South African police said Friday they had arrested 56 people likely to face kidnapping charges after two government ministers and a deputy minister were held hostage for three hours when a meeting with veterans of the war against apartheid ended in a row.
Police were called to a hotel in Centurion district near the capital Pretoria on Thursday night to rescue Minister of Defense and Veterans Thandi Modise, her Deputy Minister Thabang Makwetla and Minister in the Presidency of the Republic Mondley Jongupili, who had met with veterans from different groups. It was part of the armed struggle that began in the 1960s against the apartheid regime in South Africa.
Jongupili said the meeting quickly collapsed and some of the three responsible warriors prevented from leaving the room.
The South African police services said that the police tried to negotiate with the kidnappers, and when that failed, they resorted to a tactical approach and succeeded in rescuing the hostages.
Police said no shots were fired in the operation, denying allegations by some veterans that they were shot.
Police said three of those arrested had been sent for medical examinations.
Of the 56 detainees, seven are women.
Jongupili said the meeting was an attempt to address the grievances of veteran groups, who, among other things, want cash payments and housing and medical subsidies for their service during the struggle for democracy in South Africa more than 25 years ago.
The last requirement for veterans is that they each receive the equivalent of $270,000 and receive other benefits. Jongupili said the meeting was called off almost as soon as it began.
He said that as we were leaving the meeting, we advanced to the doors, they (veterans) locked the doors.
“At that moment we realized that we were being held hostage. It is a situation that has been avoided by the security forces, very effectively and successfully.
In a statement, the South African government acknowledged that its discussions with the veterans’ groups had been difficult but that there was no reason for this group to act illegally.
Military veterans groups say they were ignored by South Africa’s ruling African National Congress despite their role in helping to overthrow the apartheid government and end white-minority rule, paving the way for the ANC to win its first democratic elections in 1994.
The ANC has been in government ever since.
But veterans’ groups have faced the same criticism, allegedly for penetration by some who did not take part in the fight for democracy and to demand rewards not available to ordinary South Africans who also fought against apartheid.
Several callers on Friday’s radio talk show said it was popular uprisings such as the 1960 Sharpeville protests and the 1976 Soweto student demonstrations that focused world attention on the brutality of apartheid and helped end it.
They said that men, women, and even children often defy the security forces and put themselves in mortal danger for protesting.
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