UPDATE | Durban hostage drama defused after retired soldier allegedly demanded pension

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  • A former SANDF solider has been detained by the KZN police for questioning in connection with a hostage situation at the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) offices in Durban.
  • The retired soldier allegedly stormed the GEPF offices and terrorised staff demanding an immediate payment of his pension.
  • GEPF said all employees who were subjected to the hour long ordeal would be offered trauma counselling.  

The armed man who held employees of the Government Employees Pension Fund hostage for an hour at their Durban office, is said to be a retired South African Defence Force soldier frustrated by delays in receiving his pension. 

He retired as a soldier earlier this year, said KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbhele during a telephonic interview with News24.

The man allegedly stormed the offices on the 12th floor of Salmon Grove Chambers on Anton Lembede Street on Thursday afternoon armed with a pistol.

Mbhele said no shots were fired and that the firearm was not drawn. 

READ |  GEPF employee allegedly holding colleagues hostage at Durban office

She further said no one was assaulted.

Mbhele said the police had taken the man for interrogation and would open a case of intimidation.

Mbhele also dismissed reports that the man carried an explosive device. 

Reports of a man armed with an explosive device sent afternoon shoppers into a panic and brought traffic to a standstill on the busy street earlier on Thursday afternoon.

A phalanx of emergency personnel and law enforcement officers were on high alert outside the building. 

Emer-G-Med's Kyle van Reenen said the hostage situation lasted for an hour before it was defused. 

At 6pm on Thursday Mbhele said: "The police are still busy on the scene taking statements from eyewitnesses, but I can confirm that they will open an intimidation charge and the person has been taken for interrogation for now."

Mbhele added that the man had not been arrested, but was merely being questioned. 

"He did not withdraw his firearm from his waist, but continued making verbal threats and demanding immediate payment of his pension," said Mbhele.

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At this stage, the scene is under the control of the South African Police Services and paramedics remain on standby should they be required.

Mbhele had earlier stated that the man was an employee of GEPF.

She acknowledged this was an error. 

GEPF confirmed the incident and said trauma counselling would be given to employees who were subjected to the hostage drama.

GEPF spokesperson Matau Molapo said: "We have been informed that an aggrieved GEPF client held officials of the Government Pension Administration Agency (GPAA) hostage at the office. The GEPF has been informed that there was no harm to anyone.

"The GEPF is appreciative of the efforts of the South African Police Service, office security personnel and employees in dealing with the incident. The necessary counselling will be provided to the affected officials. The GEPF remains committed to engaging with its members with respect to any concerns they have."

SA National Defence Force spokesperson Brigadier-General Mafi Mgobozi could not be reached immediately for comment.

His response will be added once received. 

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that the alleged hostage taker was not a GEPF employee as initially stated by Kwazulu-Natal police.

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