'Military vets accused of holding ministers hostage not processed by cops in more than 100 hours’
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Johannesburg - The group of military veterans accused of holding two ministers and a deputy minister hostage is expected back in court today.
Court proceedings will be held at the Kgosi Mampuru Prison in Pretoria.
The 53 former members of Mkhonto we Sizwe, the Azanian People’s Liberation Army and the Azanian National liberation Army were arrested after allegedly holding Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise, her deputy Thabang Makwetla and Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele hostage at the St George Hotel in Centurion, Pretoria, last Thursday.
The group faces charges of intimidation and, according to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), terrorism charges may be added.
Dali Mpofu SC, who is representing some of the veterans, told Magistrate Bheki Ntshingila that the State did not know what to charge his clients with.
”We live in a constitutional state, every accused person has a right to be released,” he said.
Mpofu, who is representing 30 of the accused, added that the prosecution had tabled a startling proposition by claiming to have a preliminary charge of kidnapping against the group.
According to the advocate, there was no basis to detain the veterans for more than 100 hours by on Monday without processing them when the law made provision for suspects to be processed within 12 hours.
Mpofu maintained that the law stated that verification of suspects’ addresses must be done within 12 hours, and did not differentiate between Saturday and Sunday.
He said not even one person was processed, and that this was a serious indictment of the prosecution.
”Each person here is individually a bearer of constitutional rights,” Mpofu said. He added that the State’s plan from Friday was to bring an application to have the matter postponed from Friday.
“They knew that they were not going to get the verification exercise done on Friday,” Mpofu said.
He said the State’s case was that one of the veterans closed the door at the venue of the meeting, yet 52 other people were arrested.
“The other 52 people are here that were arrested for being there (St George’s Hotel),” said Mpofu, adding that even hotel staff had initially been arrested.
The NPA has produced a provisional charge sheet stating that the veterans face charges of kidnapping for preventing the two ministers, the deputy minister and two other attendees from leaving the venue after the meeting.
It has not ruled out the possibility of more charges being added, although it is not ready to address the court in respect of the schedule of the alleged offences.
The accused persons have not had their addresses confirmed, and the NPA was only shown the docket on Monday morning.
On Friday, the presidential task team on military veterans chaired by Deputy President David Mabuza undertook provincial visits to meet with the provincial military veterans associations and provincial governments to assess some of the projects initiated to assist veterans.
The task team said there was no reason for the group of military veterans to act in an unlawful manner as engagements between the government and their associations had been productive and cordial even though the discussions had been difficult.