Chapter 28 – Outsmarting the Less Brainy
Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus left the meeting room with a smile as wide as the North West Province. He had managed to convince Minister T.K. Muronga, Police Commissioner Lawrence Mathibe and the rest of their braintrust that he had a plan to safeguard the Loxton Mine.
Yes, Pieter had a blue, black and red plan, but not quite like the one that he had revealed to security man, Chris Chuene.
Blue would be for defence by police baton, black would be teargas and red would be water cannon. Then they would wait on the command of the Police Commissioner before live ammunition would be used. Mathibe grinned, but his white teeth would not have been as evident if only he knew what Pieter’s cunning plan really was.
“Pieter, I want you to address the one hundred policemen in the main hall about your plan,” said the Police Commissioner.
“I have to run to another meeting now.”
Pieter nodded. He had no doubt that Mathibe was going to another meeting, to inform them of Pieter’s security plan.
The question was with who the Police Commissioner would be meeting. Was it with his consortium that never got the security tender, or had he done a side deal with Vincent Khoza, seeing that he was not on speaking terms with his half-brother, Acer Mabuza?
Pieter knew that his fake plan was set to be ambushed by Mathibe but he didn’t care. His aim was to flood the Loxton Mine property with black blood.
With Mathibe out of the way, Pieter could now action the next part of his plan to create chaos.
With Chris Chuene at his side, he stared at the one hundred faces in the main hall. Some looked excited about the task, while the honest ones, in the minority, seemed to not to be too keen on quelling the uprising of their black brothers.
“This is how it is going to work!” bellowed Pieter.
“We have a coding system. The code blue zone means use only two rounds of live ammunition to send a message to the strikers. Then the code green system at the main gate means that you fire water cannons. Lastly, the code red system means use rubber bullets and teargas.”
This would have sounded a bit peachy to the more experienced cops.
“Sir, Commissioner Mathibe told us to only fire as a last resort,” said one brave voice in the crowd.
“Commissioner Mathibe is not here now, is he?” exclaimed Pieter.
“We need to send a message to the strikers that we will not entertain their nonsense any further, so fire those two rounds of live ammunition as soon as the strikers’ step over the white mark which I will lay down.”
There was some muttering among the cops, but they knew better than to over challenge the authority of the night.
“Have you got it?” asked Pieter.
“Yes sir,” was the resounding answer.
“Very well, there is no time to waste now,” said Pieter as he glanced at his wristwatch.
“Let’s get the barbed wire in place and call time is 03h00.”
Chris grinned and winked at Pieter. Both could not believe that the cops were this gullible.
“If I was a criminal, I could make a fortune and never get caught,” giggled Chris in a low voice to Pieter.
“That is exactly what is going on in this country,” he whispered.
“With many of the cops on the take, the problem is unlikely to be solved.”
Pieter felt a sense of tiredness but with all that was going on, sleep was not an option.
As much as he was starting to respect Chris Chuene, he also knew that he could not let down his guard. Chris was a black man and therefore he was a part of Pieter’s enemy.
By 01h00, the security men had been briefed of the goings-on. They were provided with their weapons and ammunition and an hour later, they were positioned. By the time that the cops got to the site, they were taken aback. The security men were one up on them, not that this was difficult to do.
By 04h00, the cops were in position too. The scene was set. All was present except the opposition. They would come, Pieter was sure of it.
From a security office about two hundred metres away from the action, Pieter stood next to Police Commissioner Lawrence Mathibe. If one did not know any better one would have thought that they were comrades in arms.
It would be another four hours before what sounded like a swarm of bees, could be heard in the distance. Then there was what looked like a dust-storm as a good few hundred feet-stomping marchers, headed towards the Loxton Mine.
Armed with pangas, traditional speers and any other object that could be used as a weapon, the striking miners and some others who wanted to strike for the sake of striking, headed down the street towards the main gate of the Loxton Mine.
