Chapter Two – Kill Mandela
In 1987, P.W. Botha was not only the country’s President. He was a hero to many, at least those born with white skins. However, there was something that most white South Africans admired even more than Die Groot Krokodil. Rugby! In Pretoria, Northern Transvaal, affectionately known as the Blue Bulls because of their jersey colour and on-field tenacity, were idolised by many.
People event painted their houses blue in support of the team and the favourite Afrikaans name was Naas, to herald the South African and Northern Transvaal fly-half kingpin, Naas Botha.
While the crowds streamed in to take up their regular seats to watch the Currie Cup rugby action at Northern Transvaal’s Loftus Versfeld stadium fortress, a conversation with a difference was happening at the Vosloo Grill.
Off-duty policemen in the form of Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus and his superior, Colonel Jaap Cornelius, were knocking back Lion Lager beers as they pondered over the future of their country.
It had been a sombre week for the two cops. The African National Congress and their alliance partners was the enemy of the state, affectionately known as the ‘Underground Movement’.
Two days earlier, Pieter and Jaap had attended a function that they did not enjoy. Police Constables Jacques Cronje, Leon van Zyl and Kerneels Jansen, had joined an underground movement. All three were now in their coffins and below ground level, courtesy of being on the receiving end of a fatal explosion fifty kilometres north of Pretoria.
The ANC cadres, part of the movement’s armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), were known to be pretty good at planting landmines.
The situation was even more personal to Colonel Jaap Cornelius, in his late thirties, as he had been the godfather to twenty two-year-old Kerneels Jansen.
“Gee my n kans om al die swart fokkers vrek to skiet (give me a chance to shoot all of the black fuckers),” said Jaap in a stern voice as he sat next to Pieter at the bar counter inside the venue.
“Hulle het geen respek vir ander mense nie. Ons sal nooit met hierdie spul in vrede kan saamleef nie (They have no respect for other people. We will never be able to live in peace with this bunch).”
Twenty four-year-old Pieter nodded. While Jaap seemed to have no problems in shooting blacks, the Lieutenant had something bigger on his mind.
“Daar is net een oplossing vir hierdie land (there is only one solution for this country),” muttered Pieter.
Jaap waited patiently to hear his colleague’s next sentence.
“Iemand moet vir Nelson Mandela doodmaak (someone must kill Nelson Mandela),” quipped Pieter.
“Dit is die enigste taal wat die klomp barbare verstaan (it is the only language that this bunch of barbarians understand).”
“Weet jy waar die regering vir Mandela agter tralies hou (do you know where the government are keeping Mandela imprisoned)?” asked Jaap.
“Die Intelligensie afdeling papiere wys dat hy nie meer op Robbeneiland is nie (the Intelligence department papers shows that he is no longer on Robben Island).”
“Glo jy vir ons base (do you believe our bosses)?” asked Pieter.
Jaap did not answer. Instead he slammed his right fist on top of the bar counter to attract the attention of the barman, Jan de Koker, in an attempt to get another round of beers.
“Ek kan dit doen, Kolonel, jy weet ek kan (I can do it, Colonel, you know I can),” said Pieter.
“Ek wil geskiedenis maak as die man wat Suid-Afrika van die swartes gered het (I want to go down in history as the man who saved South Africa from the blacks).”
“As jy die kans kry (if you get the chance),” replied Jaap, as he adjuted his large body frame on the barstool.
“Wat bedoel jy (what do you mean)?” questioned the Lieutenant.
Jaap looked to his left and then to his right to make sure nobody was listening in on their conversation.
“Ek weet nie hoe lank P.W. Botha nog President van die land gaan wees nie (I don’t know for how much longer P.W. Botha will still be President of the country),” said Jaap.
“Sekerlik, die ANC kan hom nie uitwis nie (surely the ANC can’t eliminate him)?” asked Pieter.
“Die ANC is nie ons enigste probleem nie (the ANC is not our only problem),”explained Jaap.
“Die regter vleuel het planne om die regering oorteneem (the right wing has plans to take over the government).”
