2010 FIFA World Cup fever is uniting black and white people at the Vosloo Grill in Pretoria. Bar Lady, Lindiwe Buthelezi, a University of Pretoria law student, is serving drinks, while engaging in light-hearted chit-chat with her friend, Lerato, when a gas pipe blows on one of the bar fridges underneath the counter. The casualties and injuries mount up, but for Lindiwe, it is the entry path to another world. She finds herself trapped in the Apartheid era where the hatred between the privileged whites and the oppressed blacks, is the talking point across the globe. The year is 1987 and PW Botha is President of South Africa, with Apartheid at his most brutal. The President is using whatever means possible to oppress the black uprising of the African National Congress. Nelson Mandela is still in prison with the world calling for his release.
In 1987, the Vosloo Grill was the hangout for off duty policemen in Pretoria. Colonel Jaap Cornelius and his prestige Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus are discussing how the country is under siege from the ANC and its affiliates. The anger among the policemen is rife when they consider several of their colleagues who have been killed in the line of protecting the nation. The only way forward that they can see is for someone to execute Nelson Mandela in his prison cell. Maybe that will teach the ANC and all liberals a lesson! If the South African Police bosses dithered on their decision-making in protecting the white minority, then a bullet from the gun of one of their own, would be the answer to changing the political climate. Pieter saw himself as James Bond 007. The only difference was that he would be the bad guy.
As she lay in the hospital bed, Lindiwe notices that she is wearing one of her mother’s outfits with the Vosloo Grill logo on it. The spirit of Lindiwe Senior and Lindiwe Junior had much to answer for. Meanwhile, PW Botha’s braintrust were hard at work to hatch a plan that would take pressure off the ailing economy. The concept was to divide the Robben Island prison wardens into two groups. A day shift and a night shift, or more to the point, those who could not keep their mouths shut, and those who could. Mandela would be moved from his cell in the middle of the night to a safehouse. Here, the ruling National Party would do their best to break him down and get him to call off the ANC’s ‘Armed Struggle’ which was currently on the go against the government’s defence force and police.
Having heard PW Botha speaking on television about Mandela and the danger that the ANC poses to South Africa, Lindiwe realises that the ANC icon is the key to a New South Africa, and he should be unharmed at all cost. She escaped from the hospital and makes her way to Cape Town. At the railway station in Cape Town, she makes a friend in CNN television reporter Louise Burrell who is in the city in the hope of landing an interview with Mandela. Louise is set for a trip to Robben Island and Lindiwe persuades Louise to let her be her assistant. Louise reluctantly agrees, and buys Lindiwe a new outfit. They set off for the Cape Town harbour for the trip to the island. Lindiwe’s life is changing by the minute in the world of Apartheid.
Washington D.C-based human rights lawyer Pearce Ellison is experiencing his own Apartheid. The African-American is the sole black on his company’s board. Every idea that he puts on the table is shot down. He needs to land a case and a client that will see him respected by his colleagues. Nelson Mandela! He gets his Personal Assistant to book his trip to South Africa, without letting his colleague know. Pearce is an attention-to-detail person. He has done his homework on SA’s Apartheid leaders, from PW Botha, to Pik Botha, Barend du Plessis, Chris Heunis, Constand Viljoen and F.W. De Klerk. Pearce needs to make a friend in South Africa. Someone who will lead the way for him to access Mandela. It is 1987 and Apartheid rules, but the African-American has not given up hope.
The SA Police bus arrives in Laingsburg in the Karoo, on route to Cape Town, where the Pretoria cops will help their Cape Town colleagues in quelling a black uprising planned for Gugulethu township. While the cops wait at the fuel station’s shop to received their hamburgers and coffees, some of them racially abuse the coloured female staff on duty. This was racist SA at its best! Once in Gugulethu, the police use brutal force to stop the protest, leaving several blacks dead or injured. Afterwards, Pieter escapes to the Cape Town harbour to meet up with a contact that his Colonel, Jaap Cornelius, set up for him. Pieter is on a mission to get onboard the ferry to make the trip to Robben Island. There he will pull off the most evil deed in executing Mandela, which will change global history forever.
