Chapter Four – Breaking News
Stressed, tired and confused. That summed up Lindiwe Buthelezi’s mood as she stepped from a twenty four hour bus trip from Pretoria to Cape Town Railway Station. Escaping from the Pretoria East hospital had been a mission in its own right, let alone the bus trip down to the Mother City. She found herself living on a diet on headache pills. At least they seemed to numb the pain from the cuts and bruises on her body. Right now, the Vosloo Grill gas pipe blast was furthest from her mind. She was a woman on her own mission.
Lindiwe needed to find the potential killer who was on a mission to eliminate Nelson Mandela. Faceless he but Lindiwe was confident she would know the person when spotting the individual.
She made her way into a small coffee bar at the Cape Town Railway Station and ordered a coffee. The white lady behind the counter serving the coffee looked at Lindiwe suspiciously. “A white woman serving a black? No, what was this country coming to?”
Lindiwe looked at the large clock on the wall inside the coffee bar area. It was 09h00 and the railway station was quite busy. People were rushing to meetings. Of course, it was mainly white people who frequented the range of shops inside the large building.
She tried to spot a few black people but they were hard to see. Coloured people, yes. These were plenty of them, but very few black people seemed to be making use of the trains or the shops or eating places there.
Many blacks felt that apartheid would never end or at least not in their respective lifetimes. There seemed to be no solution on the horizon as far as creating a one-man-one-vote state or equality for all. The station reeked of white superiority.
“Yeah, you can put extra cream in the coffee, how much will that be?” asked a woman with a strong American accent to the lady behind the counter.
Lindiwe cast an eye to see who the visitor was. She didn’t have to turn her head much as the American took up a seat at the small table next to which she was seated.
Lindiwe smiled at the white American who was in her early thirties.
Louise Burrell took a folder out of her briefcase and placed it on the table. Lindiwe noted the CNN logo on the folder and knew enough to know that it represented the 24-hour Atlanta-based television news network.
Louise, dressed in a grey overcoat and with her brown hair tied back in a ponytail, took out some papers and one word on the top sheet, caught Lindiwe’s eye – MANDELA.
Lindiwe pushed up the sleeves of her brown jersey and chose her words carefully.
“You know about Mandela?” she asked and then wished she hadn’t.
Louise tore open a white sugar sachet and then poured its contents into her coffee cup.
“Not many people here seem to know that Mandela holds the key to a transition from apartheid to a democratic country,” smiled Louise.
Lindiwe smiled in return. At last, here is a white person, albeit a foreigner had some understanding that South Africa was not a normal country.
“You can say that again, sister,” replied Lindiwe.
Wait a moment. Did Lindiwe just refer to a white person as a ‘sister’? If a cop was nearby she would have been handcuffed and thrown in the back of a police van for saying that she thought she was at the same level as a white woman.
“What do you think of Mandela?” asked Louise.
Lindiwe cleared her throat.
“To be honest, I don’t know too much about his personal life, but if something happens to that old man, history could take a turn for the worst in this country,” quipped Lindiwe.
Lindiwe took out her red lipstick and pulled a small mirror from her handbag, as she began touching up her make up.
“How long do you think it will be until Apartheid falls?” asked Louise out of interest.
“Possibly another seven years,” gauged Lindiwe.
Louise sighed. Had she come to South Africa too early? Anyway, something made her decide to confide in Lindiwe.
She sat forward in her chair to make sure that nobody was listening in on the conversation.
“I am going to meet Mandela later today,” said the CNN political television reporter.
“It has been cleared with the state security. I am so excited to be going to Robben Island. They just won’t let me go near his prison cell though. I will meet him in an office on the island.”
Lindiwe felt a new sense of energy flow through her body.
What she wouldn’t do to be on the ferry with Louise to the island!
How could she go with Louise? Maybe she could carry the luggage for the CNN reporter. That is what black South Africans were forced to do for white people, right?
“Can you keep a secret?” quipped Louise.
“I am informed that Mandela’s release from prison is imminent,” said the reporter.
“It is the only way that the South African government can stop the black on white violence and economic sanctions against the country.”
Courtesy of a tip-off, CNN had sent Louise to South Africa in expectance of the release of Mandela.
However, the media had been fooled before. P.W. Botha was meant to read the Rubicon Speech in Durban in 1985, which would have brought about the release of the ANC men that were in captivity.
Back then, Foreign Affairs Minister Pik Botha had put the court before the horse by telling some media that a huge announcement was to be made.
When it came to reading the speech, P.W. Botha read all out loud except the part relating to the release of the ANC stalwarts.
Louise’s eyes continued to sparkle Was she about to break the biggest story on the planet? Was South African society about to change forever?
“Until now, a black person looking or talking to a white person was deemed to be a sin in the eyes of the National Party who brainwashed the white people of South Africa into thinking their way.” said Lindiwe.
“If your sources are correct, millions of black lives could change within days or weeks,” added the excited law student.
How close was South Africa to having equal rights for all? Would Nelson Mandela be the country’s first democratically-elected black president?
Wow! The thoughts were mind-boggling.
Lindiwe knew that many black people had laid down their lives in battle against the apartheid forces in order to get to this stage. If Louise was telling the truth, the history books of not only Africa, but the world, were about to be rewritten.
Lindiwe pinched her left arm in order to bring herself back to reality. She suddenly remembered her goal.
“I need to get to Robben Island too, sister,” quipped the younger woman.
Louise looked puzzled.
“Excuse me for asking, but why do you need to go to the island?” questioned the reporter.
“Do you have a relative locked in one of the prison cells there?”
Lindiwe took the bait that was being offered.
“Yes, I do but the authorities won’t let me visit him. Please help me to see my long last uncle.”
