Chapter Five – Pieter plans his future
‘Steel bars wrapped all around me, I’ve been your prisoner since the day you found me’. Michael Bolton’s smash hit of 1991 would have been quite relevant to the way that Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus was chained up in his bed at 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria.
He tossed on way and then the other to loosen the chain that held his wrists against the bedside railings.
“You bastards, you don’t know what you have just done!” he screamed.
A black nurse sniggered and whispered to her black male colleague: “Does he know that this is 2010 and not Apartheid South Africa anymore?”
Pieter heard the remark and glared at the black woman.
“You are first on the hitlist, you black bitch!” he screamed.
There was no doubting the sincerity in Pieter’s voice and the words cut like a knife in the woman’s spirit to such an extent that she turned and walked away. Dabbing a tear from her right eye, she now believed what her parents has told her about the racist, domineering whites. More to the point, the racist, domineering Afrikaner.
Jaap Cornelius forced his way into the ward where Pieter was being treated.
“Pieter, ek wil jou spreek (Pieter, I want to speak to you),” remarked the Colonel in a stern tone.
Was Jaap going to reprimand the Lieutenant for the way that he treated the black nurse? Not a chance. Jaap felt the same as Pieter and was proud of his Lieutenant for his utterances.
Once settled in his hospital bed and all the chains were back in place to keep him bound, Pieter listened to Jaap’s questions.
“Waar is Lindiwe (where is Lindiwe)?” asked the Colonel.
“Fok it, Kolonel, ek weet nie (fuck it, Colonel, I don’t know),” said Pieter.
“Ek het gehoop dat jy sal weet (I hoped that you would know).”
Jaap pulled out a small note pad from the breast pocket of his shirt.
“Sy was saam met jou binne die kombuis (she was with you in the kitchen)?” he asked.
“Ja, dinge het so vinning gebuur (yes, things happened so quickly),” explained the Lieutenant.
“Ek onthou net ek het met Lindiwe gesels en skielik het ek voorentoe geval en aan iets gegryp (I remember talking to Lindiwe, and suddenly I fell forward and tried to grab on to something).”
Jaap thought through Pieter’s version of events.
“Miskien het jy die gaspyp gegryp en gebreek (maybe you grabbed the gaspipe and broke it)?” muttered the Colonel.
“Kan wees (might be),” said Pieter.
“Maar die manne by die kaantoor het na die video material gekyk en hulle verwys dat een oomblik was Lindiwe by the kosmaak stoof, en n sekonde later na n ontploffing was sy weg (the men in the office checked the video material and one second Lindiwe was at the gas stove and the next she was gone),” pushed Jaap.
“Ek weet nie (I don’t know),” uttered Pieter.
“Ek kan nie onthou date ek die vloer gekap het en hoe ek hierdie sny op my kop gekry het nie (I don’t even remember hitting the floor or how I got this gash on my forehead).”
There was a brief silence between the two men before a frustrated Pieter spoke.
“Kolonel, ons ken mekaar n heel paar jaar (Colonel, we have known each other a good few years).”
“Ek dink jy weet waar Lindiwe is, maar jy wil nie vir my vertel nie (I think that you know where Lindiwe is, but you don’t want to tell me!” said Pieter sternly.
“Broer, ek weet nie waar sy is nie,” countered Jaap.
“Die hele polisie afdeling is op soek na haar. Sy het soos mis voor die son verdwyn en almal dink dat jy weet wat gebeur het (the whole police department is looking for her. She disappeared like mist before the sun and everyone thinks that you know what happened).”
“Ek weet fokkol (I know fuck all),” muttered Pieter.
“Sy was by the kosplek voordat ek geval het (she was at the food place before I fell).”
“Jaap, moenie date ek uitvind dat jy is soos die ander en lieg vir my, asseblief tog (Jaap, don’t let me find out that you are like the others and are lying to me, please,” said Pieter.
Jaap headed for the door.
“Hoe ken jy vir my (how do you know me)?” asked Jaap, with a wink to his Lieutenant.
Pieter was left with more questions than answers. He was becoming more and more convinced that the New South Africa was taking him for a fool. What game were his fellow cops playing against him?
