Chapter 22 – Greed or Glory
It was 04h00 already, but Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus had not noticed the time, nor did he feel a sense of tiredness. He was so absorbed in the Marikana task at hand.
By 06h00, he had scribbled down his main plan in notes in front of him. All the entry and exit points of Loxton Mine had been marked with a red pen. Then marked with a green highlighter were the gates that led to the mine offices.
He noted that the map in front of him had a South African Police Services stamp on it. There was also another stamp which read ‘Key Security Services’, so clearly the cops and the previous security firm had been working closely together.
That was a problem to Pieter. He knew that several cops may have then been on the verge of possibly joining the security firm, until Key Security Services’ contract got terminated.
Again, the loyalty issue went through his head. How many of the cops would be jealous that Pieter had got the opportunity, and would sabotage his efforts in Marikana?
The problem was that Pieter did not trust many of the black policemen and they did not trust him.
He certainly could not present a team that was of white men only. This would surely not be acceptable to Lucas Sithole and his cronies. It would also go against his goal of having blacks killing blacks when violence broke out on the mine.
As Pieter took in a few sips of coffee, he checked the time. It was 07h15 and he had not slept a wink. His mobile phone began to ring. Was it his police employers who were trying to track him down due to his absence from the workplace?
“Bra, Pieter,” said the black voice on the other end of the phone.
“I am Lucky Mthembu, you don’t know me, but I know of your abilities as a policeman and I think we can work together on a project.”
Pieter gulped. He knew that Christmas only happened once a year but in the space of a few days, he was clearly developing a client base away from the world of being a police officer.
“What sort of project?” asked the Lieutenant.
There was a moment of silence before the response came.
“You know the trouble that has been happening at Loxton Mine?” said the caller.
“Well, we have been asked to present a security plan and we feel that you would be the right person to work with on this.”
Pieter’s face went cold.
Was this one of Lucas Sithole’s men who was testing his loyalty towards their security pitch to Loxton Mine? Or was this a competitor who wanted to snatch the business for themselves?
“How much are we talking here?” asked Pieter.
The next sentence made the cop’s mind to buzz.
“R4 million for six months, with twenty percent paid upfront and the rest split in equal payments after two ninety-day periods,” said the man.
“Where do we meet?” asked Pieter.
“Well, I need to know that you are keen first, then we can set up a meeting over coffee,” replied the caller.
“Do you have a name?” questioned the Lieutenant.
“My name is Khoza, Vincent Khoza,” snapped the man.
“I have two mobile phone numbers. There is this one that I am calling you on and I will text the other one to you.”
Pieter cleared his throat.
If he took the bait here, he would need to find a way to be a part of both business pitches. He had just assumed that Lucas Sithole’s group had been assured of the business, but now it seemed that the contract was out to pitch on a tender.
Of course, he needed to be assured that the caller was a genuine person who would not sell him out to Lucas.
“Listen, if you get this right for us, there will be much more security work for you along the way, quite often in other countries,” said the caller.
This comment made Pieter cringe as it was exactly the hook that Lucas had used to net the Lieutenant at the meeting at the Wingate Golf Club.
The comment had made Pieter more suspicious than before, but then again, perhaps it was the type of words that all potential business pitchers used in the security world.
“Drop me your digits and let’s meet,” said Pieter.
“Sharp, lets do this soonest like tomorrow at the latest,” confirmed Vincent, who then said goodbye and ended the call.
Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus was now in a world of business that he had not entered before. It was the world of backstabbing. What would happen if he put a better strategy together for Vincent Khoza and their group won?
Would Lucas be nice enough to arrange for Pieter to be sunk to the bottom of the Centurion Waterfront with a brand-new pair of cement block shoes?
Then there was the other side of the coin. What if Pieter produced the perfect strategy which would allow Lucas Sithole’s group to win the business? Would Vincent Khoza’s group abide by the Afrikaans expression of ‘ons skiet jou vir eete’? This meant ‘we invite you for supper’. In this case it was more of ‘we shoot you for supper’.
