Chapter Thirty – Chaos Reigns
Of course, the apartheid government leaders had more information at their disposal than what they shared with their foot soldiers. Although they would never admit it, President PW Botha’s think-tank were fully aware that a black government would replace the white minority leadership in due course, and this caused much panic to set in. How did they know this? The ‘Looking Glass’ confirmed it. This was the exact reason why Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus and Lindiwe Buthelezi had to be captured on the Natal border. The government knew that it was only a matter of time before the duo found the ‘Looking Glass’ there. While the apartheid regime swore blind in top level meetings that the ‘Looking Glass’ project had been canned years back, the truth was that it still was in working condition playing a major role for them.
Another element which Botha’s brigade were covering up, was the death toll courtesy of the ‘Looking Glass’. The President’s greed for information got the better of him. He simply could not get enough of what the ‘Looking Glass’ was informing him about the future.
The longer the ‘Looking Glass’ was in use, the more of the future the apartheid regime could see, and the more people suffered burns and ultimately loss of life.
A government minister was led into the President’s office by security personnel.
“Goeie dag, Meneer President, ons het uitgevind dat Mandela die oorlog gaan tot stilstaan bring op 7 Augustus 1990 (good day, Mr President, we found out that Mandela will end the armed struggle on 7 August 1990,” said the tall minister.
“Ons het ook uitgevind dat wanneer Mandela President word in 1994, hy gaan vir Thabo Mbeki en FW de Klerk aanstel as sy twee onderpresidente (we also found out that when Mandela becomes President in 1994, he will appoint Thabo Mbeki and F.W. de Klerk as his two Vice Presidents).”
Botha’s brow tensed and he began pointing his right index finger at the minister as he always did when he was in aggressive mode. The President had never had a close relationship with de Klerk, the Minister of Education. De Klerk had never been a part of the President’s inner circle, yet here was his naming popping up as a Vice President in South Africa’s first democratically elected government.
“Waar is ek in 1994 (where am I in 1994)?” asked Botha to the Minister.
The Minister cleared his throat.
“Ek weet nie, Meneer President, jou naam of gesig was nerens nie (I don’t know, Mr President, your name and face was nowhere),” said the Minister cautiously.
Botha licked the right side of his lips as he often did.
Would things have worked out differently for him personally if he had delivered the Rubicon speech in Durban in 1985 which would have allowed the unbanning of the ANC and its affiliates? Probably, not, as that could have put him out of a job much earlier, but he was determined not to let de Klerk be the man to bask in the glory of taking South Africa to a new future. While Mandela would later give Botha the credit for his early talks with the ANC, the President of the apartheid regime could just not see a black man in the No 1 seat in the Union Buildings. Following colonialism, in Botha’s mind black rule had led many other African countries to poverty and civil war, and Botha was determined, in the interest of the minority white, that South Africa would not go down the same road.
Botha was a firm believer in vir volk en vaderland (for the people and the land of their ancestors).
“Daar is slegte nuus (ther is some bad bad news),” updated the Minister.
“Nog drie manne is oorlede. Ons het hulle na die toekoms toe gestuur en hulle het te lank daar gebly. Hulle is veraas. (Another three men are dead. We sent them to the future but they stayed there too long. They were cremated).
Botha sighed. The military were taking a bit of a battering on the borders against the ANC’s onslaught, and now more lives (white lives at that), were being lost in the laboratory.
The President’s job was a tough one. Fortunately, some foreign leaders were in his corner. While the Russians supported the ANC’s onslaught and even trained their fighters, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher saw the ANC as nothing more than a communist, terrorist operation that was out to reak havoc at any cost. To her, the loss of civilian life was what got up her spine.
Of course, the ANC could not discount the loss of civilian lives in their onslaught against the South African government ‘Total Onslaught’ campaign. Carrying out violence against white civilian targets, seemed to be the only time the apartheid government took them seriously.
Would this endanger the lives of Mandela and his colleagues serving life sentences on Robben Island? Hardly likely, the apartheid regime leaders may have been racists, but they were not fools. Mandela and company needed to be kept alive at all costs. If they died in prison of natural causes or sickness, then so be it, but they would not be executed, despite having received the death penalty for treason against the state many years earlier.
What Botha could not understand was that a deal-breaker needed to be found. Someone who was humble enough to bring about peace for all South Africans instead of a state of civil war. Someone who would not seek revenge for the way that black people had been treated under apartheid but would rather look forward to building a prosperous, peaceful New South Africa.
If his mind was clear, Botha should have worked out that one of the deal-breakers would be Nelson Mandela. However, he would have battled to get it over his heart that the other kingpin would be his successor, FW de Klerk.
Botha did not trust de Klerk and the Education Minister did not trust Botha. Atleast they had something in common.
Many in the public domain viewed de Klerk as being much more conservative-minded than Botha. Yes, Botha was seen as a big-time democrat compared to some of the leaders who were still making their way down the National Party’s corridor.
Botha’s biggest concern at the moment was not his country. He was baffled by the fact that his Minister could not tell him where he would fit into the political landscape in 1994. Surely the President would fit in somewhere. How was he to know that 1989 would be the year that he would lose the support of his cabinet and also suffer be slightly handicapped health-wise after suffering a stroke?
“Niemand weet dat die ‘Soek Glas’ nog bestaan nie behalwe vir jou top manne, is dit waar (nobody knows that the ‘Looking Glass’ still exists besides your top men, is that true?)” fumed Botha.
“Ja, Meneer President (yes, Mr President),” replied the Minister.
“As hierdie geheim ooit uitkom gaan dit die einde van ons wees (if this secret ever comes out it will be the end of us),” snapped the President.
