South Africa’s reunion sinks into chaos

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CAPE TOWN, South Africa – South African police said on Friday they had arrested 56 people who will likely face kidnapping charges after two government ministers and a deputy minister were held hostage for three hours during a meeting with military veterans of the struggle against apartheid ended in disagreement.

Police were called to a hotel in the Centurion district near the capital Pretoria on Thursday evening to rescue Defense and Veterans Minister Thandi Modise, Deputy Minister Thabang Makwetla and Presidency Minister Mondli Gungubele, who had met veterans from various groups who were part of the armed struggle that began in the 1960s against the apartheid regime in South Africa.

The meeting was quickly interrupted and the three government officials were prevented from leaving by some of the ex-combatants, Gungubele said.

Police attempted to negotiate with the hostage takers, and when this failed they “used a tactical approach and succeeded in rescuing the hostages,” South African police said. Police said no shots were fired during the operation, denying claims by some veterans that they were shot. Three of those arrested were sent for medical examinations, police said. Of the 56 arrested, seven were women.

Gungubele said the meeting was an attempt to address grievances from veterans groups, who want, among other things, cash payments and housing and medical benefits for their service during the struggle for democracy in Africa. South over 25 years ago.

The final demand from veterans is that they each receive the equivalent of $ 270,000 and receive other benefits. The meeting was canceled almost as soon as it started, Gungubele said.

“As we left the meeting and headed for the doors, they [the veterans] closed the doors, “he said.” That’s when we realized we were being held hostage. This is a situation that has been avoided by the security forces, very effectively and successfully. “

In a statement, the South African government admitted that its discussions with the veterans groups had been “difficult”, but said “there was no reason for this group to act illegally”.

Military veteran groups say they have been ignored by the ruling party, the African National Congress in South Africa, despite their role in overthrowing the apartheid government and ending the white minority regime, opening up the way to the party’s victory in the first democratic elections in 1994. The African National Congress party has been in government since then.

But veteran groups themselves have been criticized, accused of being infiltrated by some who were not involved in the struggle for democracy and demanding rewards inaccessible to ordinary South Africans who have also fought against it. apartheid.


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