Mpumalanga ‘statue thief’ gets bail

2011-01-26 14:10

A 25-year-old man arrested for allegedly stealing a statue of an ANC struggle icon earlier this week appeared in the Bethal Magistrate’s Court, Mpumalanga police said yesterday.

Corne van Tonder was caught on Tuesday with the life-size statue of Nokuthula Simelane in the back of his bakkie, said Captain Leonard Hlathi.

He was granted R5 000 bail and expected to appear in court again on March 14.

An 18-year-old who was also arrested had the charges against him dropped after it was discovered he had not helped steal the statue, but was called to help Van Tonder fix a flat tyre, Hlathi said.

Van Tonder allegedly tied a rope around the statue’s neck, attached it to his bakkie and drove off, breaking it.

“Witnesses said they only saw one man stealing the statue,” Hlathi said.

Local residents who saw Van Tonder “working” on the statue called the police.

Mpumalanga safety, security and liaison MEC Vusi Shongwe welcomed the arrest, said his spokesman Joseph Mabuza.

“We do not understand why people demolish statues because they tell our history. It is a fact that South Africa has a painful history, but we can learn from it and move forward as a country,” Shongwe was quoted saying.

He said the government spent a lot of money on preserving history.

“Whether we like it or not it does not matter. It is for the future generations.”

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