Post “hostage” military veterans’ press conference downplayed as “appeasement”


Thursday night’s apparent “hostage” incident involving three of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet Ministers brought the speedy response of what has been termed “an appeasement press conference” with a progress list from the Presidentially appointed military veterans’ task team trundled out.

The vice-president David Mabuza-headed task team has to date had three provincial consultations with veterans and more are planned to “resolve issues” according to a Presidency statement issued to coincide with Friday’s briefing in Pretoria. In Mabuza’s absence, the briefing was led by Minister in the Presidency, Mondli Gungubele. He, together with Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise and her deputy Thabang Makwetla, were the targets of irate veterans apparently held against their will before being released without harm on Thursday.

Thursday’s ill-fated meeting at the St George’s Hotel in Centurion’s Irene was called, Gungubele’s statement said, to “engage” with a group of military veterans under the name Liberation Struggle War Veterans (LSWV).

“This group of military veterans we were engaging with last night have been engaged by government over the past 11 months in spite of the existence of recognised military veterans’ associations in the interests of reaching out to the broader section of veterans,” the statement read adding the relevant government authority in the form of the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) “consistently appealed” to LSWV to register “to facilitate better engagements”.

All did not apparently work out resulting in an LSWV march to the Union Buildings in November followed by another hopefully “better engagement” at the hotel on Centurion’s south-eastern boundary.

Thursday’s meeting was “at the request of LSWV” and, in addition to Gungubele, was attended by Modise and Makwetla, apparently at Mabuza’s request.

Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister, Kobus Marais, pointed out “the hostage situation which unfolded at St George’s Hotel was a direct violation of Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act (PCSATRA)” adding the subsequent press conference was one of “appeasement” to “mollycoddle” those arrested, who reportedly face charges in connection with kidnapping.

“The press conference did not say anything new about the welfare of military veterans or how successive ANC administrations continue to fail them. In all honesty, the Presidential Task Team was papering over the cracks in internal ANC factional battles. The events (in Irene) were a manifestation of the high stakes game played by ANC factions to get an upper hand over each other.

“The DA is on record stating the Department of Defence and Military Veterans (DoDMV) should update the military veterans’ database and ensure qualifying individuals are given the necessary support as provided for under the Military Veterans Act.”

Marais further expressed concern the “ill-informed press conference created a bad precedent and birthed the perception demands can be met if Cabinet Ministers are held hostage”.