About 56 suspects were arrested on Thursday in Centurion after they allegedly held hostage Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise, her Deputy Thabang Mokwetla and Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele.
In a video posted on Twitter later in the evening, Gungubele confirmed the incident that took place at the St Georges Hotel in Irene, Centurion.
Liberation struggle veterans represented by the Liberation Struggle War Veterans (LSWV), counting former MK, Apla and AZANLA veterans, were discussing their grievances with Modise when they refused to let her leave the venue. They were expecting a meeting with Deputy President David Mabuza, who chairs the Presidential Task Team on Military Veterans, and had hoped to meet with President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The veterans have been demanding a R4.4 million reparation settlement each, medical aid, a housing allowance, government jobs and their children be put through tertiary education, amongst others.
Gungubele said: “We found ourselves in a situation which I consider untenable, legally unacceptable, where we thought we were in a meeting [which] its intention was to attend to matters that affect military veterans.
“We could not agree on how the meeting should take place. We reached a point where I thought we were agreeing that it should adjourn.”
As the Ministers attempted to leave the meeting venue, he said members of the liberation struggle veterans’ contingent closed the doors.
“It is at this point that we realised that we were being held hostage. It is a situation that was averted by the security forces, very effectively and successfully. We want to thank [Police] Minister Bheki Cele and all other security forces, whatever branch that was involved for the prompt and timeous intervention,” he said.
He said they expected the law to take its cause “in dealing with the behaviour of this nature”.
The intervention on Thursday evening was confirmed by the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJoints) in a statement.
NATJoints spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said: “This evening police successfully rescued at least three hostages at a hotel in Centurion, Pretoria”.
The drama is said to have begun at 19:15 when police received a report of a possible hostage situation in which two Cabinet Ministers and a Deputy Minister were allegedly taken hostage.
He said: “After attempts to negotiate with the hostage takers to release the hostages had failed, police resorted to a tactical approach and successfully rescued the hostages”.
There were no shots fired during the rescue.
Naidoo said at least 56 people, including seven women, were arrested and were likely to face charges of at least three counts of kidnapping.
“While processing the suspects, three of them have been taken for medical checks after they complained of pains,” he said.
Suspended ANC member and former MK Military Veterans Association spokesperson Carl Niehaus said “The crisis that erupted last night…is long in the making. It relates to the manner in which the government has failed to address the…demands of military veterans. Military veterans have been treated poorly for many years, and the legitimate demand in terms of the need for them to be employed, housing, medical care, especially in the manner in which they are treated in the integration to the SANDF and SAPS, is unacceptable.”
He said efforts by the Presidential Task Team on Military Veterans have been inadequate.
Liberation struggle veterans earlier this week camped outside the ANC’s Luthuli House in an effort to get their grievances heard. They marched to the Union Buildings in November 2020.
defenceWeb approached the Department of Military Veterans (DMV), deputy minister Thabang Makwetla’s direct responsibility, for comment on Thursday’s apparent “hostage” incident.
At the time of publishing no response was received and the DMV had not indicated whether it would or not make any public statement.