The disbanded Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) has demanded the immediate release of 56 people arrested for allegedly holding two ministers and a deputy minister hostage.

Defence minister Thandi Modise, her deputy Thabang Makwetla and minister in the presidency Mondli Gungubele were kept hostage for two hours and 50 minutes in Pretoria on Thursday evening.

They were meeting liberation war veterans at the St George’s Hotel to hear complaints ranging from lack of decent housing to the government’s failure to provide for their children.

Though the MKMVA was not part of the meeting as an organisation, it said on Saturday that some of its members were part of the meeting.

In a statement issued through its spokesperson Carl Niehaus, the MKMVA lambasted the government for what it described as a total over-reaction when the police special task force “used excessive force to resolve a non-existent hostage, and non-violent, situation”.

The organisation said the veterans were unhappy and frustrated when deputy president David Mabuza failed to attend the meeting and sent other members of the national executive instead.

“It was reasonable of them to have refused to engage with these substitutes because deputy president Mabuza is the directly designated person with the duty to address the concerns of military veterans,” said Niehaus.

“It is not correct, and unnecessarily alarmist, to allege that a hostage situation unfolded at the St George’s Hotel and Conference Centre. At no stage was there any violence, or threat to the lives of the two ministers and one deputy minister.”

On Thursday, national police spokesperson Brig Vish Naidoo said police “penetrated the room where the hostages were being held”, and no shots were fired.

He confirmed that 56 people were arrested and “they are likely to face charges of at least three counts of kidnapping”.

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