SAHRC: Hostage drama prompted by pension gripe

A gripe over pension legislation favouring women appears to have led to Thursday’s hostage drama at the South African Human Rights Commission’s (SAHRC) Cape Town office.

SAHRC chief executive Tseliso Thipanyane said the hostage-taker earlier lodged a complaint with the commission about the legislation.

“He had previously asked the commission to intervene as he was of the view that the legislation was a violation of the right to equality on the basis of age.”

The 61-year-old man was arrested by police after holding up the commission’s Western Cape chairperson, Ashraf Mohammed, at gunpoint.

The hostage-taker was said to have been protesting against the fact that women qualify for state pensions from the age of 60 while men have to be 65.

Thipanyane said the commission believed that his grievance was valid, although it strongly condemned the man’s conduct.

“As the SAHRC we have also made submissions on the Older Persons Bill requesting Parliament to address the problem,” he said.

Police were seen escorting the man into a van before driving away from the scene shortly before 1pm.

Police at the scene said the bearded man had earlier gone into the Absa bank building with a firearm.

Tyalana Strydom, who works at a nearby business, said: “Some guy went up and took a few people hostage upstairs in the ABSA building.”

Before the arrest, police cordoned off a section of Adderley Street around the bank building while negotiations with the hostage-taker were under way.

SAHRC official Judith Cohen, who was present when the hostage drama unfolded, said the hostage-taker had been at the Cape Town office two weeks ago.

“We referred him to the Gender Equality Commission but told him he could come back if his complaint was not resolved,” she said.—Sapa

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