Museum's army vehicles seized

2005-01-14 08:02

Johannesburg - Two curators and a director of the war museum in Saxonwold were arrested for the illegal possession of suspected stolen military vehicles on Thursday.

Police seized at least four military vehicles, including an Eland-60, Eland-90, a Ferret Mk-2 and a Ratel.

The value of the vehicles is about R120m.

A G6- and G5 cannon were also expected to be removed from the museum's premises.

According to the defence force, the vehicles should have been destroyed and were displayed and maintained at the museum without its knowledge.

Investigators at the museum said the vehicles would be destroyed.

Susanne Blendulf, one of the curators, said police and their military colleagues demanded the vehicles' documents.

"We requested time. There are more than 40 000 items in the museum," she said.

Blendulf was soon afterwards handcuffed.

Richard Henry, a curator, and major John Keene, director of the museum who has been involved with it for more than 37 years, were also handcuffed.

An upset Keene said: "They are going to destroy the vehicles. It's like throwing paint on the Mona Lisa."

Major Dan Mahsba of the military police said no warrant was necessary.

Lieutenant Colonal Louis Kirstein, spokesperson for the defence department, denied the arrests on Thursday night.

"They were only taken in for questioning and to make statements."

He didn't know why they were handcuffed.

Dr Pallo Jordan, minister for arts and culture, and Prof Itumeleng Mosala, director general for the department of arts and culture, were present at the time the vehicles were seized.

Mosala said: "We don't know the facts and therefore cannot comment."