R35 000 for ‘stolen’Gandhi pic­ture

The Sunday Independent - - NEWS - Nabee­lah.shaikh@inl.co.za

MYS­TERY sur­rounds the sale of a paint­ing of Ma­hatma Gandhi that was auc­tioned for R35 000 at a fund-raiser but that the artist claims was stolen from him.

Artist Ashley Moon­samy, a lec­turer at Thek­wini Col­lege, claims the paint­ing was taken to a Dur­ban art store and framers in 2013 to be framed by Prethe­vie Mo­han­lall.

Mo­han­lall, who owned Nico’s Art and Frames in the Dur­ban CBD, which is now based at the Sta­bles Lifestyle Mar­ket, al­legedly told Moon­samy that the paint­ing had been stolen by one of his em­ploy­ees.

How­ever, Moon­samy was shocked when he dis­cov­ered re­cently that the paint­ing had been auc­tioned at a Sho­tokan Karate In­ter­na­tional South Africa (Sk­isa) 50th an­niver­sary fundrais­ing event at the Dur­ban Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy’s Rit­son cam­pus last week.

He made en­quiries into its sale and has since opened a charge of theft against Mo­han­lall.

“I had taken two of my orig­i­nal paint­ings to him in 2013 to be framed. One was a Ja­cob Zuma paint­ing and the other was Gandhi. I was a for­mer client of his and left the paint­ings in his pos­ses­sion to be framed,” said Moon­samy.

Sev­eral at­tempts to get the framed paint­ing back were made, but to no avail.

“I went into the store and re­quested for the paint­ing mul­ti­ple times but ex­cuses were al­ways given. On most oc­ca­sions Mo­han­lall was never present at the store,” said Moon­samy.

“Even­tu­ally, the store was closed down and moved to the Sta­bles Lifestyle Mar­ket. I tracked down Mo­han­lall there and he said he was will­ing to pay me R3 000 for the paint­ing as it was stolen from him by an em­ployee. I did not budge as this up­set me.”

Sonny Pil­lay of Sk­isa con­firmed that the paint­ing had been bought from Nico’s in 2013.

He said the paint­ing was pur­chased on be­half of the Sk­isa Trust, which had been a long-stand­ing client of Nico’s.

“I’m baf­fled by the claim that this paint­ing was stolen.

“We le­git­i­mately pur­chased the paint­ing for R4 650 at the time us­ing the Sk­isa Trust. This was the sec­ond time that we had auc­tioned it. The first time, there was a prob­lem with the bid­der’s pay­ment,” said a shocked Pil­lay.

The Sun­day Tri­bune has also seen the bank state­ments re­flect­ing the pay­ment to Nico’s.

When con­tacted for com­ment, Mo­han­lall gave two dif­fer­ent ver­sions.

In an ini­tial con­ver­sa­tion with the Sun­day Tri­bune he claimed the paint­ing had been stolen by an em­ployee who had re­quested to take it to be viewed by a po­ten­tial buyer.

“The em­ployee, who I only knew as Joseph, then took off with the paint­ing and never re­turned. I couldn’t even open a case against him be­cause I didn’t have his full de­tails,” said Mo­han­lall.

When the Sun­day Tri­bune re­turned to Mo­han- lall for com­ment after Sk­isa had con­firmed that it had pur­chased the paint­ing, Mo­han­lall said he was “con­fused”. He claimed he had mixed up the facts. “I am not deny­ing that Sk­isa could have bought the paint­ing. Yes, they could have bought the paint­ing from me, but I some­times have more than one Gandhi paint­ing and maybe at the time, my em­ployee stole the other Gandhi paint­ing, which I had mis­taken for Moon­samy’s paint­ing,” he said.

“I did of­fer to pay him some­thing for the stolen paint­ing which I thought was his, but he re­fused my of­fer.”

Mo­han­lall said he was aware that a crim­i­nal charge had been laid against him and that he was the one who had ad­vised Moon­samy to open the charge if he felt that he had stolen his paint­ing.

Po­lice spokesper­son Colonel Thembeka Mb­hele con­firmed that a case of theft of a paint­ing had been opened at Dur­ban Cen­tral Po­lice Sta­tion and that the mat­ter was un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

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