Pieter puffed out his cheeks.
“Jy bedoel die AWB (you mean the AWB)?” he asked.
The Afrikanerweerstandsbeweging, better known as the AWB, wielded much militant support among the Afrikaners, and many felt that even hard-lined apartheid men such as PW Botha, were becoming too soft in their approach to the challenge posed by the ANC.
The AWB, led by the no-nonsense Eugene Terblanche, controlled the hearts and minds of many Afrikaners, including several key decision-makers in the ranks of the apartheid army, police and other forms of law enforcement.
Neither Pieter nor Jaap were members of the AWB. Their first calling was to protect the South African government from the ANC and any other threat to the country’s minority rule.
Pieter let his mind wonder over the latest information from Jaap. The elimination of Mandela would make the AWB happy and perhaps prove the point that P.W. Botha was here to stay and a one man-one vote system in South Africa was still a pipedream.
Jaap swirled a mouthful of beer in his mouth and thought carefully before speaking.
“Ek kan vir jou tot by the Kaap kry (I can get you to the Cape),” he eventually said.
“Hoe so (how)?” asked Pieter.
Jaap explained that the Western Cape South African Police unit was preparing to see off a major black uprising at the Gugulethu Township, outside of Cape Town.
Police reinforcements had been requested to be sent through from Pretoria, and this created the perfect opportunity for Pieter to travel to the Mother City, as Cape Town is known.
Following the tussle in the township, Jaap’s plan was for Pieter to abscond and to make his way to the Cape Town railway station, where he would phone Jaap’s police contact, which would get him from the harbour to Robben Island.
From there, Pieter would be on his own. Jaap could not help any further as nobody was keen to say whether or not Mandela was still on the island, or indeed whether the ANC man was still breathing.
“Moet ek n polisie pistool gebruik teen Mandela (must I use a police pistol against Mandela)?” asked Pieter.
Jaap shook his head.
“Ek ken die regte persoon wat vir jou die perfect geweer sal gee vir dir taak (I know the right person who will give you the perfect gun for the task),” grinned the Colonel.
Pieter didn’t press the issue any further. He wasn’t sure whether Jaap would provide the weapon himself or if he was going to source it elsewhere. Quite frankly, the Lieutenant didn’t care. His focus was simple… Kill Mandela.
While censorship on the ANC and its alliance partners was tight, Pieter did know that Mandela was not the be-all and end-all of the uprising. It was impossible for one man to be working alone against the apartheid regime.
However, the one man was the one that needed to be removed in order to make the ANC retreat into its shell. What they would do next was anyone’s guess but at least the assassination would send out a clear message to any black opponent who wanted to put white minority rule to the test.
Pieter poured the last contents from his Lion Lager beer bottle into his glass.
“Wat is the ergeste wat kan gebeur as ek vir Mandela doodskiet (what is the worst that can happen if I shoot Mandela dead)?” asked the Lieutenant.
Jaap looked at him.
“Stel maar so, vier miljoen wittes sal jou hand wil skud (put it this way, four million whites will want to shake your hand),” replied the Colonel.
Pieter rubbed his chin with his left hand, while clutching on to his beer glass with his right.
“Kolonel, wat sal gebeur as the AWB oorvat (Colonel, what will happen if the AWB do take over)?” he asked.
Jaap put his beer glass down on the bar counter.
“Dir maak nie saak of P.W. Botha se manne of die AWB in beheer is nie (it doesn’t matter if P.W. Botha’s men or the AWB are in charge),” remarked the Colonel.
“Suid-Afrika is afgesny van die wereld. Maar fok die wereld. Ons is fyn net soos ons is (South Africa is cut off from the world. But fuck the world. We are fine just like we are).”
Even Jaap was battling to believe himself. The South Africa situation was one big mess. International sanctions had crippled the economy and the well-oiled apartheid machine needed just that… Oil!
Few in the oil industry were keen to touch South Africa. However, Belgian-born Marcus Rich felt different about it all and was happy to go anti-world by doing oil deals with Libya, Iran, Cuba and the Botha government.
