Xolani Koyana

IZIKO Museum released photographs of about 19 antiques at least three centuries old stolen from Manor House, in the Western Cape, in a burglary on Monday, as for a second day visitors had to be turned away.

Chief executive Rooksana Omar refused to divulge the value of the items: “Reports alleging (it) exceeds R50 million cannot be confirmed.”

Andrew Newall, a member of the SA Antique Dealers’ Association, said the items would be difficult for the thieves to dispose of. “They can’t sell them here. They can’t go on the market in Europe because they will know where they come from.”

Reports that the items were worth R50m were incorrect, said Newall, estimating their value at below R1m.

The thieves were likely to sell the items in the Asian market, particularly the Chinese mainland, he said.

Newall said there had been another burglary at the museum, 10 years ago, through the roof. The burglars were arrested and items they stole were recovered when they tried to sell them in the local market.

He said it was suspicious how the burglars were unnoticed. “They must have studied the place well. They must have had a truck because most of the items are heavy. The plates they could have easily taken, but most of the vases are knee high and would require a vehicle. Where was the security and how did the perpetrators get access?”

The Manor House museum is at the Groot Constantia Estate, which dates back to 1685, when the land was taken by the first colonial governor of the then Cape Colony, Simon van der Stel.

Items kept at Manor House include textiles, ceramics and furniture, including a Cape stinkwood bureau from 1770.

While the museum would be closed until further notice, other facilities on the Groot Constantia Wine Estate would be open.

Police spokesman November Filander said the burglars had gained access through a window.

Omar said yesterday that 19 porcelain items, mostly Asian, had been stolen, including a lidded porcelain vase decorated in famille rose enamels dating back three centuries.

Among the stolen items were mid 17th-century Japanese Arita porcelain and a pair of lidded blue and white Chinese porcelain vases, also from the 17th century.

Omar said they had decided to release the images to help with the investigation.

Police were yet to make arrests. Anyone with information can telephone the investigating officer, Warrant Officer Steven Lewis, at 021 710 7363/49 or call 10111 or Crime Stop anonymously at 086 001 0111, or SMS Crimeline at 32211.