World, Africa

South African ministers recount hostage situation

Defense minister says no violence meted out during hostage ‘drama’

Hassan Isilow   | 15.10.2021
South African ministers recount hostage situation FILE PHOTO

JOHANNESBURG

South African ministers who were briefly held hostage by war veterans at a hotel in the capital Pretoria on Thursday night say they were not threatened but were unhappy with the situation.

During a televised briefing on Friday, Defense Minister Thandi Modise said, "We didn't feel our lives were in danger, but we were unhappy to be there... against our will."

Defense Minister Thandi Modise, Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele, and Deputy Defense Minister Thabang Makwetla were briefly held hostage by disgruntled veterans of the Liberation Struggle War, who were protesting the government's failure to pay them reparations.

The veterans who were disbanded from the military wing of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party were demanding a one-time payment of 4 million rands (approximately $280,000) as a gratuity.

They were also demanding to meet with President Cyril Ramaphosa to discuss the matter.

Modise said the hostage-taking shows that South Africa is not a military-heavy country where ministers attend meetings escorted by several bodyguards.

She claimed that ministers still have faith in people and sit around them to listen to their grievances.

Minister in the Presidency Gungubele said they told their guards not to react during the hostage situation because they did not want it to turn violent.

He said the situation was triggered after the ministers and the veterans did not agree on how the meeting to resolve their issues should be conducted.

“We reached a point where we thought we were agreeing (and) it should be adjourned,” the minister recalled.

The military veterans closed the doors as they were leaving the meeting hall, he said, and they realized they were being held hostage at that time.

"No legitimate demand of any citizen gives that individual the right to deny any the rights of any other citizen," Modise stated.

Police spokesman Vishnu Naidoo said in a statement on Friday, “After attempts to negotiate with the hostage-takers to release the hostages failed, police resorted to a tactical approach and successfully rescued them,”

Naidoo said shots were not fired during the rescue mission. At least 56 people were arrested and seven of them are women. Police say they will likely face charges of at least three counts of kidnapping. No bullets were fired during the rescue mission, he added.

At least 56 people have been arrested, including seven women. According to police, they will most likely be charged with at least three counts of kidnapping.

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