Chapter Two – Oh, Mother City
Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus was a man with a plan and his plans almost always came to fruition. Once again, his plan had worked out as he had convinced Lindiwe Buthelezi to join him for the long weekend trip to Cape Town.
Seated behind the steering wheel of his white Toyota Corolla, he was as proud as a peacock, with Lindiwe in the passenger seat next to him.
It had not been easy work for either to make the trip happen. Pieter had to talk a good game to get his boss, Colonel Jaap Cornelius to give him time off from his police duties over a long weekend.
Likewise, Lindiwe had to smile very nicely at her manager, Jacques Visser, to get time off from her bar lady part time job at the Vosloo Grill. Long weekends were traditionally big-time money-spinners for the restaurants and bars and maximum staffing was required. However, she had sold her boss with the line that she would work double shifts for two days upon her return.
“I know that sign,” said Lindiwe, as she pointed at the ‘Welcome to Colesberg’ board as they entered the Karoo town.
“We are halfway between Johannesburg and Cape Town on the N1 highway.”
Well not quite. Colesberg is known by many to be the halfway mark, but it is the smaller town of Hanover just a bit further north, which officially is halfway between the two cities.
“Did you ever thing that I would say no to your invitation?” asked Lindiwe, as she adjusted her sunglasses.
“No girl has ever said no to Pieter Erasmus,” boasted the Lieutenant, and both burst out laughing.
Lindiwe stared at a Cape Town tourism pamphlet which she held in her hand.
“Wow, I can’t wait to go up Table Mountain in the cable car,” she quipped.
Pieter cringed. Not only because the cable car trip was quite pricey. The Lieutenant feared little in life except heights and the ground moving below his feet. The cable car company had installed turntables inside the cable cars so that the tourists could circle around inside the cabin and see all the beautiful views of the mountain and city.
The Lieutenant had been up the mountain once before in his life. To Pieter it was a case of, ‘once you have seen one mountain, you have seen them all’, but he did not want to spoil the trip for Lindiwe.
“Then there is the ferry trip to Robben Island,” remarked the girl.
While the sun was high in the sky over the Karoo, a few clouds had gathered. Pieter knew enough to know that rain the Karoo was scarce. The ground on either side of the N1 highway was bone dry due to a shortage of water. Huge patches of open sad was broken up by the odd patches of brown grass.
Pieter certainly did not have sight-seeing on his mind when he invited Lindiwe on the trip to the Mother City, as Cape Town is affectionately known. He had figured more on spending the maximum time between the sheets with her.
How he wished he could stop the car and do the rain dance. He knew that the weather would be the decider on whether the cable car would be open for duty or if the ferry would be able to navigate the ocean to take visitors to Robben Island.
Having made their way through the town of Beaufort West, Pieter and Lindiwe continued to head south on the N1 highway and eventually found themselves going through Laingsburg.
The town was famous for having much of its population washed away in a flashflood in the early 1980s when the river on the outskirts of the town burst its banks after an immense amount of rainwater.
On to Touws River, the one-horse town famous for being the graveyard of the steam engines close on thirty years back, when diesel locomotives and trucks replaced coal driven rail vehicles as the key method to transport freight.
At last, the surroundings started to look a bit greener, as the pair reached De Doorns, then Worcester, and the drive via the Hugenote Tunnel through to Paarl. They were now just 62 kilometres away from Cape Town, with the sight of Table Mountain in the distance, being a pleasing one to Pieter.
“Do you think South Africa can ever get back to the Nelson Mandela era?” asked Pieter out of the blue.
“What do you mean?” replied Lindiwe.
Pieter was referring to the corruption which had become a part of much of South African society since Mandela had finished his term of office as leader.
Nowadays the newspaper headlines were filled with commissions of inquiry, and other negative news as the governmental service took strain. Empty promises of jobs and housing had led to an increase in crime as people looked to other ways to put bread on the table.
Governmental leaders did not seem to worry too much. Many were themselves facing accusations of passing juicy tenders to brothers from other mothers in return for a financial kickback.
After the human rights abuses brought against black people by the law enforcers who safeguarded white interest during the Apartheid years, it was nothing short of a miracle that South Africa had reached a democracy without a major civil war.
“I believe that black and white can live peacefully together, but it will take a major sacrifice from the whites in terms of surrendering part of the economy and land, in order for this to be achieved,” said Lindiwe.
Oh yes, thought Pieter. The land issue was foremost in the news. When Dutch sailor Jan van Riebeeck arrived in the Cape with his three ships in 1652 to set up a refreshment station, Harry die Strandlooper and his Khoisan (coloured) people watched his arrival from a distance.
So, who did the land really belong too? The whites who arrived with written contracts. The Khoisan who clearly were around the area first? Or the blacks who believed that according to the Congress of the People’s Freedom Charter, all land, and the minerals on it, belonged to the state?
Pieter tried his best to stretch his back muscles. It had been a long 15-hour journey from Johannesburg to Cape Town. He hated stopping along the way as that would only make the trip that much longer.
He pulled the car into the Engen One Stop fuel station on the N1 about twenty kilometres from the centre of the city, and refuelled the tank.
Once near the suburb of Sea Point, Pieter pulled a note from his wallet which had the words Spring Inn, Oliver Road, Sea Point scribbled on it. The Lieutenant had done some Googling on the internet before the trip to Cape Town and found the Spring Inn to be at R350 per night for bed and breakfast.
Based on his limited policeman’s salary, that was about as good as he was going to get, and once at the Inn, he parked the car and went inside to check in.
