South African special forces freed two government ministers held hostage by veterans demanding compensation for their role in the fight against apartheid, officials said Friday.
The incident occurred late Thursday during a meeting with veterans and top government officials, including Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele, Defence Minister Thandi Modise, and her deputy Thabang Makwetla.
“As we were leaving the meeting, proceeding to the doors, they closed the doors. It was at that point that we realized that we were held hostage,” Gungubele said in a video statement.
“It’s a situation which was averted by the security forces, very effectively and successfully.”
“We expect the law to follow its course in dealing with behavior of this nature,” he added.
The ministers are leading a team to discuss demands by veterans aligned with the liberation movements that fought to topple white-minority rule more than two decades ago.
The meeting took place at a posh hotel in a wealthy town outside of the capital Pretoria.
Police said 56 people were arrested, and no shots were fired during the incident.
“They are likely to face charges of at least three counts of kidnapping,” police spokesman Vish Naidoo said in a statement.
“After attempts to negotiate with the hostage takers to release the hostages had failed, police resorted to a tactical approach and successfully rescued the hostages,” he said. “There were no shots fired during the rescue.”
The veterans were demanding to meet with President Cyril Ramaphosa to discuss their demands including a four-million-rand cash payout and additional financing to help veterans start businesses.