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Pretoria - The Tshwane metro had been repeatedly warned about the lack of adequate security measures at the Pretoria Art Museum, the Democratic Alliance claimed on Monday.
Reacting to Sunday's brazen robbery, in which five paintings estimated at around R15 million were stolen, DA spokesman Johan Welmans blamed the municipality.
“I have alerted the Tshwane metro about the lack of commitment towards this institution for a long time. The impression I got is that the Pretoria Art Museum is simply not a priority for the ANC-led Tshwane metro,” he said.
“The DA has been concerned about the management of the museum for a long time. The reported value of R15 million lost is relative if one considers that this fine art is irreplaceable,” said Welmans.
However, Pieter de Necker, spokesman for Tshwane Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa, said the robbery was a wakeup call for museums across the country.
“It is unfortunate the CCTV cameras were not working this weekend. A fault was reported on Thursday and has been fixed today,” said de Necker.
“Security at museums should be improved. This incident calls for extra measures to be implemented,” he said.
De Necker said the security concerns were not confined to the DA but were shared amongst many people in South Africa.
“It (security) is a concern for many museums across the country. The criminals walked in like art lovers and robbed the museum at gunpoint,” he said.
The Pretoria Art Museum was manned by private security guards. On Sunday, three security officials were protecting the facility, said De Necker.
He said the municipality was providing counseling service for the “traumatised” personnel who endured the robbery.
The Beeld newspaper reported on Monday that the five paintings seized included an Irma Stern, worth R9 million, and a Gerard Sekoto, worth R7 million.
A sixth painting, Irma Stern's “Two Malay Musicians”, valued at R12 million, was dumped on the pavement outside the museum after the robbery, apparently because the criminals were unable to fit it into their getaway car, a silver Toyota Avanza.
They also made off with Maggie Laubser's “Cat and Petunias”, valued at R1 million, JH Pierneef's “Eland and Bird”, valued at R45,000, and Hugo Naude's “Hottentot Chief”, worth R300 000.
According to museum staff, the thieves arrived with a “shopping list” of what they wanted, and demanded to be given specific paintings.
After holding staff member Daywood Khan at gunpoint, they took out their list, and demanded to know where the paintings were.
Museum curator Dirk Oegema said the robbery would be discussed at an urgent management meeting on Monday.
Art expert Stephen Welz said the theft was a tragedy, but that he was puzzled by it, as famous works of art were so well documented that it was nearly impossible to sell them, locally or abroad. - Sapa