18th century artefact targeted again after June theft attempt
Cannon fodder is what may become of an 18th century artefact if a plan is not devised to safeguard it on its perch atop Cannon Hill in Uitenhage. Stolen on June 17 last year, the cannon, weighing more than two tons, was rescued by a passer-by who spotted thieves trying to cart it away in broad daylight.
It was finally bolted back into place in November after having been kept at a secure location, and cleaned – but already it has been defaced.
Now sprayed with graffiti, both the cannon and the repainted King George V monument behind it again look worse for wear.
Yesterday, the monument was strewn with condoms – and even underwear.
Mandela Bay Heritage Trust vice-chairwoman and Eastern Cape Historical Organisation secretary Jennifer Bennie said she feared history would repeat itself if the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality failed to implement preventative measures to protect the integrity of the monument.
“I think the time has come for the cannon to be moved into a protected area such as the Drostdy Museum in Uitenhage because the task of protecting it in its current location is almost impossible,” she said.
“It is one of a kind and its value can’t even be translated into money. It is one of the oldest and most valuable artefacts we have in the metro.”
Last year, a citizen’s arrest led to its recovery. The accused was subsequently released and police spokesman Sergeant Majola Nkohli said no case regarding the attempted theft had been opened with the Uitenhage police.
Four cast-iron gates at the entrance to the monument were also stolen two years ago.
Municipal spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki said: “There is communication between the directorate of sport, recreation, arts and culture and the directorate of safety and security on the sustainable measures that will be put in place.
“In the meantime the area will be monitored by the municipality [safety and security] division. ”
The monument was used as a lookout from 1799 to 1810, when conflict between settlers and indigenous people was high.
The iconic cannon originally formed part of the 80-gun ship, the Amsterdam. While most of its cannons were abandoned before it ran aground near the Swartkops River mouth in 1817, General Jacob Cuyler recovered one and placed it in front of the Uitenhage court.
It was moved in 1911 to Cannon Hill, where it was used to announce the arrival of royal babies and on other special occasions.
After firing its final shot in 1923, it remained at the monument.