Minister hostage drama raises concerns over safety & security in SA

Defence Minister Thandi Modise, Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele and Deputy Minister of Defence Thabang Makwetla were rescued from a group of military veterans after they were held against their will at the St George’s Hotel in Centurion.

Police seen outside the St George’s hotel where Defence Minister Thandi Modise, Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele and Deputy Minister of Defence Thabang Makwetla  were held hostage by former liberation combatants on 14 October 2021. Picture: Veronica Mokhoali/Eyewitness News.

JOHANNESBURG - Guests who were caught up in Thursday night's hostage drama at St George’s Hotel in Centurion said that the hostile standoff was yet another demonstration of the ineptitude of South Africa’s state security.

A heavy contingent of special task force members and police was deployed to the hotel on Thursday night after so-called Liberation Struggle War Veterans blocked government ministers from leaving a meeting.

Defence Minister Thandi Modise, Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele and Deputy Minister of Defence Thabang Makwetla were rescued from the veterans and taken to a place of safety.

Fifty-six people were arrested.

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South Africa is still recovering from the violent and deadly anarchy that broke out in the country in July and now disgruntled military veterans have held two ministers and a deputy minister hostage at St George's Hotel.

WATCH: Ministers held hostage by frustrated military veterans

The task force, military police and SAPS officials converged on the hotel on Thursday night. They rescued the government officials and arrested dozens.

One man witnessed the ordeal. He watched to stay on as Defence Minister Modise was blocked from leaving.

"All of a sudden you started to see police coming in numbers, then the military police started coming in, alos the special unit. There were loud bangs, teargas... when we inquired, we were told that the minister was being held hostage," the witness said.

He asked that if government officials could be held hostage like this, what did it mean for the rest of us?

"It sends some fear. If the minister can be held hostage, then we are no longer sure that we as ordinary South africans are really safe. This situation is getting out of hand."

Meanwhile, Police insist that no shots were fired during the rescue operation.

Police spokesperson Vish Naidoo: "Police resorted to a tactical approach and successfully rescued the hostages. There were no shots fired during the rescue. At least 56 people, including seven women, have been arrested and they're likley to face charges at thre counts of kidnapping."

At least 56 people linked to the crime spent the night behind bars.

The government will hold a briefing on the incident at 11am on Friday.

WATCH: Minister Gungubele: We found ourselves in a legally unacceptable situation

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