This image shows the extent of the theft from the roof of the Pietermaritzburg City Hall which was stripped by a copper thief. Picture courtesy of Burkhard Scholsser.
This image shows the extent of the theft from the roof of the Pietermaritzburg City Hall which was stripped by a copper thief. Picture courtesy of Burkhard Scholsser.

'Our heritage is being stripped.' says angry Pietermaritzburg residents after city hall roof is stolen by thieves

By Lee Rondganger Time of article published Sep 20, 2021

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DURBAN: The Msunduzi Municipality is facing fresh criticism over its priorities in managing ratepayers funds.

New images have emerged of the extent of the damage of the historic Pietermaritzburg City Hall’s roof and the subsequent damage inside the building that was caused when a thief stripped the roof of its copper sheeting.

The charge is being led by the Msundizi Association of Residents, Ratepayers and Civics (Marrc) which has lambasted the city’s decision to fund the privately owned Maritzburg United football club to the tune of R27 million over the next three years while its heritage building falls apart.

“It is absolutely devastating what we are witnessing in this city,” Lara Edmonds, of Marcc, said.

“This is the biggest red brick building in, in southern Africa where Nobel Laureates like Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Chief Albert Luthuli spoke. In the month when we should be celebrating our heritage we are watching before our very eyes how our heritage is being looted and falling to ruins,” she said.

Recently, councillors at the municipality voted to approve the Martizburg United sponsorship deal which would see the Premier Soccer League club receive R9m a season for the next three years.

The municipality defended its decision to fund the football club, saying the club contributed significant economic spin-offs to the city by its presence.

Paint is peeling and the intricate masonry work inside the Pietermaritzburg City Hall shows damage. Concerned residents believe that this has been caused by the Msunduzi Municipality’s failure to properly fix the the sheeting of the roof that was stolen. Picture: Courtesy of Burkard Schlosser.

In October last year, a thief who had been stripping the Pietermaritzburg City Hall’s roof was caught by security guards.

He has been stealing the valuable copper sheeting, piece by piece, and putting them into a black bag.

A wall on the inside of the Pietermaritzburg City Hall shows damage more than a year after pieces of the roof were stolen. Picture: Courtesy of Burkard Schlosser.

By the time he was apprehended and handed over to police, a lot of damage had been done to the 100-year-old roof. Given the extent of the damage, it is not known if the man acted alone or in concert with other thieves.

The Msunduzi Municipality reportedly temporarily fixed the roof with zinc sheeting after the theft but Edmonds believes that the workmanship was either poor or it was not done at all.

“We just don’t know at this stage if the damage inside the building was caused by the old theft or if this is new theft. You don’t have to be a roofing expert to see that the roof is not repaired properly,” she said.

The inside of the historic Pietermaritzburg City Hall has been damaged after a thief stole the copper sheeting off its roof. Picture: Courtesy of Burkard Schlosser.

IOL sent the Msunduzi Municipality a list of questions about the roof last week Thursday and by Monday morning. The city has not responded.

Among the questions:

- What is the estimated cost of the damage?

- When will repairs take place and why has it not been repaired, given the fact that the roof was stolen more than a year ago?

- What is the Msunduzi Municipality doing to protect the City's heritage buildings as many have been stripped by thieves?

However, speaking to the Mercury, Msunduzi mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla said while he did not want to speculate, it was concerning that such theft occurred while the building had 24-hour security.“

We have caught the person who did this and a case has been opened. This theft happened some time ago. We do not want to speculate on what happened there while the investigation is being conducted, but we need to find out if people were let into the building.

“City Hall has 24-hour security, we need to know how these people were able to access the building,” he said.


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