Police swoop in after disgruntled military veterans took two ministers and a deputy minister hostage. (Jeff Wicks, News24)
- The Special Task Force was deployed to rescue Defence Minister Thandi Modise after she was held hostage.
- A group of disgruntled military veterans held Modise, Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele and Deputy Defence Minister Thabang Makwetla hostage for almost three hours.
- The group claims there were injuries in the stand-off.
The Special Task Force stormed the St George’s Conference Centre in Irene, Pretoria, on Thursday evening to rescue Defence Minister Thandi Modise, her deputy, Thabang Makwetla, and Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele after they were held hostage by disgruntled military veterans.
The elite unit, assisted by the military police and police, swooped in after the group blocked them from leaving a meeting meant to discuss their demands for government assistance.
Police spokesperson Brigidier Vish Naidoo said 56 people were arrested and three were injured.
“We got reports at approximately 19:15 this evening whereby we were informed of a possible hostage situation at a hotel in Centurion, Pretoria. We deployed our various disciplines of the SAPS and when attempts to negotiate with the hostage takers had failed, we successfully penetrated the room where these people were kept hostage and we rescued three hostages. Of the three hostages, two of them were cabinet ministers and one a deputy minister,” he said.
He said seven women were among the 56 arrested.
“There were no shots fired but while processing the suspects, we have taken three for medical treatment because they were complaining of pains. One has complained of injury and we are not sure how the injury was sustained,” Naidoo said.
The group demanded an audience with President Cyril Ramaphosa and his deputy, David Mabuza.
Gungubele confirmed the Task Force was sent in and the trio was made to leave just before 22:00 after being held hostage from 19:00.
He said shortly afterwards:
The Task Force was highly meticulous. They broke in and now they are arresting all of them.
Gungubele added the group refused to discuss its concerns with anyone but Ramaphosa and Mabuza.
“Our protectors couldn’t do anything. We didn’t want any force. So, we just sat and waited and communicated from there,” he said.
A member of the disgruntled veterans, Lwazi Mzobe, told News24 shots were fired when the Task Force and military police swooped in.
“One of our comrades was shot and is on a stretcher. Another has been helped on the floor,” he said, speaking from St George’s.
Mzobe added the group was made to sleep on the floor and arrests were imminent.
“They want to kill us. I want the world to know they want to kill us.”
Gungubele said he was worried lives would be lost in the stand-off.
“I think the Task Force was very meticulous,” he added.