The man behind the reception desk was in his early thirties and greeted the guests with a smile.
“So, you want to stay for three nights on the bed and breakfast charge?” he said.
“If you are hungry, there are some wonderful restaurants in the area. I can recommend the pizza places.”
Hungry was not quite the word, thought Pieter. He was famished and ready to chew on his hand if food did not come soon.
Once their bags were placed in their room, he and Lindiwe took a short walk to the pizza restaurant and armed themselves with a ham, pineapple, and cheese pizza and a two-litre Coke on take away.
Back at their room, Pieter placed the food and Coke on the table next to the television and locked the door.
He began to hug and kiss Lindiwe and then started to unbutton her blouse. After a night of passionate lovemaking, both drifted off to sleep. To Lindiwe, the night had been awesome as this had been the first time that she had been intimate with a man.
Pieter awoke at 2pm which was his regular wake-up time for his police shifts. He grabbed a piece of pizza and munched on it. Even though the pizza was not cold, he enjoyed it as he thought of how the night before ended with Lindiwe in his arms.
The girl awoke at 7am and Pieter was already in the bathroom, having a wash and shave.
“Good morning,” said the Lieutenant.
“Grab some pizza. You must be starving after last night.”
Lindiwe giggled and wrapped a sheet around her naked body before heading over to help herself to some of the pizza.
“Don’t eat it all, we are still going down for breakfast,” teased Pieter.
Once both were dressed, they made their way downstairs. The smell of the bacon and eggs filled their nostrils long before they arrived in the breakfast room. So it was; eggs, bacon, sausage, tomato, baked beans, mushrooms, and toast to go with the tea and coffee.
“You know what they say about breakfast being the most important meal of the day,” winked Lindiwe at Pieter.
Then it was off to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront to catch the ferry to Robben Island.
The clouds of the previous day had departed, and clear blue sky hid the heavens from the earthlings.
As she sat on the ferry, Lindiwe felt a familiar voice infiltrating her mind.
It is in your hands, to make a better world for all who live in it.
The voice in her head sounded just like that of former South African President, Nelson Mandela, who had been jailed for 27 years on Robben Island by the Apartheid regime.
When a deep injury is done to us, we never heal until we forgive.
Am I going crazy, wondered Lindiwe? She gazed at Pieter to see if he could hear the voice too, but clearly, she was alone on this.
What was the first President of the democratic South Africa trying to tell her? Would the country be able to find healing between all races? Could South Africa recover to be the Rainbow Nation that Madiba, as Mandela was known, intended it to be.
It always seems impossible until it has been done.
At the island, the group of tourists went ashore and were taken on a tour of the land by a guide.
It was when the group entered the corridor at the prison cells where Mandela and many other human rights activists were held, that a strange feeling went through her mind.
I have been here before, thought Lindiwe. She was drawn to an open prison cell on her right. She could hear prisoners laughing and whistling at her, although of course, the cells were unoccupied these days.
It was almost as if the current President, Jacob Zuma, who had been detained there, was with her in spirit too.
We must strive to be moved by a generosity of spirit that will enable us to outgrow the hatred and conflicts of the past. Mandela again!
Once out of the prison cell area, the group were taken on a tour of the shops and Post Office on the island. Despite being told to stay together as a group, Lindiwe felt a spiritual attraction to the empty shoreline at the far side of the island.
She signalled to Pieter to follow her.
At the unused beach, all she saw was the carcasses of birds on the sand as well as seaweed.
She looked to her right and spotted a rock. Yes, she had been here before, but when and how?
“Come take a selfie of us at the rock,” she said to Pieter.
Once at the rock, he took out his mobile phone and with his arm around her, began to take photographs.
As Lindiwe sat on the rock, her left hand felt the smooth, weathered surface of the stone. Then her fingers caught on to something rough. She removed her sunglasses and looked down.
Was she dreaming? No, there it was. On the rock surface, was her name carved for all to see. Lindiwe.
She was not going mad. She had been on the island before. There was a definite link between her, the island and Nelson Mandela!
You will achieve more in this world through acts of mercy than you will through acts of retribution.
Lindiwe stared out to sea. She could see some cargo ships in the distance. Then turning around, she could see Cape Town on the other side. She could only imagine how the political prisoners had felt. They were so close to Cape Town, but held against their will on an island, that was impossible to escape from.
Not that the waters were filled with sharks, but few if any of the former ANC prisoners could swim, and goodness knows what other creatures lived under the waters and were waiting to devour them if they made a bold bid to reach the mainland.
“Pieter, we have been here before,” she remarked.
The policeman shrugged his shoulders.
“If you say so,” he replied.
“Yes, you marked my name on that rock, remember?” she said.
Pieter did not respond. His mind was racing. When he was with Lindiwe he felt like the New South Africa could really work out. However, when she was not around, his mind was like that of Jaap Cornelius – the only good black was a dead one.
His conservative-minded parents had taught him that Apartheid would be around forever. Yet here he was on the island where the top opponents to the Apartheid government used to be locked up. Nowadays he worked for the people that he used to fight against. How would his life work out? Had Pieter been a good man trapped in a bad organization? Was he now a bad man trapped in a good world?
Should he abandon his love for Lindiwe and maintain what his parents had taught him or move forward in this new life?
He held Lindiwe’s right hand in his own. If Lindiwe Buthelezi was at his side, there was only one way to go and that was forward. God had placed him on this earth in 2010 for a reason.
Pieter gently kissed Lindiwe. His destiny had been decided for him.