“How erg gaan dit wees onder n Mandela regering (how bad will it be under a Mandela government)?” asked the Minister.
“Nie in my leeftyd nie (not in my lifetime),” replied Botha in a cocky fashion.
“Maar my grootste probleem is nie Mandela nie. Hy is gemaaklik op Robbeneiland. De Klerk is my probleem soos n slang in die gras. (My biggest problem isn’t Mandela. He is comfortable on Robben Island. De Klerk is my problem, like a snake in the grass).”
“Jy dink de Klerk sal vir jou uitverkoop en wil die nuwe leier wees (you think de Klerk will sell you out and wants to be the new leader)?” asked the Minister.
“Ek dink nie so nie, ek weet so (I don’t think so, I know so),” replied Botha.
“Dink jy dat die tyd reg is om Mandela sy vryheid te gee (do you think the time is right to give Mandela his freedom)?” asked the Minister.
Botha stared at the man opposite his desk. His line of questions was sounding too liberal for the liking of the President.
“Ek het vit Mandela sy vryheid aangebied, as hy bereid is om die oorlog to beeindig en in the Transkei gebied to gaan aftree, maar hy weier (I offered Mandela freedom on the basis that he is willing to call off the armed struggle and then he can go and retire peacefully in the Transkei area, but he refused).”
“So wat nou (so what now)?” asked the Minister.
Botha stared at the picture of himself as President, mounted on the wall in the office.
“Ek sal jou weer vertel, de Klerk is die vyand op die oomblik, nie Mandela nie (I will tell you again, de Klerk is the enemy at the moment, not Mandela),” said the President in a no-nonsense tone of voice.
He turned his attention to a thick bunch of printed papers that lay on his desk and read for a good three minutes, before responding to the Minister.
“Hoeveel mense werk nog by the ‘Soek Glas’ daar in Natal (how many people work at the ‘Looking Glass’ in Natal)?” asked Botha.
“So vyftig, maar ons het n paar verloor gisteraand, die wat veras is (about fifty, but we lost some last night, those who got cremated),” replied the Minister.
“En die ‘Soek Glas’projek is nie meer op die ou plek nie (and the ‘Looking Glass’ project is not at the old place)?” questioned the President.
The Minister shook his head.
“Die ‘Soek Glas’ projek is so vytig kilometer weg van die ou plek, dis hoekom Leitenant Pieter Erasmus dit nie kon vind nie (the ‘Looking Glass’ project is about fifty kilometres south of the old place. That is why Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus could not find it).”
“Minister, ek het meer inligting nodig (Minister, I need more information),” said Botha.
“Ek wil weet hoe de Klerk in Mandela se regering beland het en wat gebeur met my (I need to know how de Klerk ends up in Mandela’s government and what happens to me).”
“Meneer, President, ons kan meer mense na die toekoms toe stuur maar die kanse dat nog dood gaan wees is baie goed (Mr President, we can send more people to the future but the chances that they could die are great),” said the Minister.
“Doen wat jy moet doen maar ek soek inligting spoedig op my lessenaar (do what you must do, but I need information on my desk at speed),” ordered the President.
“Tussentyd, ek gaan weer met Mandela probeer praat (in the meantime I will try to speak with Mandela again).”
The Minister left the President’s office and Botha went into thought mode.
As much as he hated to admit it, he needed Mandela and Mandela needed him. However, over his dead body was he going to have de Klerk meddling in on the country’s affairs.
Botha pushed a button on his desk telephone.
“Kry vir Mandela na Victor Verster tronk in the Paarl net vir n dag, ek will daar met hom vergader (get Mandela to Victor Verster Prison in Paarl for a day, I want to meet with him),” ordered the country’s No 1.
Botha was a shrewd politician second to none. He was a born schemer. He had been Prime Minister of the country from 9 October 1978 until 14 September 1984, until he abolished the post and entrenched himself as State President.
He prided himself as a progressive thinker. It was his Tricameral System that gave the vote to the coloureds and Indians, however the blacks were still out in the cold.
It was during Botha’s time that the Ciskei, Bophutatswana and Venda all became homelands with borders between themselves and South Africa, although all depended on Botha’s country for economic survival.
To many right wingers, Botha’s ‘liberal’ mindset was just too much. They did not take lightly to his comprises to the blacks and in 1982, Andrie Treunicht led a breakaway movement that resulted in the formation of the Conservative Party.
Botha saw himself as the cleverest of the clever, but de Klerk, the new kid on the block, was busy pushing buttons and pulling levers that Botha did not even know existed.
The President faced political battles every day of his time as Prime Minister and President and was open to confrontation. He had never lost a battle yet and his cabinet were petrified at the thought of what would happen to them if they dared question the No 1.
Botha was ready to take on Mandela, de Klerk and the world. However, he thrived on an information supply which would keep him one step ahead of his opponents. This is why the government needed to know what Albertina Buthelezi saw in the future. Perhaps her version of her trip to the 1990s, would help answer some questions for the President.
For the moment, Pieter Erasmus, Lindiwe Buthelezi and Albertina Buthelezi were not being too cooperative in terms of assisting Botha’s government with information.
If they did, they could well lose their worth in terms of life, and there could be no tomorrow for them. They could not be sure that Botha’s regime would stick to their plan to keep Mandela alive.
Gone were the days when a man’s bond was his word. Right now, if it was not written on paper, then it did not happen. P.W. Botha and Pieter Erasmus has something in common. They trusted nobody, and nobody trusted them.
Botha sat in his office and nodded. His masterstroke had been to hide the ‘Looking Glass’. Almost all who had worked on the project had thought that it had been shelved after the explosion in the laboratory all those years ago.Ja nee, Botha, n boer maak n plan (Yes, Botha, an Afrikaner makes a plan).
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