The South African police had become a bit of a laughingstock of the nation. Police station staff were being held up at gunpoint. Cop cars were being vandalised. This wasn’t the case before the fall of Apartheid.
If he could not trust his own fellow cop colleagues, then why should he respect the New South Africa?
Three hours later, Pieter needed to go to the bathroom.
“I will bring you a mini urinal pan,” said a black doctor to Pieter, in response to his request.
“I want to go to the bathroom myself,” replied the patient.
“I am afraid that is not possible,” remarked the doctor.
“Fuck you and your family, I want to go to the bathroom now!” retorted Pieter.
The doctor went off to consult with his superiors. Five minutes passed before he returned with two security guards, who were both black.
“These two men will escort you to the bathroom,” explained the doctor.
Pieter gritted his teeth.
He remembered his parents referring to black people as JACK, which stood for ‘Just Another Confused Kaffir’, with ‘Kaffir’ being a derogatory-banned term for a black person. Some white people believed the term ‘Kaffir’ to mean ‘non-believer’. However, most blacks understand the word to mean the equivalent to the offensive ‘Nigga’ word, in reference to African Americans, but nowadays used globally.
Pieter was escorted to the bathroom by the two security guards who would not have been out of place in a WWE wrestling ring. They had huge biceps, but heavy hips, which made the Lieutenant wonder if he could outrun them.
As he stood urinating into the urinal in the bathroom, he weighed up his options. If he made a run for it and did manage to get away, then where to from there?
All he knew was that he needed to escape. He had lost Lindiwe Snr, when she died giving birth to Lindiwe Jnr, and now he was not sure if he would ever see Lindiwe Jnr again either.
To hell with the New South Africa, he thought.
While Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus pretended to be sleeping in his hospital bed, he was concocting a plan that would make previous attacks on blacks look like kindergarten.
The trick was not to get caught while performing these evil deeds.
He knew of an abandoned apartment near Strijdom Square, which had been renamed Lilian Ngoyi Square after the former Apartheid activist.
Ngoyi was the first woman member to be elected to the executive of the ANC and helped launch the Federation of South African Women.
His mind went back to the early 1990s, when army General Constand Viljoen had the opportunity to topple the de Klerk government. It was reported that Viljoen had over 50 000 trained Afrikaner military men at the ready. It was said that Viljoen had his finger on the trigger but opted not to shoot and went the democratic route.
Viljoen believed that his men could oust the de Klerk government in one afternoon, but then what? South Africa was cut off from the world due to international sanctions put in place because of the county’s Apartheid policies.
As he lay in his hospital bed, Pieter was silently cursing Viljoen. If the trigger had been pulled, South Africa would have gone on a different path, at least for ten years or so, he figured.
Pieter was fully aware of the Boeremag saga too. In the early 2000s, a group of right wingers planned to target townships, power stations and high-level political gatherings in a bid to prove who the real owners of the country were.
The plan was to overthrow the ANC government and to put Boer Republics in place, as was the case in the days of the Vootrekkers in the 1800s. While they managed to pull off some bombings in Soweto in 2002, twenty-six members of the group were arrested in 2002, which several more in 2003.
British mercenary Simon Mann, who is internationally known for being a part of the Sandline International company along with fellow Scots Guard officer, Tim Spicer, made big cash from his battle plans in Angola and Sierre Leone. The Angola campaign alone was believed to be worth 10 million British Pounds. Things fell apart when he was contracted to depose the government of oil rich Equatorial New Guinea in 2004. The plane, with Mann and his sixty-four mercenaries onboard, was stopped and raided by Zimbabwean officials while refuelling in Harare en route to Equatorial Guinea.
Mann did seven years in prison in Equatorial Guinea’s notorious Black Beach prison in Malabo, while sixty-six of his colleagues were acquitted.
Pieter Erasmus was more of a ‘Wit Wolf’. Even though Barend ‘Wit Wolf’ Strydom had told investigators that he was a part of a larger right-wing group aimed at destabilising South Africa, he was actually a one-man army.
So too was Pieter Erasmus. Despite the New South Africa being a good sixteen years down the road of democracy, the Lieutenant knew of several dodgy cops who would pay good money to make use of his services to prove a point. Not all members of the law enforcers were happy at delivering on their oath, as undertaken by the new regime.
