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Historic slave bell snatched at hotel

Scrap metal thieves have stolen an invaluable historical artifact from a well known Paarl hotel. Not only that, but only days later, these same thieves returned to a neighbouring guest-house, also stealing a valuable metal sculpture.

In the week of 23-30 August suspects entered the Grand Roche Hotel in Plantasie Street and stole the slave bell which dates back to around 1704.

Sales and marketing manager Nadia Samuels-Zwaan said that they last saw the historical bell on 23 August as they rang it at a special ceremony on Slave Remembrance Day.

Nadia said that on 30 August a visitor pointed out to them that the bell was missing from it’s bell-fry while on a tour of the estate.

Such a bell is most probably made of brass and would have easily weighed 100 kg.

“We are absolutely devastated,” said Samuels-Zwaan. She said the historical item was the original bell used to communicate with slaves on the farm.

“The chapel [next to the bell] was built by Hermanus Bosman in 1704 for slaves to worship and get married in,” she said and explained it was still tradition to ring the bell at weddings at the venue.

Samuels-Zwaan is baffled by how anyone could have stolen the bell.

“It had to be two people and they had to have the right tools, the bell must be very heavy,” she said. She said footprints were still visible in the garden under the bell when they discovered it has been stolen. Samuels-Zwaan said they “just want the bell back”. The hotel is willing to reward anyone who can help find the bell.

And on Friday 31 August, a guest house next to the Grand Roche Hotel, which is separated by a vineyard and a fence, also suffered a theft, when a bronze statue was stolen from the guest house’s porch. Manager Chantal Bingle said the statue is that of an ethnic woman, weighs 24 kg, is 80 cm high and is made of bronze. The guest house is willing to pay a R2 500 reward for its safe return.

According to residents of the area from Bosman Street to Southern Paarl, they are under siege with break ins common.

It is not unknown here that houses are broken into when people are sleeping, only to find there valuables missing the next morning.

But Paarl police station spokesperson Captain Louise du Plessis said there has not been an increase in robberies in this area and the incidents are general thefts that occurred.

“Although copper and other metal theft is widespread throughout the Paarl area, these two incidents are the first to have occurred in the Southern Paarl area,” said Du Plessis.

Southern Paarl has active neighbourhood watches and security companies patrolling the area. “Any information can be forwarded to the Paarl police on 021 807 4139,” Du Plessis said.

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