THE HISTORIC Manor House at Groot Constantia has been looted by burglars, and questions are being asked about how they managed to get into the 17th century building at the weekend.
The manor house, managed by Iziko Museums, contains valuable antiques, including Chinese porcelain items.
Iziko chief executive Rooksana Omar said in a statement today that staff had discovered that “certain valuable items” from the collection had been stolen when they opened yesterday.
Police spokesman November Philander said the burglars had gained entry through a window.
A morning newspaper reported today that the porcelain had been targeted in the burglary, and that the stolen items could be worth as much as R50 million.
But Cape Town oriental porcelain expert Andre Newall, who is familiar with the collection at Groot Constantia, believes this figure is a gross exaggeration.
“Some of the items in the collection are certainly of a high quality, but nothing in there is priceless,” he said today.
“They would’ve been lucky to escape with a million rand’s worth.”
He pointed out that about 10 years ago, Groot Constantia had also been the target of thieves, who broke in through the roof.
“It’s very curious for the same location to be hit by two such thefts. One would think that after the first (theft), proper security measures were put in place to avoid another one.
“I think that serious questions need to be asked of the Iziko management about how the burglars breached the security.”
Groot Constantia’s location would require burglars to breach the exterior gates and to have a vehicle at the building, he added.
“It’s unlikely that the thieves are going to be running with bags over the shoulder through the vineyards.”
At the time of going to print, Susan Glanville-Zini, director of institutional advancement at Iziko Museums Cape Town, could not be reached for comment on how the security breach had occurred and why Iziko had only found out about the crime the following morning.
Iziko said in its statement that it was working with the police to investigate.
A year ago, almost to the day, rare Oriental porcelain worth R500 000 was stolen from the Academy of Science and Art in Pretoria.