South African security forces freed two cabinet ministers held hostage by war veterans demanding reparations for their involvement in the fight against White-minority rule a quarter century ago.
At least 56 people were arrested after the incident at a hotel near the capital, Pretoria, on Thursday night, the police said in a statement. They face charges of kidnapping, National Joint Operational & Intelligence Structure spokesperson Vish Naidoo said.
Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele, Defense Minister Thandi Modise and her deputy, Thabang Makwetla, began talks with the war veterans on Thursday to discuss reparations. There was a disagreement on how the meeting should take place and the ministers were then prevented from leaving the hotel, Gungubele said on Twitter.
“As we were leaving the meeting, proceeding to the doors, they closed the doors,” he said. “It is at that point when we realised that we were held hostage.”
Spokespeople for both the ruling African National Congress and the government didn’t respond to calls for comment from Bloomberg News.
The former fighters want the government to pay them a once-off gratuity of R4.2-million, provide assistance from financial institutions to help them establish businesses, and set up medical insurance for their families, Lwazi Mzobe, a spokesperson for the veterans, told Johannesburg-based broadcaster Newzroom Afrika.