South Africa’s three government ministers which included Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele, Defense Minister Thandi Modise and her deputy Thabang Makwetla were “allegedly” held hostage on Thursday night last week by a group of ANC military veterans.
The group of Liberation Struggle War Veterans (LSWV), including MK, Apla and Azanla members, met with the minister, Thandi Modise, and Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele in Pretoria. The veterans allegedly held Modise hostage, demanding R4.2-million each.
Attempts to negotiate the ministers’ release were unsuccessful, resulting in a rescue operation mounted by Special Task Force police members – 56 LSWV members were arrested without a shot fired. Miraculously.
The ex-apartheid fighters locked the ministers in a hotel room after failed talks over a compensation deal. The ministers were meeting with the Liberation Struggle War Veterans (LSWV), comprised of members of various armed groups that fought apartheid, including Umkhonto weSizwe (MK), the Azanian People’s Liberation Army (Apla) and Azanian National Liberation Army (Azanla).
SAPS spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo said police received a report of a possible hostage situation at approximately 19:15 on Thursday. “After attempts to negotiate with the hostage-takers to release the hostages had failed, police resorted to a tactical approach and successfully rescued the hostages. There were no shots fired during the rescue,” said Naidoo.
According to News24, the Special Task Force (STF) led the intervention. The STF is an elite police unit whose members wear military fatigues and are trained in counter-terrorism and hostage situations.
It’s unclear whether the LSWV group threatened the Cabinet members or were armed. The ANC regularly holds meetings at St George’s Hotel where police subject attendees to security checks. Naidoo said three suspects were taken for medical checks after complaining of pains.
LSWV spokesperson Lwazi Mzobe told Newzroom Afrika that Modise was not held against her will. The group has claimed the government has failed its liberation fighters and has demanded a pay-out of over R4-million per member as well as a housing allowance, medical aid for their families and bursaries for their children to study at university.
In a video statement distributed on Twitter, Gungubele said, “We found ourselves in a situation which I consider untenable, legally unacceptable, where we thought we were in a meeting, whose intention was to attend to the problems that affect military veterans.
“We could not agree on how the meeting should take place. We reached a point where I thought we were agreeing that it should adjourn. As we were leaving the meeting, proceeding to the doors, they closed the doors.
“It is at that point that we realised that we’re held hostage. It’s a situation that was averted by the security forces, very effectively and successfully.”
The ministers were cornered by 56 veterans at a plush hotel near the capital Pretoria on Thursday night last week, forcing the South African Police Special Task Force (STF) to take action.
At least 56 people purported to be the ANC war vets were arrested in the incident. Critics have pointed out that the protestors don’t look old enough to have been members of MK, which was disbanded during the democratic transition.
The LSWV group has previously been linked to violence in KwaZulu-Natal. The group reportedly led protests in Durban in September and November 2020, which led to brutal attacks on foreign traders, largely reported as having been led by Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association (MKMVA) members.
LSWV is also linked to protests by South African truck drivers demanding a ban on foreigners in the industry and was active in such demonstrations, which appeared to occur at the same time as attacks on dozens of trucks on the N3 from Durban to Johannesburg. The violence against the road freight industry is as yet unexplained. Trucks were attacked again on the N3 shortly after the recent incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma.
LSWV members reportedly marched from Durban to Pietermaritzburg in April 2021 demanding jobs and threatening to disrupt the local government elections if their demands weren’t met.
The Rescue Operation
The National Joint Operation and Intelligence Structure (NATJoints) sent in members of the elite STF to save the ministers.
No shots were fired during the rescue mission, the NATJoints confirmed.
“It is a situation which was averted by the security forces, very effectively and successfully,” Gungubele said. He described the stunt as “untenable” and “legally unacceptable” in a video statement. “We expect the law to follow its course in dealing with behavior of this nature,” he added.
The NATJoints said three of the suspects were “taken for medical checks after they complained of pains.”
Police arrested a total of 56 people, including seven women, who could now be charged with kidnapping.