Johannesburg – Defence Minister Thandi Modise and her Deputy Thabang Makwetla alongside Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele were held hostage by disgruntled military veterans on Thursday night but were later released.
It emerged that talks between the Presidential Task Team and the ex-combatants broke down and both parties could not reach an agreement.
The drama reportedly unfolded at the St Georges Hotel near Irene in Gauteng with members refusing to release the officials until their demands were met – this includes a meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa.
This event follows a sit-in protest by the irate veterans at the ANC’s Luthuli House headquarters early this week.
Detailing what transpired, Gungubele said they were about to leave the meeting when all the doors were closed by some of the military veterans attending the meeting.
“It is at that point we realised we were being held hostage. It is a situation that was averted by the security forces very effectively and successfully. We want to thank Minister Bheki Cele and all security forces and whatever branch was involved for a prompt and timeous intervention… We expect the law to follow its course in dealing with the behaviour of this nature,” he said.
Earlier, IOL had reported that Deputy President David Mabuza was set to meet the veterans to discuss their grievances.
The military veterans who had staged a protest were from Azapo, PAC and the ANC.
IOL also understands that some of them were not from around Johannesburg and had to arrange a place to sleep on Wednesday night.
ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe, at the time, said the group was very cooperative, and the party understood their plight.
He added that there were no big fears of a security breach because the ex-combatants had come to the HQ with genuine concerns.
“They have been cooperative. The issues they are raising are part of their plight, and there is a planned meeting between themselves and the deputy president as being delegated to deal with these matters at the level of government,” Mabe said.
According to Mabe, there were already movements to gather the ex-combatants from different parties and address their issues as a collective and not per ex liberation party.
But Mabe’s comments on Thursday did not hold water.
Unconfirmed reports stated that special forces had descended to the area to calm the situation with Modise and Makwetla being evacuated to safety.
National police spokesperson Vish Naidoo said SAPS national spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo 56 people were arrested including 7 women.
“At 7:15 police received reports of a hostage situation at St Goerge hotel. They have been charged with three counts of kidnapping. What I do know is that the three ministers who were whisked away by the protectors did not need medical attention. I don’t know where they are,” said Naidoo.
He did not divulge where we’re the protectors of the ministers when the hostage situation took place.
“3 suspects were treated after complaining about pain, one complained about an injury we are not sure how they got injured. This was a pre-planned meeting, I think what the police have done is extremely commendable. They contained a situation that might have been out of hand,” he said.
Naidoo said there were no shots fired and 3 officials were rescued from the hostage situation.
He said a postpartum would be done on the entire situation and if it is necessary to provide information on the outcomes of the postmortem they will do so.
The suspects will face charges of kidnapping.
Meanwhile, MK military veteran spokesperson Lwazi Mzobe disputed the reports saying the minister (Modise) was allowed to move around on her own.
“We were sitting with them (officials). This was not a hostage. What we wanted is that the President must come and address us,” Mzobe said.
Chairs were used to block the door, however Mzobe denied that the chairs were used to prevent the minister from leaving the venue.
“We did that so they don’t leave the meeting. We never broke the law. I don’t know how many people have been arrested,” said Mzobe.
Mzobe says the special forces want to arrest them because they are suspects.
“They say we are suspects and they want to arrest us. If they don’t arrest us, we are going to the Union Building so that the President’s address is. These criminals have failed to facilitate this meeting,” he said.
ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba said: “There is no respect for the rule of law in this country. People think it’s a joke but there are organisations watching this lawlessness in South Africa and biding their time and waiting for their opportunity. This government is completely unprepared,” he said.
*Additional reporting Itumeleng Mafisa and Noni Mokati