As they approached the code blue zone about fifty metres from the main entrance, the cops carried out Pieter’s command. It was time to send an early message to the striking miners.
Two rounds of live ammunition were fired at the miners who led the group. The first bullet struck a miner in the stomach and he fell to the ground letting out a screeching sound. Another four miners also breathed their last as pandemonium broke out among the group.
Cries of desperation, anguish and hatred could be heard, but the group continued to advance on the main gate. A spear was thrown, and it lodged in the throat of a policeman, with blood gushing from the wound. Another cop released two bullets from his weapon and one of the shots landed in the right temple of the man who threw the speer.
The group were close to the cops now.
Fuck it, thought Police Commissioner Lawrence Mathibe as he watched the goings-on on a camera in the security office. Where were the water cannons and the teargas and who gave the cops the order to use live ammunition?
Pieter kept his eyes peeled on the monitor. He watched as the group broke through the first barrier. Two of his security men tried to do hand-to-hand combat with the strikers but they had no chance. There were just too many protestors. Pieter gritted his teeth as he watched two of the security officers having their throats slit by the pangas of the opposition.
Another speer was thrown and another cop cried out in pain as the sharp weapon lodged in his neck.
Mathibe got on to the two-way radio.
“Fire the rubber bullets and teargas!” commanded Mathibe.
“But we can’t, sir,” was the reply.
“Why the fuck not?” asked the Police Commissioner.
The cop on the ground with the two-way radio responded.
“We are on code green, sir, and that means we only use the water cannons until we get to code red,” the man said.
“Who the fuck gave you these orders?” yelled Mathibe, as he watched on the monitor as another two cops were brutally clubbed to the point of death by the strikers.
Then a gushing sound could be heard as the water cannons were activated and the strikes were blasted back a good thirty metres. They tried to regroup but the water cannons were winning, and the power of the water simply pushed the strikers from their feet and to the ground.
“I asked who the fuck gave the orders for the water cannons to be used in the second code zone and for live ammunition to be used upfront?” asked an impatient Police Commissioner Mathibe.
“It was given to us by the mlungu (white) that you sent to the meeting last night,” said the man with the two-way radio.
Lawrence Mathibe’s eyes turned as red as the devil.
The Minister, T.K Muronga and two of his bodyguards stood between the Police Commissioner and Pieter. If it had not been for that, Mathibe may well have got physical with the Lieutenant.
Upfront, the war raged on as more rounds of live ammunition was being fired at the strikers. The death toll had risen to twenty, with fifteen miners and five law enforcers having perished.
Mathibe turned to Pieter.
“This is all your doing; I won’t take responsibility for any of this!” he bellowed at Pieter.
Pieter’s aggressive nature kicked in and he lunged towards the head cop, with the Minister’s bodyguards having to use their bodies to form an obstacle between the two men.
The scuffle was broken up by the sound of shattering glass as the window of the security office disintegrated. All in the security office, including the Minister, dived for cover. Had the strikers broken through all three cordons of security?
No, Pieter’s suspicion had become a reality. Twenty-odd strikers had managed to work their way around the back of the property and were attacking the buildings from the side where the mine 03 and 04 shafts were.
Pieter reached for his 9mm pistol and in an instant drew the weapon into a firing position. He saw miner a charging towards the security office and as the intruder was about to throw a spear at the Police Commissioner. The man seemed to hesitate, but Pieter did not. he pulled back on the trigger of his pistol.
Seconds felt like minutes as the bullet left the chamber of Pieter’s gun and landed in the skull of the attacker, who fell to the ground, letting out a squeaking sound.
A second miner tried to charge at the Minister, but he too found himself taken out by the power of a bullet from Pieter’s weapon.
Pieter looked up to see if there were more unwanted visitors but could not see any. He noted the two bodyguards of the Minister, with their weapons drawn, as they protected their boss.
