Defence minister rescued after being ‘held hostage’ by disgruntled military veterans


The South African Police Service Special Task Force has apparently rescued Defence Minister Thandi Modise after she was allegedly held hostage by military veterans at the St Georges Hotel on Thursday evening.

Initial reports say military 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 are 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.

“We sacrificed our youth and our careers, we sacrificed everything, and that cannot be calculated. We thought this amount can help us to survive as military veterans. We want job placement and to be integrated into the economy and not to be beggars on welfare. We want to earn our means,” LSWV spokesperson Lwazi Mzobe told News24.

Military veterans have been camping outside the ANC’s Luthuli House in Johannesburg for the past several days. They marched to the Union Buildings in November 2020.

The meeting on Thursday evening was expected to address veterans’ grievances, but it appears little progress was made. Modise, Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele and Deputy Minister of Defence Thabang Makwetla were apparently kept inside the St Georges Hotel outside Pretoria for more than two hours by around 30 veterans before being rescued by the SAPS, assisted by members of the Military Police.

“They were blocking the doors and chanting inside and outside and they wouldn’t let us leave,” one source told Eyewitness News.

News24 reports Gungubele as saying the Task Force was sent in around 22:00 and arrested the veterans, who refused to discuss theirs concerns with anyone but Ramaphosa and Mabuza.

Mzobe told News24 shots were fired when the Task Force and military police arrived, and some of the veterans sustained injuries. However, other sources suggest only stun grenades were used.

Darren Olivier, Director at African Defence Review, stated that “taking ministers hostage is a significant breakdown in the rule of law, and a worrying development. There is no justifying this either, no matter who the perpetrators are or how right they believe their grievances are.”