Robben Island Prison boss Vorster arrives at work to find that he has yet again been deceived by his principals. Nelson Mandela was removed from his prison cell during the night without his knowledge. The night shift wardens have been sworn to secrecy. Nobody, including Vorster, knows where Mandela is being kept. The island has some visitors with CNN television reporter Louise Burrell, and her assistant (Lindiwe) and cameraman, having arrived to interview Mandela. With Mandela not on the island, Vorster plays tough and refuses to entertain the government letter that Louise has which will allow her to interview the ANC icon. Vorster orders for the CNN camera to be confiscated and for Louise and her colleagues to be sent from the island. Watching in the distance is Pieter Erasmus. He quickly realises that Louise’s ‘assistant’ (Lindiwe) is not an African-American. He decides to follow the ladies back to the mainland to see why they are so interested in Mandela.
Louise and Lindiwe leave the island and head back to Pretoria by bus. The bus stops over at Laingsburg and the ladies relax over a cup of coffee. Lindiwe takes up the topic of ‘oppression’. God released the oppressed Israelites from Egypt, but if He is so against oppression, then why is He allowing the white minority to express their superiority over the black majority in SA? Pieter arrives at the same restaurant and sees the ladies. He introduces himself and explains that he saw them on the island. At first, the ladies are reluctant to chat to a white policeman. Pieter tries his best to work out why the ladies are so interested in Mandela. They eventually agree to meet up back in Pretoria to discuss things further.
Like Pieter was following the ladies, intelligence services are keeping an eye on Pieter to find out if he was still a committed cop, or trading with the liberation struggle. Sitting with a black girl in Laingsburg did not help his cause. Meanwhile, back in Pretoria, a party is about to break out. Two ANC activists, whom the SA government’s ground force had been after for a good few months, are killed in a raid in Swaziland. One official at headquarters, predicts the truth without knowing it and comments that he hopes that Pieter Erasmus will actually eliminate Mandela which will send a warning to the liberation struggle as to who actually rules SA.
In a dream, Lindiwe imagines herself having all the benefits of a white woman in Apartheid SA. She sees herself driving a fancy car and living in a whites-only suburb in Pretoria. She also sees herself eating at the fanciest restaurants reserved for whites. She even learns that she will marry a white man. In her dream, she enters into dialogue with Louise Burrell who tells her that this is what she (Lindiwe) always wanted. Lindiwe thinks about Pieter. There is something about the cop that makes her weak at the knees, but she is struggling to work it out.
Pieter Erasmus was raised by conservative-minded parents. Pieter finds himself in a dream as a ‘black Pieter’ and experiencing the other side of Apartheid SA. He is in a queue to board a taxi when he gets shoved around and mugged. He spots Lindiwe but she does not recognise him. When he approaches her, she still can’t place ‘black Pieter’. He cannot understand how this is happening, but of course, he does not know that he is ‘black Pieter’. He wakes up in a sweat and realises now more than ever based on his developing feelings for Lindiwe, that he can’t carry through with the Mandela plot.
Pearce Ellison makes his way from Mowbray in Cape Town, to the Cape Town harbour to attempt to board a ferry to the island. He experiences racism all the way, from Afrikaners hooting and showing hand signals to his taxi driver of colour, right through to the shocking behaviour of the white security officials at the ferry office. Pearce always wanted to intervene in racial situations but he had to hold back incase it would threaten his chance of getting across to Robben Island. Once on the island he has a heated exchange with prison boss, Vorster over the whereabouts of Mandela, and the potential future outcome for SA. Eventually, like most who get on the wrong side of Vorster, he is asked to leave the island.
Pearce sits in the midday sun near the waters and drifts off into dreamland. If he can’t get to Mandela, he needs to go for Plan B – Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. He finds himself in Harare, befriending Bishop Reginald Banda, who has links to Mugabe’s ZANU party. Pearce’s aim is to get Mugabe to form a peaceful resolution and government of unity with his main opponent, Joshua Nkomo of the ZAPU. Nkomo holds the hopes of the Ndebele people, and Mugabe despises them, with his troops killing many. Initially, Mugabe is reluctant to meet with his arch-enemy, Nkomo, of ZAPU, and is anti dealing with the western world. Pearce manages to talk sense into the President and a way forward is found. Mugabe agrees to talks with ZAPU with Pearce acting as facilitator.