Lindiwe tried her best to force some tears to come out of her eyes.
This time it was Louise who took the bait, hook, line and sinker. The American woman needed allies.
“Fine, I will help you,” said Louise.
“You will have to speak with an American accent and pretend to be my media assistant. I know that the South African authorities won’t enjoy seeing a black person venturing on to the island, but these are changing times so let us show them the future rather than the present or past.”
“Yeah,” said Lindiwe, as she tested her American vocabulary and both women giggled.
To Lindiwe, it was as if her whole world had changed in just over a day and a half. From escaping from Pretoria East Hospital, to a long and boring bus trip from Pretoria to Cape Town during which she pondered on how she was going to get across to Robben Island.
Now it was like God had sent an angel to make a way for her. Louise Burrell was an angel who had just provided her with a golden ticket.
Again, she felt positive that she would know the potential assassin of Nelson Mandela when she saw him. Her spirit would guide her. It already was. Lindiwe’s spirit was telling her that Louise Burrell definitely was the person that God had sent to help her.
If only Lindiwe’s father had given her the identity of the would-be-killer all those years ago. Who was the mysterious person that her mother had stopped from eliminating Mandela?
Louise Burrell glanced at Lindiwe Buthelezi.
“Well, you certainly can’t go to Robben Island dressed like you are,” said the reporter with a wry smile.
“Nobody will believe that you are a journalist. Let’s get you a change of clothes and a notepad and pen. You need to look the part or else you will give the game away.”
“Is my fashion sense that bad?” she asked jokingly.
“No, it is actually too good,” responded Louise.
“When have you ever seen a well-dressed journalist? Media pay isn’t that great unless you are an editor or media company board member. So it is a case of affordability.”
“In America, many journalists attend media briefings wearing jeans or sometimes shorts if the weather is good,” continued Louise.
“I am not saying that you must wear jeans or short to Robben Island but a dress won’t do.”
Lindiwe looked down at the bottom of the white dress that she was wearing. If only the dress could talk. The garment could tell a few stories from her mother’s days through to the blast in the Vosloo Grill in 2010 and then back to 1987.
Louise was right. Besides the white dress was no longer white and needed a good wash.
The two ladies finished their coffees and headed out into the main area of the train station. The building was large with a high roof and was the home of twenty four platforms for trains to either begin or end their journeys. The last few platforms were the glamour ones. That is where the holiday-mode famous, luxury Blue Train and Trans Karoo trains were usually found.
Many people visited the platforms there just to take photographs of the famous trains, knowing that they would probably never have the cash to travel on them. Of course, it was only the white people who took such trips or photographs.
Louise and Lindiwe walked to the far end of the railway station and out into the city. They crossed the busy street next to the Golden Acre amid some strange looks from some of the white people.
Lindiwe could read the minds of the whites who were staring at her. Oh look, this white woman is taking her domestic worker to town.
That is how it was in South Africa in 1987. If a black person was with a white person, the black had to be the white person’s maid or gardener. What else could they be when blacks were prohibited from entering whites-only areas due to the Group Areas Act.
If a black person was given a bag of clothes or other goods by their white employer, they needed a note to go with it, or else if stopped by the police, it would be thought that the goods were stolen.
Louise spotted a small clothing shop next to the large Woolworths store on the corner of Adderley and Strand streets and tugged at Lindiwe’s arm to move her in that direction.
Once inside the store, a white lady greeted both woman and seemed to take a liking to Lindiwe.
“Don’t worry, we sell goods to all clients regardless of race, colour or creed,” said the woman.
Of course, this all seemed a bit strange to Louise as America was quite different to this. Yes, America also had their own black vs white issues going back centuries, but people could buy or sell their goods where they pleased, regardless of skin colour. No explanation was ever needed.
Louise spotted a range of blouses and eventually decided on two items for Lindiwe to choose from. Then she focused on a selection of women’s slacks pants. Once Lindiwe had made up her mind she went to a small change room to try on the clothing and it fitted like a glove.
Louise smiled. These were all experiences that few people would get. She would write her own biography one day so that her grandchildren would know what she did with her life.
Now it was time to pay and Louise suddenly realised that she had a problem. She had used what little South African Rands she had on her to pay for her overnight accommodation in Johannesburg before heading to Cape Town. Then of course, her small change had covered her coffee bill at the railway station.
“Oh no, madam, I can’t accept US Dollars as payment as much as I would like too,” said the shop manager, as Louise offered to pay in her own currency.
This was becoming embarrassing. Louise left Lindiwe at the shop and headed off up Adderley Street to Standard Bank where she changed some Dollars into South African Rands.
Back at the shop, she paid for the clothing and Louise dressed up in it before the pair headed off.
Lindiwe spotted a Central News Agency (CNA) store and pointed at it. Louise wasn’t too sure what a CNA shop was, but as soon as she set foot in it she realised that it was a place to buy stationery.
The American woman smiled. She sensed that Lindiwe was the right person to have at her side. The black South African girl was street wise and matured for her age. Lindiwe was a go-getter who could capitalise on an opportunity offered to her. Louise admired those qualities. In fact, she saw Lindiwe as a carbon copy of herself when she was that age.
Now all roads led to the Cape Town Harbour. Louise took a small notepad out of the inner right pocket of her coat and gazed at the name ‘Koos Greyling’. He was to be her contact at the harbour as far as getting her on to a ferry and across to the island was concerned. The trick would be to get Lindiwe on to the boat too. Not many Afrikaners were believed to be liberal-minded but Louise was not one to stereo-type or generalise. She was secretly hoping that Koos would be able to look past the colour of Lindiwe’s skin. Louise didn’t want any trouble.
All she wanted was Mandela time.
Chocolate Ice Cream is The Future.
— picture from African Kitchen comic series
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