Heavily armed South African military was deployed to rescue captured defence minister


Cape Town – Police Minister Bheki Cele says they were forced to intervene on Thursday night and rescue two ministers and a deputy minister because the military veterans had refused to let them go.

He said despite attempts to contact the ministers, their phones were switched off.

Cele told a news broadcaster while he tried to contact Defence Minister Thandi Modise and her deputy Thabang Makwetla, their phones were off.

He said he had been able to contact Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele to update him on the situation.

But at some point when he called Gungubele, his call was cut off, and that is when he realised there was trouble.

Cele said he contacted another official in the meeting, but this call was also cut off.

He had a discussion with President Cyril Ramaphosa and senior police officials.

They decided to send in the Special Task Force to rescue the ministers.

He denied there were soldiers in the rescue mission, saying it was a medical team from the defence force and the military police who were not involved in the operation.

Cele said: “We were told the situation was not kind. Later, I spoke to Minister Gungubele, and the phone was cut. Then we realised there was a problem. Finally, an operation was taken to get in, rescue the ministers and arrest everybody there.”

Fifty-six military veterans were arrested and taken to Pretoria.

They are expected to appear in court on Monday.

Cele insisted what happened on Thursday night was a hostage drama, and they were forced to bring in the special task force.

He said there was no gunfire during the operation. There was no bloodshed, he said, adding what happened was the use of a stun grenade for the special force to storm the place.

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