It is agreed to form a new constitution for Zimbabwe with several ZAPU members to serve on the new Cabinet. Perhaps Mugabe had listened where PW Botha wouldn’t and Zimbabwe would be the success story. Of course, Mugabe has built his own counter plans. He has no intention of letting Nkomo gain too much power. His first prize is a one-party state. However, for the sake of diplomacy with the international Human Rights lawyer, Pearce Ellison, he pretends to toe the line. Mugabe realises that Mandela could soon be released from the island, and he needs to position himself as a winner in the minds of the people, before the ANC man takes the limelight.
Lindiwe meets Louise Burrell for coffee in Pretoria and tells her about the dream that she had. Some of the words that Louise speaks over coffee, were the very words that Louise spoke in Lindiwe’s dream. This freaks Lindiwe out a bit. Louise asks about Lindiwe’s background and the girl explains how her mother died giving birth to her and she was raised by Gogo Albertina Buthelezi. Pieter arrives and is on a mission to find out as much as he can about Lindiwe’s plan is to visit Albertina to find out more about the stories that the old woman had shared with the girl. Pieter, having heard part of the conversation, is also keen to get to Albertina. The race is on as to who will get to the old lady first.
Before the trio can leave the coffee shop, government security officials arrive on a mission to deport Louise Burrell. While her paperwork is in order, clearly her trip to the island was not good news to all. Eventually, after a shouting match scene in front of patrons, Louise is taken away by the security men. Lindiwe watches on, but as a black girl in Apartheid SA, there is little that she can do, even with Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus next to her. Pieter and Lindiwe agree to meet at 5pm for further talks. Neither are actually serious about the meeting. Both are on a mission to get to Albertina Buthelezi as soon as possible. With Louise gone, Pieter has to settle the ladies bill for coffee and cake, as Lindiwe cannot afford too.
Lindiwe gets to Albertina’s house in Mamelodi first and the old lady tells her of her working days at a laboratory on the Natal border. Albertina worked as a cleaner there, and heard about some strange happenings inside the laboratory. While all scientists were sworn to secrecy, several encountered burns to their bodies. One day, when cleaning near the laboratory, there was a huge explosion and a bright light blinded Albertina and through her to the floor. She woke up naked in a hotel room bed with a man, getting dressed next to it. Once the man had kissed her and left, she went over to what seemed to be a huge window. She could see heaven. It was real. Then Pieter arrived at the house in Mamelodi and he was not happy that Lindiwe had got there first. The old lady repeated some parts of the story for Pieter.
Albertina Buthelezi takes Pieter and Lindiwe through the finer details of the explosion at the laboratory. The old lady was still a virgin at the time of her employment there and wasn’t aware that she had sex with the man in the bedroom at the ‘Looking Glass’ so she was stunned to find out a few weeks later that she was pregnant. When she returned to work at the laboratory, she noticed that some of the scientists were missing. She still wasn’t too sure what the scientists were working on or what caused the explosion. Nor did she know why the laboratory was so top-secret. Pieter had done some research back at the office and had a good idea of the ‘Looking Glass’ project, but did not share his views with the ladies.
Pieter and Lindiwe left Albertina’s home and it was here that the Lieutenant provided an element of surprise, by driving towards Mbabane, Swaziland. His feelings for Lindiwe had grown and hers towards him were the same. With Swaziland not having Apartheid, he could freely spend a night with her in the city’s capital. Although he did have to change hotels when he saw the room price. He on a lowly Lieutenant’s salary. This led to Pieter becoming even more sure in his mind that he should not eliminate Mandela. However, if all that Lindiwe had seen was correct, someone else was on a mission to do the evil act and needed to be stopped. Pieter Erasmus was changing from potential villain to potential hero.
After a night of love-making, Lindiwe reveals more about her trip to the future and informs Pieter that Nelson Mandela will be SA’s first democratically elected President in 1994. She also mentions that the black homelands including Transkei, Ciskei and Zululand, will be incorporated into the New South Africa. Further, she announces with pride that the Springboks will win the 1995 Rugby World Cup final against New Zealand in Johannesburg. On the down side, SACP Secretary-General Chris Hani gets assassinated in April 1993, and his death plunges the country to the brink of civil war. There is the land issue, as in who are the real owners of the land and the minerals that it possesses.
