Chapter Forty – All over Bar the Shouting
Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world!Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela was still in his prison cell, but Lindiwe Buthelezi felt these words of his, pacing through her spirit.
It had been decided that the great ANC man would meet Pearce Ellison, Mark van Pletzen, Pieter Erasmus and Lindiwe in the small office, and not at his prison cell.
How would President P.W. Botha feel about all of this? Well, what the President did not yet know, would not hurt him.
“I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.”
Lindiwe shook her head as the words sent a shiver through her body. She had heard the words before. Yes, those very words were uttered by Mandela in her spirit when she had visited the Robben Island prison in 1973 in a trance. This time, she knew that things were real.
She grinned at Pieter, who stood next to her.
“I thought you said that you don’t know how to use that pistol?” teased the Lieutenant.
“I don’t actually, you will have to teach me when you have time,” she answered.
“As long as you don’t shoot me in the same place that you shot the warden,” teased Pieter, in reference to the bullet wound to the warden’s private parts, inflicted by Lindiwe.
“Come on, you know that was an accident,” the girl explained.
“Sure, you tell that to the poor guy’s wife,” answered Pieter.
Lindiwe burst out into hysterical laughter.
Moments later, the sound of footsteps could be heard. It seemed like a large contingent of people were heading their way.
Surrounded by six armed guards, Nelson Mandela walked down the passage towards Pieter and Lindiwe. The grey-haired man did not look like one who was filled with hatred against the white oppressor. He seemed to be jolly individual who was quite happy to remain on the island until the government agreed to the human rights demands laid down by the ANC.
Mandela smiled at Lindiwe.
“Ndiyakholelwa ukuba usindisile ubomi bam (I believe that you saved my life),” said the ANC man in Xhosa language.
With the Xhosa language being in the same ballpark as the Zulu language, Lindiwe could full understand what the he said, but was still taken aback at the attempted compliment.
Before she could reply, Mandela stepped into the small office and sat down at a table. He was soon joined by Pearce, Mark, Pieter and Lindiwe.
Mandela chatted freely with his guests and it was easy for them to see that this man was not the communist terrorist that the Nationalist Party government made him out to be.
He was a caring individual who wanted a peaceful outcome for all citizens of South Africa. As he spoke, a tear fell from Lindiwe’s right eye. How could such a humble man be caught up in an international commotion that left him away from his family and friends for so many years?
Pearce asked him how he managed to remain positive during his time locked up on Robben Island.
Mandela cleared his throat.
“I am fundamentally an optimist,” he began, in his husky voice.
“Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say.”
“Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun and one’s feet moving forward.”
Pearce smiled. He couldn’t remember as to how long he had waited for this moment to meet Mandela. It had started as a childhood dream and had grown from there.
Lindiwe noted that the man’s voice was identical to the one that she had heard in her spirit.
Here she sat. Millions of oppressed black people wished that they would be able to see a photograph of Mandela, never mind sit opposite him at a table. All this, while most white South Africans said ‘Mandela, who?’
The old man kept his arms folded as he listened to Pearce’s reasons for his trip to South Africa. Then he heard from Pieter and Lindiwe about their journey.
“What I need to know, Mr Mandela, is why I was hearing your voice in my spirit?” questioned Lindiwe.
Mandela smiled and shifted his body in his seat.
“I really need to know, sir, your thoughts have inspired me,” continued Lindiwe.
“If it wasn’t for your voice in my spirit, Pieter and I may have given up on the New South Africa long ago. There is something about you that…”
Lindiwe could not finish the thought as she started to cry and Mandela put his hand over hers, while Pieter passed a tissue, offered by one of the wardens, to the girl.
“It is alright to cry,” said Pieter.
“It has been a long journey and it all worked out in our favour.”
He turned to the ANC man.
“Mr Mandela, Lindiwe is the real hero here,” began Pieter.
“She worked out that a white man would try and kill you, which led us on this journey to the island. Then, she saw someone moving swiftly around the administration corridors here and quickly worked out that it was the potential assassin. In the end, she was right as General Jan du Toit and one of his men from the security services were on on a mission to carry out the evil act.”
This time there was a tear on the left eye of Mandela.
Lindiwe looked into the old man’s eyes and suddenly she got the answer that she so sought after.
“That is it!” she exclaimed.
“Those words that I kept hearing from you in my mind…”
Lindiwe wiped more tears from her face with the tissue.
“You were trying to tell me that you will one day lead this wonderful country, but not for long,” she went on.
“However, the future for South Africa, would hold many trials and tribulations. Things would not be smooth. Then, after your time there would be a highly controversial leader, who would be at the helm during extremely trying times.”
The old man listened intently, as Lindiwe paused and then gulped.
“Zuma!” she said.
“In my 1973 trance, he is the prisoner who told me that he would one day be our President,” remarked Lindiwe.
Mandela was about to answer when there was a knock on the office door.
“Sorry, to interrupt, Mr Mandela, but we have just been informed that President P.W. Botha is out of the country,” said a tall senior warden.
The word was that the government planned on meeting with the ANC man later in the day at the presidential residence, Tuynhuys. Botha wanted to keep the meeting as low key as possible. He had recently given his Cabinet a roasting in Parliament, as to what would happen to them if they dared meet with the ANC in Lusaka. Yet, he was keen to meet with Mandela.
