The chain mystery deepens

2014-01-20 00:00

THE mystery of the missing links in the Msunduzi mayoral chain deepens with former city mayors confirming that the current chain is much shorter than when they wore it.

A Witness probe has also uncovered information that the 18-carat chain and two medallions, which make up the mayoral regalia, had been appraised by an established city jeweller and could be worth close to R800 000 today.

However, it is invaluable historically as it dates back to the 1800s. The chain was made in such a way that links can be added or removed. If links were stolen, they would have been easy to remove.

The Witness reported on Friday that there were missing links to the mayoral chain. This was pointed out by councillor Bill Lambert, who raised the issue of rampant theft at city hall during an Executive Committee (Exco) meeting.

Former mayor Rob Haswell, who co-authored the book Pietermaritzburg 1838 to 1988: a New Portrait of an African City, explained that the actual mayoral chain dated back to the 1800s when the Pietermaritzburg city council was first formed.

He said that each link in the chain was in the form of a small medallion that had the name of a former mayor engraved on it. He said as far as he was aware, the chain was very heavy so it was kept at between 30 and 40 links.

A list of former mayors on the Pieter­maritzburg History website shows the city had about 65 mayors from 1854 to 1990. In the 1800s and early 1900s, mayors generally served only a year in office.

Former mayor Pat Cornell said the mayor’s name was engraved when they completed office. Cornell believes there are several links missing from the chain worn by current Mayor Chris Ndlela, which appears vastly shorter than the one he wore. Cornell recalled there being about 34 links on the chain when he was mayor. He said from the front of Ndlela’s chain there appeared to be at least seven links missing.

A former council staffer, who did not want to be named, said it would be hard to tell because since 1994 they had stopped engraving the names of the mayors. She did not think that either Cornell’s nor Haswell’s names were on the chain nor the names of subsequent mayors.

A former staffer, who did not want to be named, said the chain and others were sent to a city jeweller to be appraised in 2004.

The mayoral chain is 18-carat yellow gold and weighs 665 grams. It was valued then at R166 000. Its current value is estimated to be R665 000.

Two medallions form part of the chain. The medallions are not as old as the chain, but are historic in their own right. They were donated to the city by South African Breweries (SAB). Castle Breweries — the forerunner to SAB — was started in Pietermaritzburg where the Laager Centre is in Langalibalele Street.

Both medallions have emblems of castles. The one is made from 18-carat gold, weighs 39,2 grams and was valued at R9 800 (today R39 000). The other is an 18-carat yellow gold enamel medallion, weighs 87,2 grams and was valued at R21 800 (today R87 000).

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