State ponders adding terrorism charges to 53 people who allegedly held ministers hostage

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Military Veterans in the Kgosi Mampuru Correctional facility's court during their first appearance after holding cabinet ministers hostage in Irene on Friday last week, 18 October 2021, Pretoria. Picture: Supplied, Jacques Nelles/Pool8BIM
Military Veterans in the Kgosi Mampuru Correctional facility's court during their first appearance after holding cabinet ministers hostage in Irene on Friday last week, 18 October 2021, Pretoria. Picture: Supplied, Jacques Nelles/Pool8BIM
  • Fifty-three people accused of taking two ministers and a deputy minister hostage last week have made their first court appearance.
  • The State is in discussions about the possibility of adding terrorism-related charges.
  • The accused are currently facing five charges of kidnapping.

The State is considering adding terrorism-related charges to the 53 military veterans accused of taking two ministers and a deputy minister hostage in Pretoria earlier in October.

Two bodyguards were allegedly also held hostage by the group.

The accused appeared in court at the Kgosi Mampuru Correctional Services. Before proceedings started, 52 of the accused danced and sang struggle songs in court. It was also revealed one of them is in hospital.

After placing the case before court, prosecutor advocate Sanet Jacobson asked the magistrate for a seven-day postponement. 

Jacobson said the State still had to verify the addresses of the accused and complete their profiles, which included checking if they have any pending cases or convictions. 

Charges 

According to the provisional charge sheet, the accused are facing five charges of kidnapping. 

However, Jacobson said the State was discussing the possibility of adding terrorism charges. 

If a decision was taken to add terrorism charges, they would first have to be authorised by the National Director of Public Prosecutions before adding them to the charge sheet, she added.

The accused's defence teams, including advocate Dali Mpofu SC, who is representing 30 of the accused, opposed the State's application for a seven-day postponement. 

READ | Hostage case: State loses bid to postpone military vets' bail application

Mpofu argued according to the law, the State had 12 hours to verify the addresses of the accused.

He said they were arrested on Thursday evening and that since then, little had been done by the State to decide whether or not it would oppose the bail applications. 

Mpofu added each accused had rights and the burden was on the State to justify why their rights were being limited regarding them being detained.  

He said the State could not keep the accused in custody for an undefined period of time while it did its verifications which should have been done before they appeared in court. 

"The State cannot have its cake and eat it too." 

Hostage case, military veterans
Military Veterans in the Kgosi Mampuru Correctional facility's court during their first appearance after holding cabinet ministers hostage in Irene on Friday last week, 18 October 2021, Pretoria. Picture: Supplied, Jacques Nelles/Pool8BIM
News24

"It's the interest of justice and rights of the individuals to dismiss the application" Mpofu added.

Jacobson said the State had insufficient evidence to answer on the issue of bail but it did not have enough time and resources to collect the information ahead of the court appearance. 

She placed it on record some of the accused had given false addresses.

Magistrate Bheki Ntshingila dismissed the State's request and ordered bail applications should start on Tuesday. 

Alleged crime 

News24 previously reported the hostage drama started at 19:15 last Thursday at St George's Hotel when a group of military veterans demanded an audience with President Cyril Ramaphosa and his deputy, David Mabuza, to address their concerns.

Defence Minister Thandi Modise, her deputy, Thabang Makwetla, and Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele were allegedly held hostage for close to three hours.

Two protection services members were also allegedly held hostage.

ALSO READ | We told our protectors to stand back - Minister Gungubele details hostage situation with military vets

The group of veterans, who met with the government, is demanding millions in reparations for their role in the anti-apartheid struggle.

The group included MKMVA members as well as former members of the Pan Africanist Congress' Azanian People's Liberation Army (APLA) and Azapo's Azanian National Liberation Army (Azanla).

The police earlier reported that 56 people were arrested, however in court, 52 accused were present. One accused is still in hospital.

Supporters 

A number of other military veterans gathered outside of the prison to protest, calling for the release of the accused. 

Liberation struggle veteran Obbey Mabena said the accused had committed no crime. 

"There is nothing extreme about what happened [on Thursday]. 

Hostage case, military veterans
Military Veterans in the Kgosi Mampuru Correctional facility's court during their first appearance after holding cabinet ministers hostage in Irene on Friday last week, 18 October 2021, Pretoria. Picture: Supplied, Jacques Nelles/Pool8BIM
Supplied

"We are trained soldiers. We are fully trained. If we wanted to do something untoward, we would have never gone there unarmed, we would have been well-prepared, and these guys are no match for us."

Mabena added no one was threatened or taken hostage. 

"There is no way a case can be built against my comrades. 

"The criminal here is the president of the country. On 10 November, almost a year ago, we went to speak to him at the Union Buildings where he promised us heaven and earth. 

"We know they speak too nicely when we confront them, and thereafter, they forget about us, and from then on, we have been thrown from pillar to post up until today," he said.


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