Theft from museums and churches on the rise

Theft of artifacts and ”heritage objects” from museums, galleries and churches is on the rise, said Minister of Arts and Culture Pallo Jordan on Monday.

”Unfortunately, many of these items have not been recovered,” he said in response to questions in Parliament.

The Department of Arts and Culture had an ”inconclusive list” of missing, lost and stolen items from its heritage institutions. It contained items stolen from 1990 onwards and included many military artifacts predating the World War II.

”Many of these are ceremonial daggers, swords and medals that are invaluable and have an international currency. In fact, they can be traded anywhere in the world.”

The objects varied vastly in value. The cheapest item was a R30 tray cloth stolen in 1995 from the Northern Flagship Museum. It had not yet been recovered.

A replica of Chief Albert Luthuli’s wrist watch, stolen in 2004, was recovered later that year.

”Interpol has assisted us in recovering some invaluable heritage items,” said Jordan.

The South African Heritage Resource Agency had recently started an audit of ”heritage assets”.

This list would help curb illegal trafficking in such items.

”Both national legislation as well as international instruments to which South Africa is signatory obliges government to develop such a list,” said Jordan. — Sapa

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