Ministers say hostage ordeal was a sign of ‘maturing democracy’

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The Presidential Task Team on Military Veterans hosted a media briefing to update the nation on government interventions and the comprehensive approach to address the challenges identified through various interactions with the military veterans associations. The briefing was led by Minister in Presidency, Mondli Gungubele, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Thandi Modise and Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Thabang Makwetla. Photo: GCIS
The Presidential Task Team on Military Veterans hosted a media briefing to update the nation on government interventions and the comprehensive approach to address the challenges identified through various interactions with the military veterans associations. The briefing was led by Minister in Presidency, Mondli Gungubele, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Thandi Modise and Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Thabang Makwetla. Photo: GCIS

NEWS


The two ministers who were held hostage by ANC military veterans are of the view that the ordeal is a sign of South Africa’s maturing democracy, and that the country is not a security-heavy state.

Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele and Defence Minister Thandi Modise addressed a media briefing on Friday afternoon following Thursday night’s hostage drama at St George’s Hotel in Pretoria, where they were meeting with military veterans. Deputy Defence Minister Thabang Makwetla was also held hostage.

The ministers were kept captive from 7pm to 10pm, and were later rescued by police. A total of 56 people were arrested.

READ: South Africa’s rule of law is worsening

Gungubele said the meeting had ended in a stalemate, and the group of military veterans then proceeded to demand that either President Cyril Ramaphosa or Deputy President David Mabuza address them.

When they were told that that was not possible, the group said the meeting could not proceed.

He said:

We accepted. So, as we were proceeding to the doors, we realised that the doors were blocked.

However, he said that they did not feel that their lives were in danger. He also said that he did not feel the ordeal was embarrassing for government, but rather that it was unacceptable.

“In my view, we are dealing with a maturing democracy, which enjoins us, especially as government, to listen to our people. When we listen to them, we don’t start on the basis of paranoia or suspicion. We listen to them because we trust that their grievances are legitimate. And indeed, they are well meant. We don’t always go to those meetings with suspicions.”


Modise said two ministers and a deputy minister being held hostage demonstrated that the country “is not a security-heavy state” and that ministers can trust ordinary citizens to engage with them freely.

“It also demonstrates that we will go to any instance to hear concerns about any citizen, whether they are liberation veterans or ordinary citizens. We will listen to the concerns that they put to us. This meeting was not planned. As such, we went there because the presidential task team invited us to go because the matter was there,” she said.

The same group marched to Luthuli House, the ANC’s headquarters in Johannesburg, on Tuesday, prompting an evacuation amid a security breach and noncompliance with Covid-19 protocols.

“So, I am sure that people will think that the state is weak. No, I don’t think we should go there. We should say that we are very proud as South Africa to engage, to sit among our communities, and among our military vets, without thinking they would kill us. We should also take it further, Minister Gungubele, to say, in fact, at some point they were singing liberation songs and some of us joined in because they were our songs too. Therefore, we did not feel that our lives were in danger. We were unhappy about [not being able] to leave when the meeting clearly had aborted,” said Modise.

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She added that they did not feel threatened, but were uncomfortable with being held against their will.

Over the years, ANC military veterans have raised grievances and have even held protests in different parts of the country over what they claim is neglect on the part of government. They have raised concerns about a lack of housing and not being able to access the bursaries established for their children to attend higher education institutions.

Modise said that with all the money that has been allocated to the department to deal with issues faced by military veterans, they should be better off than they are now.

“And, therefore, I intend to do an investigation to find out where the resources have gone, why the lives of the veterans have not improved, why they are not in the houses that the state has gone all-out to build, and why they do not have access to all the clinics and hospitals in this country. And why, if we have said they have an education benefit, that and their children’s school fees were not paid. Those are the issues that we think we are taking away and that we think we will be investigating.”

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Modise said she was still open to meeting with the military veterans to discuss their grievances, however, she and her deputy would not be dropping the charges against those who had been arrested.

“There was a violation, the police responded. You cannot hold people against their will and then say you are going to be released. We do not want to set a precedent that I can commit any violation and the law will be put aside because it is me and I am a military veteran, legitimate as my grievances might be.”


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Bongekile Macupe  

Senior Education Journalist

+27 11 713 9001
Bongekile.macupe@citypress.co.za
www.citypress.co.za
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park
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