Like most of the black homelands in SA, Ciskei were reluctant to relinquish power and be incorporated into the New South Africa. A march on Ciskei, that included future President Cyril Ramaphosa, SACP Secretary-General Chris Hani and ANC stalwart Ronnie Kastrils, turns ugly when bullets are fired on the protestors by the Ciskei law enforcers. Clear strategic battlelines for power would later develop between the various African cultural groups, from the Xhosas (which included Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Steve Tshwete) to the Sothos, Zulus and other groups.
Pieter Erasmus came from a staunch Dutch Reformed Church family, who would never understand, nor want to understand the New South Africa. Lindiwe explains to Pieter more about the future, including two elements involving the right wing, Afrikaner Weerstands Beweging (AWB). The Afrikaner militants attempted to help Lucas Mangope’s government hang on to power in their Bophutatswana homeland, but were refused weapons by the black homeland defence force. Eventually, Bophutatswana was brought into the New South Africa. Back home, the AWB drove an armoured vehicle through the glass windows at the World Trade Centre in Johannesburg, where the National Party government and the ANC were in talks. This was a desperate attempt to stop the New South Africa from happening.
As he drives towards Pietermaritzburg, Pieter thinks of the history of the Natal capital, which is named after the Voortrekker leaders, Pieter Retief and Gert Maritz. Pieter has two big concerns in his mind. Firstly, he could not get hold of his mentor, Colonel Jaap Cornelius, on the office number. Had Pieter been sold out by the man who had cemented the Mandela idea in his head? Was he now the fall guy? Secondly, was a third party at work to action the Mandela assassination plan ahead of him. While Pieter was leaning towards the New South Africa idea, more than the killing of Mandela, he still did not like someone else grabbing headline news ahead of him. He found himself at a serious crossroads in his life, and his country.
Pieter and Lindiwe reach the spot where the secret laboratory had been. However, there is little evidence to teach them anything new. The next morning, they spot a bright light that flashes, and Pieter realises that it is a morse code. P…E…L…B…L…G.10…K…M…W. He works out the code as ‘P’ for Pieter, ‘E’ Erasmus, ‘L’ for Lindiwe, ‘B’ for Buthelezi, ‘L’ for Looking, ‘G’ for Glass, and 10km west. Much later, a helicopter is heard and Pieter and Lindiwe make a run for it, but are tracked down by the armed military men. Pieter is knocked unconscious by a blow to the back of the head, and both he and Lindiwe and put into the helicopter and taken away as prisoners.
Pieter awakens in an interrogation room. A General, flanked by two armed men in uniform try and force him to talk on what he knew about Albertina Buthelezi and the laboratory. He refuses to divulge and has his head dunked several times into water until drowning point. His worst fear was that the security men would do to him what the military did to anti-Mugabe who were held in the dreaded Chikurubi prison in Zimbabwe. Those who refused to give information, had a rusty nail smacked through their penises with a hammer. A doctor was always on standby with some dirty clothes to wipe up the blood. Fortunately for Pieter, the security men who were holding him captive, never made use of this painful option. Pieter asks about Lindiwe, but is given little information other than the fact that she is alive.
Pieter begins to think that he may not live to see daylight again. He asks the security team if he is going to become the next Steve Biko or Doctor Neil Aggett. Both men are believed to have been beaten to death in police custody for their anti-apartheid activism. However, at the time, the cops stated that both Biko, and Doctor Aggett, committed suicide, and were not beaten to death. Pieter talks to the General and the security team about the New South Africa. The General laughs and refuses to believe that blacks can run a country. In the mind of the General, white minority control will go on forever, let alone having Nelson Mandela as the first democratically-elected President by 1994.
On Robben Island, prison boss Vorster is a confused man. He is made aware that Mandela is back in his prison cell. Vorster goes to the prison cell and tries to speak to the man to find out if the individual really is Mandela. The man does not respond. If Vorster had his way, he would have sent the man straight to the lime quarry for some heavy work and treatment from the wardens. Vorster did not like the blacks, let alone blacks who did not respond to his questioning. The prison boss asks the man in the prison cell if he knows how many people from the left and right wing want to kill him. The prisoner does not respond. Vorster is adamant that a new South African under an ANC government will never happen, or at least not while he is still on the island. He longs for retirement. Then this whole saga can become someone else’s problem.
