12 November 2012

South Africa: Pretoria Art Theft - Department Not Keeping SA?s Heritage Assets Secure

press release

Reports that the Pretoria Art Museum has been robbed of paintings worth more than R15 million raises serious concern about the security of valuable artefacts in museums and art galleries across the country.

The Pretoria Art Museum falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Arts and Culture.

I will today be submitting questions to Minister of Arts and Culture, Paul Mashatile, to determine the level of security at museums and galleries where valuable art and artefacts are kept, to get information on the current estimated value of art and heritage assets in South African museums and galleries and to find out how such assets are insured and secured.

The Department of Arts and Culture and South African Heritage Resources Agency have not proven themselves adept at protecting South Africa's heritage assets.

A reply to a DA parliamentary question revealed that none of the assets on Robben Island Museum or any of its satellite offices have been valued and we have received information that several artefacts from Nelson Mandela's prison cell and elsewhere on Robben Island have been lost or removed.

We need a full inventory and valuation of South African art and historical artefacts managed by the Department of Arts and Culture, the value of these artefacts and the way in which these artefacts are secured for future generations.

The South African Heritage Resources Agency is supposed to hold an inventory of heritage resources in state ownership. We will be questioning the Minister on whether this inventory is regularly updated and on how important artefacts and heritage items are kept secure.

Museums and art galleries are integral to the protection of heritage assets and the promotion of awareness around our diverse culture and history. It is therefore crucial that the content of these institutions are kept safe for future generations.

The Pretoria Art Museum theft should be a wake-up call to Minister Mashatile.

Niekie van den Berg, DA Spokesperson on Arts and Culture

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