Botha was not the outright racist leader that people saw. Would he have wanted white minority rule to continue forever and a day? Of course, as it was in the interest of the Afrikaner. However, deep down inside, he knew sustaining South Africa on Apartheid principles did not have longevity. Like many white South Africans, the thought of a black man occupying the No 1 seat in Parliament or the Union Buildings in Pretoria, was something that he could not visualise.
“So who will I be meeting with later today?” asked Mandela to the senior warden.
The man in uniform cleared his throat.
“I believe that the meeting has been postponed,” said the warden.
Mandela shook his head and then wished that he had not. He knew that the National Party were desperate to strike a deal with the ANC, sooner rather than later. While he needed to play the role of not seeming to desperate to cut a deal, he was also aware that the country was bleeding. Racism had never been as fierce in South Africa as it currently was, and he did not want to be blamed for dragging his feet in finding a solution.
Mandela respected the fact that Botha had international business to attend to on behalf of the country. In a way it was a blessing that the meeting had been called off as it would be best to speak to the No 1 decision-maker, rather than someone who would have to get Botha’s approval.
He could well have seen the postponement of the meeting as another slap in the face from the Apartheid government against a black man. Mandela of all people, realised that leaving prison as a bitter man would not help. If he had any form of bitterness in his heart against people of other skin colours, then it would be better for him to stay in prison.
Mandela could have guessed that the President may have double edged his bets. While telling his Nationalist Party Cabinet members not to meet with the ANC, the chances of Botha having asked some of his close confidants to meet with Mandela in his absence, was strong.
Nee, ons los dit vir jou, President (no, we will leave it to you, President), was the likely answer that Botha would have got. Striking a deal with Mandela was like selling your Afrikaner soul to the devil.
The senior warden left the office.
“Are you disappointed that the meeting will not take place today?” asked Pearce Ellison to Mandela.
The ANC man shook his head.
“Do you believe in the Bible, Mr Ellison?” asked Madiba, the clan name of Mandela, by which he was affectionately known.
Pearce nodded, saying that he did.
“Then you will understand that all good things come from the Lord at the right time,” replied Mandela.
“Yes, sir, but time is something the ANC does not have at the moment, with people, notably innocent civilians, being killed on a daily basis by government and ANC operatives,” said Pearce sternly.
“I am aware of that as much as Mr Botha is, but the pressure is on the highest authority in the country to make the first move,” said Mandela, with reference to the government.
Despite Mandela’s words, Lindiwe could sense disappointment in the old man’s eyes. He desperately wanted to make things happen to stop the blood shed. At the moment, due to his prison situation, he was taking decisions without the rubber-stamping of his ANC executive members in Lusaka, and this annoyed many there.
Was Mandela becoming soft? Was the years in prison finally breaking him? Had he cut a side deal with the South African government and set his mind on selling out the ANC?
These were fair questions from liberals who had no access to question Mandela on these matters. However, Nelson Mandela was no sell-out. He was a man of dignity and integrity down to his toes.
Lindiwe turned the conversation back to the part about Jacob Zuma.
“Mr Mandela, your words in my spirit were warning me about something bad that is going to happen to this country, a few years after you have left this earth,” she tabled.
“You were warning me weren’t you? The wheels of nation building would fall off along the way.”
Clearly, this was reference to Jacob Zuma’s time in office, with his second term eventually ended by a vote of no-confidence by the ANC, who install the President. Reluctantly, and facing several corruption charges, Zuma would step aside as President of South Africa, to be replaced by his Vice President, the more popular Cyril Ramaphosa.
“This beautiful country can overcome any form of odds because of all the people that live in it,” said Mandela with confidence.
“That is if you come out of prison now, sir,” said Pieter.
“The time is right.”
One of the wardens tapped Pieter on the shoulder.
“Sir, your time is up and Mr Mandela needs to return to his prison cell to rest,” remarked the warden.
Clearly, the conversation was getting to upbeat for the conservative-minded warden, who was prepared to die for his country to preserve Afrikaner control.
Pieter, Lindiwe, Pearce and Mark thanked Mandela for his time.
“I can’t wait to see you in a suit and tie, instead of a prison outfit,” smiled Pieter, and the future President grinned.
“Before we go back to the mainland, I think we should walk to the beach,” suggested the Lieutenant.
Out of sight of the prison wardens, he held Lindiwe’s hand firmly. From the far side of the island, all that one could see was open kilometres of sea. Pieter remembered the Rime of the Ancient Mariner from his school days. Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink. How true it was, he thought, as he looked out over the ocean. The waters looked so peaceful and the bright sun shone brightly on the water ripples.
Lindiwe began to have flashbacks to her youth. She walked over to a rock and ran her hand over the smooth surface. It was like she had been here before. Whether it was a trance or reality, she did not know, but she identified with the environment. Suddenly, she remembered that her father had been worth her here and had scratched the word ‘Lindiwe’ on the rock in front on her.
Yes, there it was – Lindiwe.
She called Pieter over to the rock. “Darling, can you write my name here?”
Darling, can you write my name here?
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