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At least 56 people have been arrested and will likely face kidnapping charges after ANC anti-apartheid veterans held three ministers hostage at a hotel in Pretoria, South Africa, demanding compensation for having fought against white domination.

South Africa’s National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJoints) confirmed that it was forced to act on Thursday evening to release three government ministers who were “taken hostage” in a hotel in Pretoria. At least 56 people, including seven women, are likely to be charged with kidnapping, the organization said.

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They added that three of the suspects were taken for medical treatment after complaining of pain.

In a video shared online, Mondli Gungubele, a minister in the presidency, said that he and Defense Minister Thandi Modise, as well as his deputy, Thabang Makwetla, were trapped in a hotel conference room after a meeting with the African National Congress (ANC) anti-apartheid veterans ended with acrimony.

Gungubele said the meeting went without any results and that he believed they had agreed to adjourn it. However, when trying to leave the conference hall, the doors were closed in front of them.

“That’s when we realized we were being held hostage”, Gungubele said, adding that “This is a situation that has been avoided by the security forces, very effectively and successfully.” The minister called the incident “untenable” and “legally unacceptable.

According to local media, veterans of the Liberation War (LSWV), a military wing of the dissolved ANC, demanded 4.2 million rand ($ 285,000) per member. The ministers, part of the ANC government, had agreed to meet them at the Hotel Pretoria and to negotiate.

Former anti-apartheid fighters demonstrated this week outside Luthuli House, the headquarters of the ANC. On Tuesday, the building had to be evacuated due to a security breach and non-compliance with Covid-19 protocols.

LSWV spokesman Lwazi Mzobe dismissed the allegations, telling Newzroom Afrika that the ministers were not held against their will. Mzobe says the ANC government let down its militant veterans who fought for an end to apartheid. The money requested would be used for housing allowance, medical insurance for their families and to finance their children at university.

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