Chapter Seventeen – The colour of money
Confused, frustrated, annoyed and disappointed in himself and the world. That is how Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus felt as he gazed out of a rain-covered window in a coffee shop in Pretorius Street, Pretoria.
He had two golden opportunities to change the destiny of South Africa and had failed to walk through the doorway of each. The Lieutenant had chickened out on both occasions. Perhaps he was not the brave defender of white South Africans that his family believed he was?
Dressed in a light blue short sleeve shirt and jeans, Pieter took in a sip of coffee. He was fast beginning to believe that he was the only one who really thought that South Africa was on a road to hell under the ANC. If others, in particular whites, held the same belief, then why weren’t they making their voices heard through actions?
Farmers were being killed on the farms, yet the world stayed quiet. There was no doubt in Pieter’s mind that the farm killings were politically motivated, even if the ANC refused to acknowledge this fact.
He thought about those young South African men who had perished in the Angola border war, defending South Africa from the so-called communist onslaught that was heading south in the late 1980s.
The lives of these brave, young soldiers were cut short in their early twenties because of decisions that were taken in Pretoria by the Apartheid regime. Now those Apartheid leaders had run for cover for were enjoying their pensions, while the ANC ruled the country.
The same applied to many white South African policemen and women who had lost their lives in attempting to bring the country’s crime rate to a level of controllability.
Pieter shook his head and put some more milk into his coffee, but something caused him to spill some of the milk on to the table rather than into his cup.
Outside on the pavement, a black and white showdown was taking place. A middle-aged Afrikaner had jumped from his brown Toyota Hilux vehicle to confront a taxi driver, who had nearly collided with the man’s vehicle.
“Julle fokkers ken nie die reels van die pad nie (you fukkers don’t know the rules of the road)!” screamed the man, large in build, and armed with a pistol.
The taxi driver shouted back in Sotho language, waving his arms in disgust. A situation which had to do with an infringement of the law was about to turn political.
A crowd was now starting to gather on the pavement. Black men began to hurl abuse at the Afrikaner. It did not matter to the onlookers as to who was right or wrong in the matter. When a white man, armed with a pistol, shouted at a black man, that was enough to light a fuse for a possible explosive situation.
Pieter watched on from inside the coffee shop and could see the hatred in the eyes of both parties. The blacks on the pavement still saw whites as being privileged and what angered the majority even more was that the government was doing little about levelling the playing fields. Sure, the ANC and other black parties spoke a good game when it came to free education, free housing, free electricity, and free water, but few of these promises had turned into reality.
It was a case of the privileged blacks going on to live a good life and forgetting about the poorest of the poor.
A middle-aged Zulu man armed with a panga attempted to charge at the Afrikaner, but he was restrained by other members on the pavement. At least some common sense had prevailed for the moment anyway.
“Ek is nie bang vir julle bliksems nie (I am not scared of you bastards)!” yelled the white man.
Nelson Mandela’s Rainbow Nation dream was hanging by a thread. While chaos reigned on the pavement, two black youngsters took the opportunity to try and raid a television shop nearby. A rock was thrown towards the shop window causing it to shatter. The Indian shop owner pushed the panic button below the counter at the front of the shop, as the two thugs made off with two television sets. Two security guards arrived on the scene to safeguard the shop from further looting.
Pieter glared at the goings-on. It was just another normal day in the capital city of South Africa, and he was convinced that things were getting worse rather than better.
On the pavement, things were getting more heated by the minute.
“You fucking boer, go back to Holland!” shouted a black man, armed with a wooden club.
Several politicians had brainwashed the blacks to believe that South Africa belonged to those of colour and the Afrikaners should be chased back to their roots in Europe.
The white man was outnumbered by about twenty-five to one. What the pavement brigade did not know, was that the white man had done combat training guarding mines for the rich in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Under his jacket, was a well concealed hand grenade, plus spare ammunition for his pistol. The man shared the sentiment that Pieter had often thought about. He did not mind going being clubbed to death, but he was adamant that several of his opponents would also meet their maker on this very day.
The man’s eyes glared at the black onslaught in front of him, as he raised the pistol to shooting height.
“Pull the fucking trigger!” screamed another black man.
“Just do it!”
For a moment, Pieter thought that the Afrikaner would lower his weapon, but then a moment of madness happened. Pieter heard a shot go off from the man’s pistol. The Afrikaner had the courage to follow through where Pieter had earlier stopped.
The Zulu man with the club took a bullet to the side of the face and let out a screeching sound as he fell to the ground.
As the black men charged towards the Afrikaner, another two bullets exited the chamber of the weapon, while the man pulled the pin on the hand grenade before throwing it a good ten metres into the crowd. Several of those on the pavement tried to run away. Five black men breathed their last with one taken care of by a bullet and another four perished courtesy of the hand grenade blast.
The Afrikaner was eventually wrestled to the ground and disarmed of his pistol by two black men, who handed out a severe beating to him. Onlookers filmed the scene with their mobile phones.
By now, the crowd on the pavement had reached more than a hundred and the chant of ‘Kill the Boer, kill the farmer’ was deafening.
Sirens could be heard in the distance, as police vehicles rushed to the scene to restore the peace. With his face covered in blood from a wound above his right eye, the white man was hauled to his feet.
“You will rot in jail for this!” shouted one of the men who was holding the Afrikaner’s arms firmly behind his back.
“F.W. de Klerk can’t save you this time!”
“An eye for an eye!” shouted another black man on the pavement, meaning that one white person needed to be killed for every black who perished.
The white man spat out some blood in the direction of the blacks on the pavement.
Two ambulances arrived and paramedics did their best to help two of the men who had been wounded in the grenade blast.