Black and white had a long way to go to reconcile and even longer if members from both sides did not want to be seen as one.
With Lindiwe Snr and Lindiwe Jnr gone, Pieter felt that there was no reason to believe in the New South Africa.
Getting hold of ammunition would not be a problem. He had the connections inside the police force. Like Simon Mann, the risk was to carry out the plan as soon as possible. Mann’s downfall was that the coup in Equatorial Guinea took over a year to plan and, in the meantime, information leaked out which led to the eventual arrest of him and his team.
Pieter had no plans of spending time behind bars.
Maybe he could be the next Andre Stander. Stander, a cop, was the leader of the notorious bank robbing Stander Gang of the 1980s. His disguises and fake passports were so good that he evaded his own cop colleagues for many months while robbing banks in Braamfontein, Johannesburg and Durban.
Of course, it became easier when his superiors in the police, put him on the case to investigate the bank robbers. So, Stander would fly to Durban in the morning and rob a bank, before flying back to investigate a bank robbery in Johannesburg in the afternoon.
Stander’s luck eventually ran out while he was in Florida in the US, when he got spotted by a cop near his rented apartment. He attempted to grab the police offer’s shotgun and a scuffle broke out. A shot went off wounding Stander in the abdomen. He died on the pavement.
Fellow gang member Lee McCall died after a prostitute who was a regular with the Stander Gang, tipped off the cops. The safehouse in Houghton was surrounded by the police. McCall refused to surrender as he ran from room-to-room opening fire on the law enforcers. Word was that he may have died from his own gun while hiding in a cupboard.
Allan Heyl, the third gang member, escaped to carry on robbing banks in the UK. He eventually got arrested there and served some time in prison before finishing his term behind bars in South Africa. Heyl died of cancer in 2020.
The difference between the Simon Mann teams, the Boeremag, and the Stander Gang, was that Pieter was a loner.
He needed to get out of hospital as soon as possible and to put his plan into reality. In his mind, black and white in South Africa had never been more apart than they were now.
In Pieter’s mind, Nelson Mandela’s Rainbow Nation dream had been just that – a dream.
“Sir, I never downplay my colleagues, but I say this with great respect, I think you are being lied to by Lieutenant Erasmus,” said investigator Wayne Burgess, over the phone to Colonel Jaap Cornelius.
“I find it hard to believe that the Lieutenant doesn’t know where the girl is. I mean, she has disappeared off the face of the earth. The Lieutenant knows more than he is letting on, I know it.”
Jaap Cornelius bit on his bottom lip before answering. He was prepared to buy the fact that Pieter may not have known what had caused the gas explosion in the kitchen at the Vosloo Grill, but the view of Wayne Burgess held some merit.
The cops had checked out Lindiwe’s home and found all her belongings still there. Yet the neighbours had said that they had not seen her since the day of the blast.
Was Pieter hiding his girlfriend from the cops? Of course, South Africa was an ‘innocent until proven guilty’ country, so Pieter could hardly be charged with anything. The last thing that Jaap wanted was to have to arrest his friend.
“I will speak to Erasmus again, but we really don’t have much to go on here,” replied Jaap.
Jaap ended the call and stared at his mobile phone. South Africa’s law enforcers could track down murderers, rapists, and robbers within hours, but it was close on a day since the blast at the Vosloo Grill happened, and 19-year-old Lindiwe Buthelezi was missing in action.
He remembered a television series that he had seen many years back. It was a story of how people travelled through time and ended up in different centuries. Could this be the case with Lindiwe?
Nee man, Cornelius, jy is besig om jou kop te verloor (no man, Cornelius, you are losing your mind). The Colonel will never know how close his thoughts were to the truth. However, in the police world, facts and concrete evidence always outweighed out-of-the-box thinking.
If he told any of his colleagues about that television series, they would think that he was crackers and would probably give him some time off or send him for therapy.
Jaap was an old-school type of guy. He did not believe in psychics or fortune tellers. Lindiwe had to be somewhere… but where…
The Colonel’s shift had ended now, and he could feel that his body was calling for a beer. It was his daily tonic. He headed off in search of a watering hole now that the Vosloo Grill was temporarily closed.