South Africa

THE VIOLENCE AT THE END OF THE RAINBOW

Military veteran hostage drama: Modise says charges won’t be dropped

Illustrative image/Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele (Photo by Gallo Images / Brenton Geach), Minister of Defence Thandi Modise. (Photo: Leila Dougan) and Deputy Defence Minister Thabang Makwetla. (Photo by Gallo Images / Daily Sun / Lucky Morajane)

Defence Minister Thandi Modise underplayed Thursday night's hostage drama in which she and two government ministers were held for three hours, saying they were merely ‘uncomfortable’. 

Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise said she would launch an investigation into issues around military veterans funding, social support and benefits. Modise addressed the media in Tshwane on Friday, 15 October about being held hostage by a group of military veterans. 

On Thursday night, reports emerged that Modise, Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele as well as Deputy Defence Minister Thabang Makwetla were held hostage by a group called the Liberation Struggle War Veterans (LSWV). This group consisted of uMkhonto weSizwe (MK), the Azanian People’s Liberation Army and Azanian National Liberation Army. The South African Police Service later announced the arrest of 56 people. 

Read in Daily Maverick: ANC military veterans arrested after allegedly holding ministers hostage

Earlier this week, the group marched to the ANC headquarters Luthuli House in the Johannesburg CBD, causing a security breach. Daily Maverick’s Ferial Haffajee also reported the spokesperson for the LSWV, Lwazi Mzobe works as a writer for the eThekwini Municipality.

During the briefing, Modise admitted that there was tension between military veterans and her department. However, she said she intends  to launch an investigation into issues affecting military veterans, which included missing funds intended for distribution to military veterans, access to clinics, and education benefits. 

Her department is still working on ironing out problems with the Military Veterans Act, which included discrepancies around the definition of military veterans, healthcare benefits to dependents, housing, involvement of members in socio-economic activities, repatriation of member remains, educational support for their  children, and land for farming and housing. 

See Ferial Haffajee’s analysis here: Government’s go-slow on insurrection paved the way for ministers’ hostage drama

At Friday’s briefing, much focus was given to Thursday evening’s events. 

Gungubele described the situation as “not acceptable” and added the country was dealing with a “mature democracy” where the government listens to people’s concerns. “They [veterans] have not done this before” said Gungubele, adding there was “no reason to suspect this”. The department had engaged with the military veterans for the past 11 months, Gungubele confirmed. 

In addition, the ministry has appealed to the LSWV to register with the department in order to “better facilitate engagements with them”. 

Modise told journalists the group had been asked three times to apply as an organisation with the department, “so that they can be recognised by the minister”. 

According to Gungubele, Thursday’s meeting was at the request of the LSWV. The meeting was due to be attended by Deputy President David Mabuza (in his capacity as head of the Presidential Task Team on Military Veterans), Gungubele, Modise and Makwetla, but Mabuza failed to attend.

Reading from a press release, Gungubele said: “The engagements between government and the military associations have thus far been productive and cordial even though discussions have been difficult… therefore, there was no reason for this group to act in an unlawful manner as it transpired last night”. 

In answering questions about what transpired at the St George’s Hotel and Conference Centre in Irene, Tshwane Modise said she, Gungubele and Makwetla joined the meeting to discuss the group’s concerns. Modise said at some point, the group started singing liberation songs and “some of us” joined too, “because they were our songs too”. Then the group refused to let them go. This lasted from 7pm to 10pm. The room where the government officials were held was barricaded. 

Medics take a patient to hospital after Thursday night’s hostage drama at the St George’s Hotel in Tshwane. Photo: Screengrabs / News24

When asked by journalists if stun grenades were fired, Modise said the police “had to do what they had to do”. Loud bangs were heard and they dropped to the floor. Modise then added, “I’ve been in MK [uMkhonto weSizwe] long enough to know no bullet was fired in that room”. 

Scenes from Thursday night’s hostage drama during which ministers Thandi Modise, Mondli Gungubele and Thabang Makwetla were held for three hours at St Georges Hotel in Tshwane. Photo:Screengrabs/News24

When asked by journalists if charges would be dropped against those arrested, Modise said “not from this table, we can’t do that”. 

She added while processes within the judicial service needed to be handled, “people cannot be held against their will”. DM

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