Pieter sat motionless inside the coffeeshop. There was little that he could do. Being in civilian clothing, he would be just another white Afrikaner by the people on the pavement.
To most whites, all blacks were criminals and to most blacks, whites were still the oppressors, irrespective of who was ruling the country.
The next vehicle to arrive was one from the mortuary. Two officials began to throw silver foil-like covers over the deceased.
The police had to use teargas and stun grenades to get the Afrikaner away from the angry mob. Eventually, the cops managed to reach the man who had a smirk on his face. Despite being handcuffed, he seemed pleased with the anarchy that he had caused. Rotting in jail was not a problem to him. In his eyes one could sense that he felt that he had done his country proud.
The crowd on the pavement seemed to be increasing by the second and by now, more cops had arrived to assist. The heckling of the cops was almost louder than the threats against the arrested man.
The message was simple. The crowd wanted mob justice, but in a democracy like South Africa, this was simply not possible. The law needed to run its course.
Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus watched on from his table inside of the coffeeshop. Fortunately, the hand grenade thrown by the Afrikaner man, was sent off in the opposite direction to where Pieter was. Still the explosion and chaos on the pavement, was enough to make the shop-owner to shut the doors of the business.
The cop gazed on. He recognised several of his police colleagues who were doing their best to gain control of the situation. Normally, he would have helped them, but Pieter was of the view that his employers were playing Lindiwe Buthelezi Jnr against him. He was adamant that the cops knew where Lindiwe Jnr was and that they were withholding this information from him.
Fok hulle (fuck them), thought Pieter, with reference to the police. For now, he would play the lone ranger role.
He stared at the Afrikaner man. It was almost like he was seeing a mirror image of himself. The man had pulled off a type of Barend ‘Witwolf’ Strydom Part II act.
If anything, the Afrikaner man’s shooting of black people on the pavement outside, inspired Pieter. The big difference here was that when it was Pieter’s turn, he was adamant that he would be able to do it in such a strategic way, that he would not get caught.
Pieter figured it out like that of a bank robbery. You do not go into a bank and rob it for just R100. You either go big and get a few million Rands or you don’t do it at all. The same applied here. Either a good many of the opposition needed to die, or else it was not worth doing.
The Afrikaner man was loaded into the back of a police vehicle, which left the scene at speed despite having objects thrown at it by the irate crowd.
This reeked of the Apartheid days, with the only difference being it was a majority black police force which was now laying down the law.
By now, the paramedics and mortuary staff had cleared away almost all the crime scene. Members of the ANC and other parties stood in deep conversation about what had just happened.
Having seen almost the whole episode play out, Pieter was sure that the Afrikaner man was just a loner who had got caught in a state of road rage, which then turned political within seconds. The cops were not to know that as they arrived minutes later. To them it was a political showdown. Pieter had no plan of giving a witness statement. Why should he help a force that was not prepared to help him?
The Lieutenant finished his coffee and paid the bill. The Afrikaner guy who had been arrested would almost certainly be denied bail by the court, and this would be for his own protection.
Of course, the story would make headline television news and how this would polarise the country was anyone’s guess. Nelson Mandela had managed to avoid further bloodshed by calming the people after the assassination of Chris Hani in 1993, but things were different now.
The ANC was calling the shots and under huge pressure from other parties in terms of being too lenient with the white minority.
A bleeping sound broke out on Pieter’s mobile phone and he took the device from the right-side pocket of his jeans to read the message.
It was a SAPS alert. Two right wing men believed to be members of the militant right wing Boeremag had avoided capture on a farm outside of Polokwane in the Limpopo Province. The country seemed to be at the mercy of right-wing Afrikaner crackpots who would do the unthinkable in a bid to destabilise the New South Africa.
Pieter grinned. Isn’t that what he had become? Certainly, if he had opened fire on Lillian Ngcoyi Square, he would have been just as bad as the Boeremag.
Hardloop, manne, hardloop (run, guys, run), he thought. For all the stress that the police had added to his life, he hoped that these on-the-loose Afrikaners would make life into a misery for the cops.
In Pieter’s mind the answer was simple. If the cops told him where Lindiwe Jnr was, then things would be different. Until then, he had no plan on helping his former employers. Unbeknown to Pieter, the cops had no idea where Lindiwe Jnr was. They were as keen to get to find her as Pieter was.
There was another bleeping sound on Pieter’s mobile phone. Another message, but this time from the other side of the spectrum.
“Fok it (fuck it),” muttered Pieter under his breath, but loud enough to draw the attention of the waitress whom he had just paid for his coffee.
Two of his closest friends in the police, Constable Jannie Venter and Constable Mark Bruintjies, were ambushed while attending to a crime scene in Mabopane, outside of Pretoria the night before.
Venter, just twenty-four years of age, was killed instantly in a hail of bullets, while Bruintjies was fighting for his life in hospital, after being clubbed by a mob who relieved him of his service pistol.
Venter was white, Bruintjies was coloured, but skin colour did not seem to matter now.
Pieter shook his head. Venter’s wife had given birth to their first child last week and the father was so upbeat about life. Now the child would grow up without having even seen their dad.
This scenario was a common occurrence in South Africa across the political domain. Hundreds of black kids grew up without a father after the brutal onslaughts of the Apartheid regime’s law enforcers against activists.
Was South Africa really experiencing reverse Apartheid? Were the conservative-minded Afrikaners right in saying this?
Was Mandela’s Rainbow Nation dream all over bar the shouting?
Was there still a space for the white, coloured, and Asian minority in South Africa?
Were South Africa’s democratic best days now behind them? Could things get any worse?
Lots of questions but very few answers. The battle was on for power, land, and money.
Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus wiped his brow and his face turned whiter than normal as he spotted someone across the street from the coffeeshop!