Johannesburg - All 53 military veterans, arrested in connection with holding two Cabinet ministers and a deputy minister hostage, are out on R500 bail each.
They are all due appear in court on February 1, 2022. On Friday 11 suspects appeared at the Kgosi Mampuru Correctional Facility’s court, where it was heard that nine of them have been involved in schedule five crimes, including murder, attempted murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, and possession of a firearm.
One suspect is still in hospital. He sustained injuries when police rescued the three officials.
The military veterans were arrested last Friday, at St George's Hotel, in Pretoria. They are accused of holding Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele, Minister of Defence Thandi Modise, Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Thabang Makwetla, and other delegates from the Presidency, with 10 representatives from the military veterans, hostage.
“The 53 veterans are currently facing one count of conspiracy to kidnap and 26 counts of kidnapping,” said National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) North Gauteng regional spokesperson Lumka Mahanjana.
Accused number 23, Lwazi Mzobe, 47, is part of a formation of the liberation struggle war veterans.
He is one of the leaders of the group.
He said they come from MK, Apla, and Azanla.
He said he was admitted and discharged before he could serve in the army.
Mzobe has one previous conviction, served prison time for 15 years, and was released in 2010.
He said he became involved with the military veterans in early May.
He said, while still in prison, they engaged the then president Thabo Mbeki to address their plight.
“It was not a crime. It was survival to us. We had to do anything to put food on the table,” said Mzobe.
He said he engaged with Mbeki, and said a few of them had been involved in criminal activities for survival.
“We had been promised a lot of things, including better jobs and a once off gratuity, among other things. None of these promises were fulfilled,” he said, while taking the stand.
Reading out the benefits that the military veterans are supposed to get, he said: “If we had received those benefits we wouldn't be here.”
He said they went to the Union Buildings to see the President, to engage him about their struggles and find a way forward.
“We have lived like this for 26 years and they have been saying we are being assisted, but we have not been assisted yet,” he said.
He confirmed that they had a conference call with President Cyril Ramaphosa, which lasted for about an hour. They were a delegation of 20.
Mzobe said they represent about 4 000 people.
“After meeting with the President, he lied to us and told us he knew our problem,” said Mzobe.
Mzobe said the President then told them that he has tasked Deputy President David Mabuza to chair the committee.
“We went to Luthuli House, we didn't march. The intention was that we wanted to see the President and his top six,” Mzobe said..
He said, after detailing their grievances, they asked for time to make calls.
Mzobe said that they were promised that the deputy president will see them on October 14.
Mzobe said they staged a three-day sit-in, as they did not have money to go back home.
At 5pm, they were supposed to meet with the deputy president.
He said, by 6pm, the deputy president did not arrive, and Modise and other members of the presidential task teams arrived.
“Being treated in such a manner shocked us and we explained that it was not the way our meetings are handled with the Presidential committee. We said that we were expecting a meeting with the deputy president and he arrived late, dictating to us – with no explanation why he was are late,” Mzobe said.
“We were beaten. After we were beaten, the special task force came out and the SAPS came in with the Hawks. They were searching us and, when they found cellphones, they took them. Then there would be another person asking for your name, surname and pin code by force,” he said.
Mzobe denied that he had an intention to kidnap anyone.