Multi-millionaire Rich had a bit of a dodgy business career and years later in 2001, only a final-day-in-office presidential pardon from US President Bill Clinton, got a serious tax evasion case off of his shoulders.
However, this was 1987 and the South African government was only willing to accept the help from men like Rich when other international so-called friends showed them the middle finger.
Yes, thought Pieter. South Africa can survive on its own Stuff the world.
Pieter’s thought pattern was broken as Jaap interrupted.
“Ek het nog n bietjie nuus (I have some more news),” said the Colonel as he straightened the collar on his blue golf shirt.
“My bron by die Parliament vertel dat P.W. Botha baie ongelukkig is dat sekere van sy top manne in die kabinet blykbaar Lusaka toe was om to onderhandel met die ANC leiers (my contact in Parliament told me that P.W. Botha is very upset having learnt that some of his top men in his Cabinet have been to Lusaka to negotiate with the ANC leaders).”
This news sapped the energy out of Pieter. “What? Why are Cabinet Ministers meeting with the ANC leaders in exile without the permission of P.W. Botha?” This amounted to treason.
Pieter was too shocked to ask Jaap for the names of the Cabinet Ministers who had made the trip to meet with the in-exile ANC top brass in the Zambian capital.
Eliminating Mandela had to be done soonest before the Botha government was removed by one of several forces.
Maybe he would get lucky on Robben Island and be able to take out more than one ANC top dog. That is of course, if the captured ANC men were on the island!
“Wat dink jy (what are you thinking)?” asked Jaap.
Pieter’s eyes were blood red. Not from crying or even a large intake of alcohol, but from the very thought of the task that he was to carry out.
“Ek dink dat die gouer dat ek in die Kaap kom, die beter (I am thinking that the quicker I get to the Cape, the better),” replied Pieter.
He had already developed a strategy that ten blacks must be killed for every white who perished. That was easy to do, but the No 1 priority was to eliminate Mandela. He needed to do it before someone else did, for the sake of his country.
Jaap gulped back the last of his beer just in time as Naas Botha put the icing on the cake in slotting a drop-goal to allow Northern Transvaal to thrash Transvaal at Loftus Versfeld
The white crowd inside the Vosloo Grill erupted. If Pieter had his way, the applause would go his way after doing the deed on Robben Island.
Pieter Erasmus would be a national hero in the eyes of the whites. As for the blacks, stuff them, they are and always will be second-rate citizens in a country that they would never govern, he thought.
“Dis tyd om jou goed to gaan pak want die polisie vervoer Kaap toe waai twaalfuur (it is time for you to go pack because the police transport to the Cape leaves at midnight),” quipped Jaap.
The Lieutenant nodded and swallowed down what was left of his beer.
Whether he got captured or not after committing the deed on the island was not important to him. Pieter was on a mission to save his country from the so-called liberators. Besides shooting a black or ten was quite an appealing thought to him.
“Geen meer polisie begrafnisse tot Mandela dood is nie (no more police funerals until Mandela is dead),” said Pieter, as he held out his right hand to Jaap to shake.
“Die saak is reg (all is in order),” replied Jaap with a wink, as he shook the hand of his Lieutenant.
Pieter opened the Vosloo Grill door for his superior to walk through. Something in his spirit told him that he would one day return.
South Africa had too many of the proverbial chiefs and not enough Indians. It was time for Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus to step up to the plate.
If he had his way, Nelson Mandela’s days were numbered.
The thought of why nobody had previously tried to carry out the hit on the world’s most famous prisoner, did not even go through Pieter’s mind.
He was on an adrenalin rush second to none. He thought of Ian Fleming’s James Bond movies. Pieter was indeed ‘licenced to kill’ like the 007 agent but the difference was that Pieter was the bad guy.
He lived by the motto that there was no such thing as a clever crook, but like hell if he was going to stand by and watch the ANC and their cronies take over the running of South Africa.
He had no intention of saluting a black boss in the future.
You live by the sword, you die by the sword! That is the lesson that Pieter needed to teach to Nelson Mandela!
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