The Hawks are investigating the alleged theft earlier this year of a painting by South African landscape master JH Pierneef from the office of Ace Magashule while he was still the premier of the Free State, the Daily Maverick reported on Monday.
The painting, apparently worth between R6m and R8m, was placed among Magashule’s personal belongings when his office was cleared out. According to Daily Maverick, it was given to one of Magashule’s closest aides, Ricardo Mettler, who admitted receiving the painting as a gift from Magashule at the former premier’s house.
The painting was then given to a local businessman, who in turn asked auctioneers Strauss & Co to help determine the artwork’s value. The auctioneer placed an advertisement publicising the Pierneef, which drew the attention of Free State authorities, who then discovered the artwork was missing. Strauss & Co then reported the matter to the police.
Mettler told the Daily Maverick: “The painting wasn’t stolen at all, it was given to me by Magashule, but afterwards we realised that it was an error.”
An ANC spokesperson did not reply to the Daily Maverick when asked for comment. He also did not answer calls from News24 on Monday morning.
Pierneef paintings have been a target of art thieves for years. In May 2005, a Pierneef titled Near Golden Gate was cut from its frame at the SABC’s head office in Auckland Park and stolen. The thieves were later caught, but the painting was ruined.
In June last year, a previously unseen Pierneef painting, Farm Jonkershoek with Twin Peaks Beyond, Stellenbosch, went completely beyond its estimate of between R6m and R8m, by fetching R20 462 400 on auction.
At the time, this was the second highest price ever achieved for a painting sold at auction in South Africa, Strauss & Co said.