Chapter Thirty-Six – Flashback Time
“Jy daar, wat maak julle (you there, what are you doing)?” shouted another warden, who noticed the suspicious pair.
“Let me handle this,” said Pieter, as he headed off to consult with the warden.
Lindiwe suddenly felt as if she was going to faint. Her knees seemed to be giving way under her delicate body frame and she thrust her right arm forward to catch hold of a pole in front of her.
What was going on? She was normally quite healthy. Was the stress of the task getting to her? What if it was too late already? What if the assassin had eliminated Mandela? If that had happened, South Africa would never be the Rainbow Nation after all!
Then she heard a familiar voice inside of her.
“Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.”
Lindiwe took it as a sign to her that the voice of Nelson Mandela in her mind, meant that the ANC icon was still alive!
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
There was that voice again!
Initially, Lindiwe thoughts that the powerful words of Mandela would strengthen her, but she felt like she was about to collapse. It was like another human being had taken over her life. My God, Lindiwe, you are the spirit of Nelson Mandela.
The girl’s eyes tried their best to stay open, but it was a forlorn task. Things became extremely dark and the next time she saw light, things were extremely different.
She reached for her purse a friend had given her for her birthday, but it was not in her jacket pocket where she normally stored it.
Hang on, she thought, things look different.
She managed to catch the attention of the first warden who was walking near her.
“Sir, I seem to have lost my brown purse,” said Lindi.
“You what?” asked the Afrikaner warden.
“Your purse, alright, and by the way how did you get on to the island?”
“With the ferry,” replied Lindiwe, with a smile.
“No I meant…,” retorted the warden before putting in a sneeze.
Lindiwe stared down at her clothes and realised that the items on her body were not hers.
“What is the date today?” asked the girl.
“It is the 23rd of June 1973, but I need to know how you made it on to the island?” asked the young warden.
Before he could get his answer from the girl, he got hailed by a colleague and had to go off and sort out some unruly prisoners in the courtyard.
Lindiwe shook her head. 23rd of June 1973!
What was going on?
That familiar voice returned.
“I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.”
A warden’s wife walked past Lindiwe, and immediately called the nearest prison official to get the black woman off of the island.
“Wat maak sy hier (what is she doing here)?” asked the woman, in her early thirties.
“Sy behoort in die tronk saam met die ander. Hulle het twee van ons polisiemanne in Rhodesie hierdie jaae vermoor. Hulle behoort almal in die tronk op hierdie eiland (she belongs in the jail with the others. The blacks have killed two of our policemen in Rhodesia this year. They belong in jail with all the others).”
The ‘hulle’ (they) that the woman mentioned was with reference to the blacks. It was a stereotype outlook which the Nationalist Party brainwashed the whites with. Any black person was seen as an enemy of the state.
Lindiwe was battling to understand what she had done wrong to deserve this sort of judgement. In reality, she had done nothing wrong. This was 1973 and only a white skin meant freedom of movement or a right to any privilege.
For some reason, the warden was more interested in calming the Afrikaner woman down that he was in finding out why Lindiwe was on the island. The girl took her chance and moved away from the confrontation to a corridor close by. Eventually, the warden turned around to look for the girl, but he couldn’t see her. Would he call his colleagues to do a search of the island? No, he escorted the Afrikaner woman back to the jetty for her trip back to the mainland.
An out-of-breath Lindiwe stood around in a corridor with her back up against the wall. What was going on here? How did she end up back in 1973? Where was Pieter Erasmus? She suddenly saw some light at the end of the corridor where she was standing. What was this now? Was it a trap?
A greater force seemed to be pushing her body towards the light. The Mandela voice had stopped in her head. She was not sure if that was a good sign or not.
A prison warden at the end of the corridor was striding in her direction. Lindiwe’s heart skipped a beat. Would she be locked away or at best, asked to leave the island? The warden walked past her without greeting. What was happening here? It was almost like the spirit of Mandela had made her acceptable to authority, but not to the non-uniformed white minority.
Again, the force pushed her to turn left into another corridor. Lindiwe Buthelezi had no clue where she was going or what was going to happen next.
As she went down the corridor, another warden pointed her in the right direction. The light in the corridor was not great and soon she arrived at a steel door guarded by two wardens. One unlocked the door and she passed through. She was not being locked away. Something else was happening here, but what?
Lindiwe Buthelezi stride forward in fear but also in hope.
As she rounded the next corner, she heard whistling. It had been a good number of years since the prisoners had seen a woman, let alone a woman of their own skin colour. Yet here she was. The young, gorgeous sexy Lindiwe Buthelezi was in the corridor right in front of their prison cells.
“Wena into enhle (you sexy thing),” one prisoner flirted with the girl from his cell.
“Uthule yena mncane ngokwanele ukuba yindodakazi yakho (quiet, she is young enough to be your daughter),” quipped a prisoner from the cell next door to the one holding the man who made the original comment.
“Ukube benginawe imizuzu emihlanu nje (if I could only have you for ten minutes),” chipped in another prisoner from his cell three doors down from the entrance, and the other prisoners burst out laughing.
Lindiwe was used to being flirted at by men in her real life and she knew how to handle herself in such situations. However, this was a dream and she was in untested waters here. She had no control of her spirit, as someone else did. Was Mandela controlling her movements and thoughts? If it wasn’t him, then who was her puppeteer?
