Stolen Pierneef painting

A Pierneef painting that went missing from the office of the Premier in the Free State in 2018.

Photo: Twitter/Tshenolo Nkoane

‘Whodunnit?’: The mysterious case of Magashule’s missing painting

The case of the missing painting resumed at the Bloemfontein high court on Wednesday 4 March.

Stolen Pierneef painting

A Pierneef painting that went missing from the office of the Premier in the Free State in 2018.

Photo: Twitter/Tshenolo Nkoane

A real ‘whodunnit’ story continues to unfold involving a missing painting, ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule, a security guard and a mysterious businessman. 

Ok, so perhaps the case isn’t exactly an Agatha Christie novel, but the matter of a Pierneef painting going missing from Magashule’s office when he was the outgoing Free State Premier has returned to the Bloemfontein high court. 

A suspected 42-year-old art thief made his first brief appearance in court on Wednesday 4 March but arrived without legal representation. The case was postponed until 25 March 2020 for him to acquire representation. 

He is facing charges of “fraud, theft, in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crimes Act; Contravention of Section 9 of the Justices of Peace and Commissioners of Oaths Act, Act 16 of 1963; making false statements in an affidavit; and Contravention of Section 32 (13) of the National Heritage Resources Act, Act 25 of 1999,” according to police spokesperson Warrant Officer Lynda Steyn.

NPA spokesperson for the free state Phaladi Shuping said that the postponement was expected.

“He has opted to allocate a private lawyer, and he will return to court later this month for representation,” he said. 

“He was subpoenaed in January. because he has not appeared yet, the court was not obligated to instruct him to get an attorney.”

The mysterious missing painting

The Pierneef painting was displayed in Magashule’s office at the OR Tambo Building, in Bloemfontein, and went missing in March 2018 after Magashule vacated the office following his promotion to the upper echelons of the ANC. 

A security guard on Magashule’s detail allegedly found himself in possession of he painting after a mix-up in which items belonging to the State got confused with those belonging to the outgoing Premier. More dubiously, it is alleged that the painting ended up at this security guard’s home prior to him handing it off to the businessman who has now been implicated in the theft.

Months went by with no updates on the painting. Towards the latter parts of 2018, the case was transferred over to the Hawks (Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation) for further investigation.

The Hawks had determined that a security guard from the OR Tambo Building had handed the Pierneef painting over to a businessman, who then went on to have the piece evaluated by renown art dealers Straus & Co.

They found that the situation seemed suspicious, and performed their due diligence to ensure that the painting was not stolen. After publishing an advert of the painting , they learnt that it belonged to the State department, and informed them that it might have been stolen.

It is not yet clear whether the businessman paid for the painting, or indeed who was paid for the transfer of State owned property.

Where is the painting now?

According to the Daily Maverick, the painting has ultimately ended up in safe hands, with Straus & Co ensuring that it stops switching hands between dubious individuals.