Locked up in a damp stone prison cell, Pieter Erasmus is battling to breath as security men continued to shout through the cell door in a bid to gain information from him. They want to know more about Albertina Buthelezi and the laboratory explosion. This will lead them to knowing more about the future. Pieter refuses to give in to the pressure. He repeats his understanding that sooner rather than later, a black government will control South Africa, but the security personnel and the General laugh at him. Pieter is realising that outside of a release from the state, Mandela’s only way off the island is by escape. That would surely result in bloodshed.
General du Toit heads off in a huff at not having succeeded in getting information out of Pieter Erasmus. Then another, more liberal, man appears. Professor J.G. Strijdom. His mother was a big fan of the former South African Prime Minister, by the same name. While Strijdom is actually sent to get information out of Pieter, it turns out the other way around. Pieter learns that Mandela is back on the island, and that the Professor is just as cautious of his own colleagues, as he is. The Professor feels that Apartheid has another 10 years to go before it crumbles, but Pieter knows that is simply too long to wait. Until government get the answers that they are looking for, the ‘Looking Glass’ project will continue in secret at a place not far from the original spot at the Natal border.
P.W. Botha is hard at work to save the day. He is waiting for his phone to ring to find out what information his security men had managed to get out of Pieter Erasmus. However, this is not happening. Botha has no qualm about continuing with the current status quo. He is protecting the lives of the Afrikaner and English speaking whites in the country. He is quite prepared to take on the world, and any disloyal National Party politician. Barend du Plessis is his favourite in terms of succession, but there are others in his Cabinet who he feels, can’t be trusted. F.W. De Klerk’s name would be high up on that list. Botha is ready for action, whether it means taking on the ANC or the world. It would be his way or no way!
With General du Toit set for a day off from duty, Professor Strijdom hatches a plan to get Pieter Erasmus released in a bid for the Lieutenant to get to the island to protect Mandela. Pieters mind is racing. He has not seen Lindiwe for quite sometime. What if he found himself in a situation of saving one of Lindiwe or Mandela? He was also unsure as to how much he could trust the Professor. Most of the government workers were just that, workers not thinkers. Although the Professor seemed more liberal than most, trusted nobody outside of Lindiwe and himself. The Professor was bright enough to realise that SA could not be ruled by the white minority forever, but who was he reporting too?
Pieter heads off from the area where he had been held captive. He was told that Lindiwe had left earlier in the day. He had no clue of where to find Lindiwe. Something in his spirit tells him to go to Rita’s Koffeekroeg, where he had a meeting with Louise and Lindiwe before. By chance, he finds Lindiwe in the street and the two embrace. Once in the car on the road to Cape Town, Lindiwe explains that the government doesn’t want multi-racial children, hence black and white people should not marry. She also says that President Botha is expected to be removed from power by his own people, but she is not sure how it will work out. She was so close to the truth, as Botha would have a stroke in 1989, to eventually be replaced by F.W. De Klerk.
Pearce Ellison arrives at Pollsmoor Prison in Tokai, Cape Town, for a meeting with the prisons Acting Commissioner Mark van Pletzen. He finds the Acting Commissioner to be more liberal-minded than he expected. This was a man who wanted to fit in with the pending New SA, but of course he could not say that to his bosses. Van Pletzen confirms that Mandela is on the island. The Acting Commissioner puts Pearce on the spot. “What would you do if you were in P.W. Botha’s shoes?” There is an instant chemistry between Pearce and Mark. Both are men interested in the future, rather than the past. Mark and Pearce agree to meet at Pollsmoor at 7am the next day and to go to the Cape Town Harbour for a trip to Robben Island.
The next day, Mark and Pearce board the ferry to the island, and happen to be on the boat with Pieter Erasmus and Lindiwe Buthelezi. Once on the island, Pieter and Louise run into Louise Burrell (CNN). The government did not deport her. They gave her a stern warning about the tone of her content and she interviews. This did not break Louise’s spirit. She was sure that she would be finally getting her interview with Mandela. Mark and Pearce head off for a meeting with the island prison chief, Vorster. Security on the island is tight as many do not know what the future holds. In fact, many did not even know for sure that Mandela was on the island. South Africa was in an adapt or die situation or as some called it, a ticking time bomb.