Pieter’s mind was racing. What would his next step be? He had committed to Lucas Sithole and even had their deposit money in his bank account. Now this so-called Vincent Khoza person had Pieter’s mind spinning with an offer that was twice as much as what Lucas had put on the table. What was Pieter going to do? Pull out on Lucas and return the deposit?
No, that would simply be too risky. There were too many ‘what ifs’ on the table here.
What if Vincent Khoza was working for Lucas Sithole and was doing a business pitch just to make the tender process leal. The Khoza pitch would always lose, but the process needed to be fair in the eyes of the business world.
Then what if the Vincent Khoza pitch was real and was expecting to win the business ahead of Lucas Sithole? Pieter would much prefer to stick with Lucas’ pitch.
Jaap Cornelius was involved there and Lucas had shown honesty by delivering the documents as well as the deposit to Pieter’s bank account. Lucas’ business integrity could not be faulted at this point, while Vincent Khoza was merely a voice over a phone.
Pieter had seen all the stories on corruption, which led him to wondering if the deal had not been already won through a payback promise to one of the Loxton Mine decision makers.
Was Lucas Sithole close enough to offer a Loxton Mine person a nicely filled brown envelope of cash if the deal went his way? For that matter, the same could possibly apply to Vincent Khoza. It was not always the best tender document that won the pitch, but it was often decided on a ‘who you known’ basis.
Logic was telling Pieter that Lucas Sithole knew more than what he was letting on or else he would not have parted so easily with the deposit money to Pieter’s bank account. It was almost like Lucas knew the deal was done and dusted.
Then Pieter had a scary thought. What if Lucas did not get the business afterall? Would he ask for the deposit back from Pieter?
A bleeping sound was heard on Pieter’s mobile phone.
True to his word, Vincent Khoza had texted through his contact details. There was even a yahoo.com email address and a meeting arrangement – Tomorrow, 16h00, Centurion Estate Country Club.
Pieter grinned. Another meeting at another golf club. These guys sure liked their golf. Should he attend the meeting? The last thing that Pieter wanted was to walk into the bar at the golf club to find that his trust had been tested and that Lucas Sithole and his group were in fact Vincent Khoza and company!
The Lieutenant had no option but to play the pretend game. If he ran into Lucas Sithole at the golf club, he would simply say that he misunderstood the contents of the call and believed that it was for a job other than the one at Loxton Mine.
Sorry, Lucas, I really must have misunderstood.
Would that excuse wash? Probably not, but right now Pieter was desperate to find a way to satisfy both parties and to hedge his bets.
The Lieutenant began to Google on the internet in search of a person called ‘Vincent Khoza’ who was involved in the security or mining industry.
Wait a minute… there it was. Vincent Khoza was being quoted on the internet.
He was the spokesperson for Ace Mabuza, who was a senior consultant to the ANC government.
So that must mean that Mabuza would win the pitch? Little did Pieter know how wrong he was. The wording on the internet rang true. Mabuza was a consultant to the ANC government, but had since been used as the fall guy and had his contract terminated based on corruption charges. You see, the ANC were on a mission to remove corruption from their ranks, at least when it suited them.
Pieter was a worried man. If Ace Mabuza was really the king of corruption, how could Pieter know that his pay would be safe and that he would not be implicated into some fraudulent scandal?
Well, he could not be sure. The Lieutenant read further on the internet. Ace Mabuza and Lucas Sithole seemed to be arch enemies. Lucas had testified against Mabuza in a corruption case. However, Pieter also knew that blood was thicker than water. Lucas and Mabuza would be black brood brothers while Pieter were a white man, who would be an outsider.
Both Lucas and Mabuza needed Pieter right now. When he was of no more value, they could quite easily dispose of his services. He needed to watch his step and be cautious of who he spoke with and what he said.
