Desmond Tutu's Nobel Peace Prize medal - a gold medallion said to be worth more than R1-million - is among items recovered after a break-in at his Soweto home at the weekend.
Five suspects have been arrested in connection with the burglary at the house in Orlando West's famous Vilakazi Street.
Police spokesperson Superintendent Thembi Nkwashu said the break-in was discovered early yesterday morning by Tutu's domestic worker, Mapule Tsatsi, who unlocked the house at 7.30am and discovered that it had been ransacked. She reported the matter to the Orlando police station.
The house breakers appeared to have taken their time, rifling through cupboards and going for electronic appliances and jewellery.
Several precious medals and merit awards, which had not been on display, were taken. The suspects placed little value on a purple hard hat - presumably a once-special presentation to Tutu as it was emblazoned with his name and "Lonmin visit 2 October 2006", tossing it aside on the verandah.
They also polished off a bottle of 1994 Middelvlei Pinotage, another prized possession as it was labelled as Tutu's 1998 Newsmaker of the Year Award, given to him by the Johannesburg Press Club.
"We started working on this case immediately and just after midnight - at 12.23am to be exact - we made our first arrests," said Nkwashu.
Four men were apprehended in Orlando East as they sat in a Nissan Sentra. They were taken into custody after a number of the stolen items were found in their possession.
This first arrest led to another breakthrough a short while later when police arrested a fifth man at the Dube hostel in Soweto. He was found to be in possession of a 54cm LG TV set, which he had allegedly bought from the four suspects.
This morning the recovered items were being held at the Orlando police station,. They included the Nobel medal and some other prizes the archbishop emeritus has been awarded for his peacemaking efforts.
Nkwashu said the Nissan Sentra had been seized by police as investigations indicated that it could have been used during the break-in. It was owned by the mother of one of the suspects and would now be checked for possible links to other crimes in the area.
She said investigations were also being conducted into the dealings of the fifth detainee as "we believe he could have been working as the market for stolen stuff, so we are going to work very hard on that guy".
Nkwashu added that the first four accused would appear in court soon on charges of housebreaking and theft while the fifth would be charged with possession of stolen property
By Gill Gifford The Star