Ouch! There was that magnetic force yet again, pulling her body to the side of the corridor. One prisoner tried to fit his fingers through the small barred window to touch the girl, but ended up getting a warden’s sjambok over his fingers for his effort.
“Eish,” groaned the man, as he withdrew his hands form the iron bars to give them a good rub.
The pain was worth it, thought the prisoner. Just to see a woman walking in the corridor was like an early Christmas.
Lindiwe took another step forward and little did she know but she was at the prison door of a man who would make a big impact on the future.
“You are not my President,” she said, and then wondered what made her say that.
It was like she had lost control of her tongue too. She did not have a clue who the man inside the prison cell was. Was it Mandela?
The prisoner broke out into continuous laughter in a tone that would become recognisable to South Africans in years to come.
“I will become your President,” said the man in the cell.
Zuma did not appreciate the girls silence. He was seething deep down inside at her non-reply to his quip on being a future President.
The Zulu man had developed a hunger for three things in life – power, money and woman.
“Baqinisile wena umuhle kakhulu (they are right, you are very pretty),’ he said.
She didn’t even think about accepting the compliment, but was more focused on what the man had said about being the future No 1 of the country. This was 1973 and it was hard to believe that a black man would be allowed to sit inside Parliament, never mind serve on the Cabinet or lead it.
Eventually Lindiwe spoke in Zulu.
“Ungubani (who are you)?” she asked.
Again, Zuma broke out in hysterical laughter.
“Ngokuhamba kwesikhathi niyokwazi (in time you will know),” replied the prisoner, as he adjusted his spectacles.
The man’s words had sent a shiver down the spine of Lindiwe throughout the conversation. He seemed so sure of himself. How could someone be so sure of the future? It was 1973 and it felt like Apartheid will last forever. The horror of Apartheid was that it did not seem wrong in the minds of the power-holders. How could something so wrong seem to be so right in the minds of the white minority?
Simple, the South African public believed what Lindiwe had just thought. Apartheid would last forever. The whites could not picture themselves having black neighbours, let alone a black government. Life was all too good at present. Crime was low because the blacks weren’t allowed in white areas without carrying pass books which needed to be stamped by the authorities. A black caught in a white area without a pass book was an automatic ticket to jail.
Even when it came to hiring gardeners or painters, most whites went the way of hiring coloured men. The same applied to the hiring of domestic workers. No, man, if we let the black person on to the property, that is just a bit too close for comfort, many conservative-minded whites thought.
Lindiwe Buthelezi wiped the sweat from her brow.
“Ungubani (who are you)?” asked Lindiwe to the prisoner.
Again, the Zulu captive responded with a sarcastic laugh that would be synonymous in the 2000s.
“Zuma,” he replied, with his hands clasped against the iron bars.
“Mandela will be my President,” responded Lindiwe in English and with a sense if irritation.
Zuma just stared at the visitor. He was close enough to the ANC action to know that the winds of change would be sweeping through South Africa sometime in the future. The dream of Nelson Mandela and every black person in South Africa, always had hope attached to it. The white minority thought that the hope that the blacks had would remain such for eternity. However, as life pans out, oppression is no smiled on globally, and has a way of coming back to bite the one who thought that they would control forever.
“Angazi, ukuthi ungubani (I don’t know who you are),” quipped Lindiwe to the prisoner, who again began to laugh deeply.
“Ngolunye usuku uyokwazi (one day you will),” said the prisoner.
Lindiwe carried on walking down the corridor. She didn’t have time to waste in being stopped to shoot the breeze with people whom she didn’t know. The girl needed to get the the cell of Nelson Mandela soonest.
Just as that magnetic force had pushed her towards the corridor where the prison cells were, there now seemed to be some form of resistance in stopped her from getting to the cells further down. What type of spirits were at play here? She wasn’t one to believe in praying to ancestors but there was definitely some serious power involved inside the creepy Robben Island prison.
Her knees were beginning to feel weak and she was forced to hold on to the walls of the prison corridors amid the whistling and flirting that was taking place at her expense.
Surely this supernatural visit to Nelson Mandela’s prison cell would not end up without her having the chance to meet the great man? Had that Zuma character ruined everything and used up all the trance time?
The corridor was getting darker and Lindiwe was getting more frustrated. What was the purpose of this visit if she was not going to get the opportunity to meet Mandela?
Lindiwe’s heart was beginning to feel heavy. Surely this was not going to end this way? Where is that Mandela voice, she thought. Please speak to me, Mr Mandela!
The girl found herself drifting back down the corridor to the entrance door to the prison cells area. Was this similar to the tunnel that many have allegedly seen when they managed to escape death. People on the verge of leaving this earth have often given stories of the bright light in a tunnel which supposedly takes them to the next life, be it heaven or hell.
Lindiwe certainly was not on her way to heaven or hell, at least not yet. She had much more to do on earth and saving Mandela was a part of that.
Lindiwe snapped out of the trance and found herself leaning against a wall in the corridor near the office of prison chief, Vorster.
Her heart was pumping like never before and her clothes were damp from sweat. She was able to remember every detail from the trance. If she was not able to meet Mandela, then that meant that this part of her future had still to happen. The mission had not changed. She needed to get to Mandela before the assassin did.
Lindiwe looked around just to make sure as to what time zone she was in. She pressed the fingers of her right hand into her jacket pocket and found her brown purse. Yes, there it was. The one that had not been in her pocket in 1973.
How was Lindiwe going to explain her time warp to Pieter? He was surely going to think that she was crazy!
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