How could he remain loyal to two masters? Pieter needed to find a strategy of psychological proportions.
He needed to make Lucas feel that his pitch was a winner and then when that was done, it was time to suck up to Vincent Khoza, who would relate Pieter’s loyalty to Ace Mabuza. If Pieter ended up with a bullet in his head then so be it, but this was a chance that he simply had to take, he thought.
At 08h00 sharp, Pieter was just about to drift off to sleep, when his mobile device rang again.
“Pieter, its Lucas, I trust you got your money?” he asked.
The Lieutenant answered in the affirmative.
“Great, then you now have two weeks to put together the strategy,” said Lucas.
“If you need to go to Marikana, that is fine. Tell me and I will arrange access for you to the mine as well as overnight accommodation. I must warn you that there seems to be some under-the-table moves to try and take this business from us. It is just some small guys flexing their muscles. So, if you hear anything, don’t be alarmed. I believe I have the situation under control.”
Pieter thanked Lucas. Again, the businessman had shown his integrity through honesty. Of course, Pieter could not comment during the call as he was not supposed to know about Ace Mabuza or Vincent Khoza and their efforts to derail the appointment of Lucas’ firm.
How Pieter wished he could have asked Lucas to up his offer, but he could not do that.
Lucas Sithole had played fair to date and R2 million was still a substantial amount of money for a man who was used to earning a pittance as a cop.
Would Pieter still honour his meeting with Vincent Khoza? That was the big question. Should Pieter cancel the meeting. The risk was what if Ace Mabuza’s pitch eventually won the day?
Pieter took out a bowl from the kitchen cupboard and poured some Kelloggs Cornflakes into it. He then added some sugar and had just enough milk left in the container to complete his meal. He would use power milk for his next cup of coffee.
Pieter Erasmus was now a man in demand, and he could not kill off that demand by not pitching up for a meeting or pulling out of one of those pitches. It was like the lottery. You play week after week and never win, but the day you don’t play your lucky numbers is the day that the numbers win the big jackpot for someone else.
He had to go to the meeting tomorrow and just pray that those in attendance were not yes-men or snitches to Lucas Sithole.
Pieter was playing a high-risk game here. The rewards were huge, but so too were the losses if things went pear-shaped.
He knew the Afrikaans expression well – wie nie waag nie wen nie (those who do not take chances, do not win).
Perhaps Pieter really needed that guardian angel to guide him. Where were Lindiwe Snr and Lindiwe Jnr now when he needed them? He needed to know what the future held. If it meant that he was due to die tomorrow, then he could change his destiny.
Pieter munched away on his breakfast. Tomorrow would be a day that could decide his fate one way or another. He could never say that the world owed him a favour. Doors were opening for him, but unfortunately a risk accompanied the situation. What would the Lieutenant do? Would he put on some sort of disguise to attend the meeting tomorrow?
No, he was Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus and not the famous Inspector Jacques Clouseau from the Pink Panther movies.
He was not looking to solve a case like Clouseau did. He was looking to entrench his financial future. Greed was starting to take over Pieter’s mind. He had never been a greedy person, until now. That R4 million figure could not be pushed aside. If he did not take it, someone else would. He would kick himself forever and a day if he turned down Vincent Khoza’s offer and their tender won.
Even though Lucas had said that he would not request for the return of the R200 000 deposit if things went wrong with the deal, Pieter knew that the amount of money paid to him to date would not last forever.
He had no choice. He needed to meet with Vincent Khoza. While he knew about the dodgy background of Ace Mabuza, he did not know if there were any skeletons in the past of Lucas Sithole. Having been a cop, he knew that most men had something to hide, especially the richer ones who played high stakes games like his new friends did.
Pieter’s life was changing and only time would tell if it was for the better or the worse. Either he would become a very wealthy man, or he would possibly be joining some of his new mates inside a prison cell.
He hated being the white water-boy for the blacks, but he would still action his master plan!