South Africa


Government’s go-slow on ‘insurrection’ paved the way for ministers’ hostage drama

Scenes from the hostage drama of the Defence Minister Thandi Modise, Mondli Gungubele and Thabang Makwetla at St George's Hotel in Tshwane. Photo: Screengrabs / News24

A police special task force rescues the Defence Minister and Minister in the Presidency to end a week of muscle-flexing by the RET faction and its aligned military veterans.

After getting away nearly scot-free from their role in the July violence and looting, which claimed 357 lives and took South Africa to the knife edge of racial war, the RET faction of the ANC and its aligned military vets were back in action this week. 

Under the guise of a national prayer meeting for former president Jacob Zuma on October 14, the re-mobilisation of the RET forces was evident at the Peoples Park in Durban. 

Hundreds of former president Jacob Zuma’s supporters attended his welcome prayer in Moses Mabhida’ People’s Park in Durban on 14 October 2021. (Photo: Mandla Langa)

Zuma signalled the start of the faction’s campaign to win back power at the party’s national elective conference in 2022. A few hours later, military veterans held Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Thandi Modise, Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele and Deputy Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thabang Makwetla hostage. 

The police’s special task force, headed by General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, had to be deployed to free the ministers after the veterans represented by spokesperson Lwazi Mzobe barricaded doors at the St George Hotel in Irene, Pretoria. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa and his executive have downgraded what he called an “insurrection” in July to a political storm. In nearly 100 days, the government has refused to provide further details on what has happened to the police statement that 12 instigators would be jailed for the violence. In a week in July, 150,000 jobs were placed at risk,  GDP took a R50-billion knock and South Africa’s sovereign political risk rating was raised.

Looters in Spine Road behind Pavilion Mall on July 12, 2021 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images/Darren Stewart)

Only RET foot soldiers like student activist Bonginkosi Khanyile, the former uKhozi FM DJ Ngizwe Mchunu and the social media firebrand ‘Sphithiphithi Evaluator’, whose name is Zamaswazi Zinhle Majozi, have been arrested.   

The government has backtracked on firm action promised in the immediate aftermath of the July violence and looting because the political stakes are too high. The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal officially opposed Ramaphosa’s classification of the events as an ‘insurrection’. He is dependent on the province for a second term as ANC president and Cabinet’s security cluster has since been on a go-slow to investigate and prosecute the violence. His inaction appears to have emboldened the RET faction for whom military veterans are a vital constituency.  

Police try to control looting during protests in Durban on 12 July 2021. (Photo: EPA-EFE/STR)

The hostage-takers are organised into a relatively new structure called the “Liberation Struggle War Veterans”, which staged a sleep-in at the ANC Luthuli House headquarters earlier in the week. Spokesman Lwazi Mzobe is employed by the eThekwini Municipality from which some key organisers of the July violence were drawn, as reported here.  

Military vets have an R654-million annual budget and many benefits.

South Africans liberation movement veterans are well-treated and have an entire department dedicated to them. This year, the Department of Military Veterans have a budget of R654-million to fund compensation for injury, trauma and disease, counselling and treatment, healthcare, housing and burial support in addition to cash compensation to veterans. Various programmes provide health and wellness, education, housing, empowerment and skills development to 40,892 veterans. Provincial governments prioritise veterans for houses, education and healthcare, and they are regularly included in regional tenders.  

In the past year, 643 veterans received counselling and treatment, 163 veterans got ‘business access’, 900 received skills development opportunities and 477 acquired houses, according to the Department’s annual report. Mzobe told reporters that the veterans each wanted R2.2-million in reparations for their role in liberating South Africa.  

Deputy President David Mabuza heads a Presidential Task team on Military Veterans, and the protestors said they barricaded the two ministers and deputy minister inside the hotel because they wanted to meet him personally.  

In August 2021, the Military Veterans Department suspended four staff pending an investigation into R124-million in wasteful, irregular and fruitless expenditure. The Department also spends 59% of its budget on staff, but most are veterans themselves.  