Pearce Ellison and Mark van Pletzen meet with prison boss Vorster in his office on the island. The conservative-minded Vorster doesn’t like Pearce and the African-American is not a fan of the old school thinking of Vorster. Mark tries to be the facilitator to keep the peace. Vorster does not believe that SA will have a black government, especially one with Mandela as President. Vorster, like many whites in SA, believed that the ANC is a communist threat to the lives of the white minority. After several disagreement between Pearce and Vorster, the prison boss agrees to give Pearce and Mark 10 minutes of meeting time with Mandela. The distrust between Pearce and Vorster is so great that the lawyer is suspicious that the prison chief may pull a few tricks. However, he more feels comfortable with Mark at his side.
Outside in the sunlight, Lindiwe Buthelezi hears a voice in her mind and spirit and by the words being uttered, recognises it as that of Mandela. She falls into a trance and finds herself in 1973 and heading towards the prison cells on the island. The prisoners whistle and flirt with the young girl. One prisoner says “I will become your President’. She does not know who that prisoner is but will never forget his huge laughter. She thinks that the prisoner wants to be President ahead of Mandela and replies: “You are not my President.” When she asked for the prisoner’s name, he replies “Zuma.” As Lindiwe heads towards the end of the corridor to see Mandela, the trace ends and she is jolted back to reality.
Once out of the trance, Lindiwe tells Pieter Erasmus about what she had seen in her visit to 1973. Pieter doesn’t know who this ‘Zuma’ is, but is disappointed that Lindiwe never got to see Mandela. Meanwhile, a warden reports to Vorster over the fact of having seen Pieter and Lindiwe on the island. Vorster issues a security alert with wardens on the march to find Pieter and the girl. The urgency among the wardens was as if a prisoner had escaped. Pieter and Lindiwe make a run for the nearest corridor to find some form of safety. The wardens are struggling to find the pair and the jetty and ferry are double-checked. Panic is setting in as Pieter and Lindiwe are nowhere to be found. Nobody wants to tell that to Vorster.
As expected, Vorster plays a few dirty tricks of his own and orders intelligence security to stop Pearce Ellison and Mark van Pletzen from getting to Mandela’s prison cell. Both are marched towards Vorster’s office, but Pieter intervenes to leave the two security men on the floor. Pieter introduces himself and Lindiwe to Mark and Pearce and an alliance is formed. Four people with the same mindset and goals. However, all four are now seen as opponents of the state. The stakes are high, but the beloved country, South Africa, is at risk. It is Apartheid forever, or a new dawn. Failure is not an option to the four. Mark and Pearce head off to sort out Vorster in his office, while Pieter and Lindiwe will attempt to get to Mandela’s prison cell.
On the way to the prison cells, Pieter wrestles a warden to the ground, and to save the Lieutenant, Lindiwe shoots the warden, accidentally in his private parts. Once at the prison cells, Pieter is held at gun point by another warden. General du Toit enters and grabs Lindiwe, using her body as a shield. The General is the man who is out to eliminate Mandela! The General, who is suffering from lung cancer, can’t stop coughing, and Lindiwe elbows him in the ribs, forcing him to drop his weapon. Mark van Pletzen and Pieter Erasmus pin the General to the ground. The political prisoners celebrate in their prison cells, as the General yells that by not allowing him to kill Mandela, Pieter has ruined South Africa for generations to come. Pearce, Mark, Pieter and Lindiwe head down the corridor to see Mandela.
Finally, the four heroes get to spend some time with Nelson Mandela in a meeting room. Mandela thanks Lindiwe for saving his life. Lindiwe explains that it was actually a team effort. She is quick to work out that some of the words placed in her mind by Mandela, were to warn her of difficult times ahead after his Presidency. Lindiwe confirms to Mandela that the time is right for his exit from prison and the New South Africa should not be held back any longer, for the sake of the people. Once out of the meeting room, Pieter and Lindiwe walk to the shoreline. She spots a rock and it brings back memories of her father. She sees it is the same one where her father scratched her name, many years before. She asks Pieter to scratch Lindiwe on the rock.