As for Police Commissioner Mathibe, he lay motionless on the ground. Had he been struck down or was he simply in shock?
Lawrence Mathibe indeed seemed to be in a state of shock. Pieter was left in no doubt that the attack from the rear could well have been planned by one of the forces at play.
Pieter brought his body to a knee-height position and he was just in time to see a man trying to start a fire at the far end of the corridor.
“Stop!” yelled Pieter.
The man did not listen and continued with his preparations of a fire, by throwing paper, wood, and anything else that he could find into a pile, before reaching into his pocket for a box of matches.
Pieter of course did not realise that the man was reaching into his pocket for matches and raised his weapon into a shooting position.
“Stop or I’ll shoot!” yelled Pieter.
The man began to bring his hand out of his jeans pocket with Pieter thinking that a weapon was being drawn to be used against him.
Pieter pulled back on the trigger and the target was struck below the right cheek.
The man fell to the tiled floor and lay motionless with blood pouring from the headwound.
Pieter rushed forward and cautiously push the man’s hand away from his lifeless body. There in the deceased’s right hand was a box of matches.
The Lieutenant sighed. How was he too know? He certainly couldn’t have taken the chance of the man drawing a pistol and firing at him.
The corridor seemed quiet now as five cops had arrived at the security office and had set off in pursuit of those strikers who had attempted to break through at the rear but had since retreated.
With his well-trained eyes scouring the precinct for any intruders, Pieter made his way back to the security office. He was just in time to hear Police Commissioner Lawrence Mathibe claiming the glory for allegedly saving the latest situation.
“Just as well my cops arrived here on time or else the situation could have been far worse than it was, but at least you are safe, Minister,” said the Police Commissioner to T.K Muronga.
The Minister did not respond but turned his attention to Pieter.
“How did the raid at the back happen?” asked the Minister, who began to straighten his shirt and tie.
“Well, sir, I was informed that there are no people living on the premises and that the area is well secured.”
“Who told you that?” butted in Lawrence Mathibe.
Pieter glared at the head cop. The Lieutenant did not want to say that Vincent Khoza had advised him that the raids would come from the town centre as the miners lived in the township to the east and the south.
Before Pieter could answer, another cop came charging into the security office.
“Sir, I think we have quelled the strike for the moment anyway,” said the man, wearing a bullet proof vest and armed with a shot gun.
“What are the casualties?” asked the Minister.
“Five cops, seven security guards and 18 strikers deceased upfront, plus two more bodies at the back, so that makes it a total of 32, sir,” reported the armed cop.
“Fuck it, I am sorry for my language, Minister, but this is going to be a tough one to report on,” said Police Commissioner Mathibe.
“How many injuries to date?”
“Too many to count, sir, we have about 12 injured cops with the same amount of injured security guards,” said the armed cop.
“Some of the injuries were quite severe. They came at us with pangas and some of the cops and security people got cut quite badly.”
Pieter saw Chris Chuene standing near the door of the security office.
“Five of my best men perished today,” said Chris sadly.
Pieter shook his head.
“I know how it feels,” he said.
“I have lost some good friends during…”
He stopped short as he suddenly remembered that he needed to keep the fact that he was a cop a secret.
“You know what, Pieter, I understand why many white people don’t like black people,” commented Chris, as they walked down the corridor to the front of the premises.
“I used to think that whites were just simply racist, but when blacks are prepared to savagely attack people of their own skin colour like the way they did today, it makes me to see the situation from a different perspective.”
“How do you mean?” questioned Pieter.
“Savage-like bastards,” responded Chris.
“Look, one has to judge each individual on their merits and shouldn’t stereotype especially based on skin colour. It’s just that when people behave in the fashion that they did today… I mean all of this wage talks needed to be sorted at the negotiating table, irrespective of how many days the talks would take. Surely life cannot be sorted through pangas and shot guns.”
Pieter nodded. In a normal country that would be the case, however South Africa was far from normal at the current moment.