In a media briefing on October 15, Modise and Gungubele sought to downplay the hostage drama and instead highlighted the government’s programmes for military veterans. DM


Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

All Comments 27

  • …and both the ANC and government officials are playing this down. If they don’t charged for kidnapping why should gangster who kidnap civilians be charged? I mean, after all, we are equal before the law.

  • While I understand the predicament President Ramaphosa has found himself in, making a long game necessary, surely, he now realises it is no longer effective and needs to start stamping his authority? Soon there may be nothing to salvage.

  • Well written Ferial Haffajee – you have hit the nail squarely on the head with this article. The Zuma faction of the ANC is acting with impunity whilst the CR faction are too shocked to do anything about it. Exactly like the Trump Republicans verses the moderate Democrats. Leaders whose morality is queered need to be accountable for their actions. The biggest failure is not making Zuma serve his sentence like a man. He is such a coward…and his followers are IQ deficient.

  • The inaction (some would label it cowardice) of the ANC government after the July riots, and its failure to apprehend the chief instigators( to be found among its ranks) will result in an emboldened RET faction , with its allies , as evidenced by this so-called “hostage taking” .Unfortunately, it seems as if everybody, courtesy of the ruling party, will be in for a very bumpy ride in the near future, unless something miraculous happens at the polls. Buckle up South Africa!

  • And where was the missing scarlet pimpernel David Mabuza at yesterdays meeting. The veterans were saying the Government was useless in delivering benefits to the veterans. Round around in circles. Security risk management was obviously not in place especially with these guys allegedly burning trucks on the N3 during the Zuma riots. 27 years of independence and ANC rule.

  • I would love to know what these people are veterans of. They must be veterans for surviving the ANC camps because I don’t think any medals were issued for bravery.

  • Following the July insurrection orchestrated by the RET ANC faction, a wink and a nod by the CR ANC faction sees Zuma released from prison and now the RET ANC take the CR ANC hostage! A factional war will see South Africa reduced to a wasteland if the NPA, Hawks and the justice system fail the people of our beloved country. It is now time to arrest, prosecute and jail the criminal leaders of both factions of the ANC for the July insurrection, the unlawful release of Zuma and the kidnapping of cabinet ministers.

  • Does the President want the RET faction to take over? Is this what his long game is? We had such hope when he took over but his promises have all turned out to be just that, empty! Full might of the law, what law? We are run by a lot of gangsters.

    • Remember all those fuuls who and voted “for Ramaphosa the good guy” “but not the ANC” in the last elections? Thanks for nothing!

  • Why does the taxpayer pay for the ANC’s private army? Oh! and do pray tell us or give us a hint of the battles this army won or lost. ? I’m not talking about leaving bombs about!

  • With a budget of R654 million for 40892 veterans average R16,000 each. Assuming 1 staff per 1000 veterans and 59% of budget spent on admin, these numbers do not add up. Oh yes, R124 million squandered. Almost missed that. Demanding R2.2 million each for the liberation 25yrs ago. That’s R89,962,400,000!!!
    A number that X president can not even pronounce let alone pay. Who makes this stuff up???

  • South Africans will have to wake up to the fact that these two factions need each other desperately, if they want to hold on to their monopoly on the the levers of ‘power’ ! That is their primary interest . The ones with some modicum of ethics, have long ‘left’ the fold on the basis of disillusionment with any meaningful ‘change’ within. The illusion of any real ‘justice’ being served, is part of a grand ploy to make the average South African believe that our prosecution services will prevail. And when they do, the culprits have access to some of the ‘smartest’ people in the legal fraternity (filled with any number of ‘devious’ characters – apologies to the few ethical ones) who will ensure that the cases are either aborted or drawn out until rigor-mortis sets in ! The occasional ‘crumb’ from the table (like the ‘pay back the money’ episode) does not count! Making a mockery of the judicial process is their speciality. Long live politics over justice !

  • Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted