The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has withdrawn the case against 52 military veterans accused of taking Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise, her Deputy Thabang Mokwetla and Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele hostage in October last year.
The NPA on Tuesday said the case was withdrawn following successful representations by the accused after they were initially charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping and 26 counts of kidnapping.
“After careful consideration of the contents of the docket and representations made by the defence, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in the Gauteng Division: Pretoria decided to withdraw the charges against the war veterans. The state is of the view that there is no prima facie case because neither the identity nor the individual acts committed by each individual accused can be proven,” the NPA said in a statement.
“The manner in which the arrest was conducted also complicated identification as everyone on the scene was arrested except for the hostage victims. A process of elimination was then used to establish who were the attendees and or employees of the hotel and who were the actual captors of the alleged hostage victims. After that process the police released some of the people who could not be linked before they even appeared in court.”
The NPA added that the complainants were also reluctant to proceed with the matter and “sympathised with the accused. In their statements some indicated that they joined in the singing and dancing in the room together with the veterans. One witness said in his statement that there was never a hostile environment in the room. Witnesses were unable to identify who performed what act at the scene.”
No further representations for reinstating prosecution from the complainants have been received, the NPA’s spokesperson Lumka Mahanjana concluded.
The incident 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 were 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.
As the Ministers attempted to leave the meeting venue, members of the liberation struggle veterans’ contingent closed the doors. Police rescued the ‘hostages’ after three hours in a ‘tactical intervention’.