Chapter 25 – Point of No Return
I’m on my way from misery to happiness today…
I’m on my way from misery to happiness today…
I’m on my way to what I want from this world…
And years from now, you’ll make it to the next world…
Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus grinned as the Alan Walker, Sabrina Carpenter and Faruko smash hit of 1988 played on his car radio.
He needed this form of inspiration in this trying moment of his life as he drove on the N4 highway from Pretoria to Marikana. The 99 kilometres trip felt like an eternity, but it gave Pieter enough time to clear his mind.
He was at a doorway that he needed to pass through or else, if he hesitated, he could regret the moment missed forever.
The cop bit on his bottom lip as he often did when something bothered him. The music was cheering him up but that still would not make his tender problem go away.
He had pocketed R200 000 from Lucas Sithole in committing to head the security plan for the tender at Loxton Mine. Of course, he had also banked a R400 000 deposit to be on the team of Ace Mabuza for the very same tender.
Pieter’s bank account felt rosy, but his spirit did not. His double deal would not remain a secret forever.
Pieter felt relieved to be driving out of the city, but he knew that his destination would secure his financial future, but not without major headaches.
As he drove down the highway, he noticed the signboards indicating the road to Ga-Rankuwa township on his right. So many townships, so many opportunities for the spilling of black blood, he thought.
He had done his homework on the town of Marikana, which had previously been known as Rooikoppies (Red Mountain).
Long before the days of platinum and chrome mining there, the area had been known for its farming and was rich in maize, chillies, paprika, soya and sunflowers. To farm, water was needed and the Buffelspoort dam had been built not far away.
Pieter loved the population statistics odds. 98 percent of the population is Marikana was black. This was perfect for his main goal.
From a mining perspective, the Loxton Mine was on record as having a nett income of US$203 million figure. This was what angered the mining community. The mine owners were rolling in the cash but seemed to forget the hard work and sweat of the people who dug for the precious minerals. Until these workers were taken seriously, the strikes would continue.
Eventually, Pieter flicked on the indicator on the steering column to indicating his vehicle’s right turn at Mooinooi. Marikana was now not too far away.
The cop was set to meet up with Vincent Khoza at 14h00 at the main gate to the Loxton Mine. He had still not met the mysterious Ace Mabuza, nor did he want too. Mabuza, by all accounts, was some sort of magician by profession. Simply put, there were stories on the internet that he had the ability to make people disappear.
Mabuza was the type of guy who was good at collecting money, but did not enjoy paying out, which made Pieter wonder just why the bigwig’s right-hand man, Vincent Khoza, had been so quick to pop R400 000 into his account.
Clearly Mabuza knew that the contract was signed and sealed in his favour even before the tender presentations had happened. If the Mabuza group were offering Pieter a cool R4 million in total, goodness knows what they were pocketing. It would surely be even way more than what would be stated on the contract document.
Pieter had kept an eye in the rear-view mirror of his vehicle all the way from Pretoria. The last thing he wanted was to get a bullet in the back of his skull from either Lucas Sithole’s group or that of Mabuza.
He was playing a dangerous game, but the offers had been so good that he could hardly say no to either of them. This was career-changing stuff.
His mind drifted back to what he had read about Ace Mabuza. Apparently, back in the 1990s, a business acquaintance received a cheque to the value of R2.4 million from Mabuza. All was good until the contact banked the cheque, which bounced to heaven and back.
The businessman was nice enough to give Mabuza a call to inform him of the challenge. Mabuza promised to rectify the matter. Months went by and the rectification part seemed to have slipped the wheeler-dealer’s mind.
Eventually, the man received another cheque from Mabuza. The cheque cleared but the problem was that it was only made out to the value of R1.4 million. The contact made his way to Mabuza’s home to collect the balance of his payment.
Some neighbours say they heard what sounded like gunshots from within the house on that very night of the man’s visit, but most were too scared of Mabuza to even peer through the curtains to see what was up.
The visitor never made it home and to this day has been classified as ‘missing, presumed dead’. His family opened a police docket with the cops stating that the man had said that he was on his way to Ace Mabuza’s home to collect a payment. The police docket, like many others, seemed to have found itself into a police paper shredder and the story ended there. With no body found, it was difficult to continue the case, a police spokesperson had told the man’s family.
Pieter kept his left hand on the steering wheel of the vehicle and dropped his right to his hip to reassure himself that his 9mm pistol was safely in its holster. He was getting the feeling more and more that he may need it somewhere along the line in Marikana.
He had hardly pulled up the hand brake after parking near the Loxton Mine main gate before his mobile phone rang. Ah, it is probably Vincent Khoza calling to check on him for the meeting, he thought.
Pieter cringed when he saw the name that had appeared on the screen of his mobile device.
“Hi, Lucas,” answered Pieter, as he acknowledged the caller who was Lucas Sithole.
“What a meeting tonight in Marikana…” Ur… of course we can do that… 20h00 will be just fine… I will meet you at the main gate. See you then.”
Pieter gulped. While it was warm in his vehicle, the sweat that was running down his face was more from anxiety than heat.
He needed to play his cards close to his chest. Lucas Sithole and Vincent Khoza needed to be kept at far ends of Loxton Mine, if he valued his health.
Pieter needed to handle the meeting with Vincent Khoza and then see him off before heading to meet with Lucas Sithole. He dared not even think what would happen if things went pear-shaped. Erasmus, alles sal ok wees (Erasmus, all will be fine).
He climbed out of his vehicle and locked the driver’s door. Armed with his pistol well hidden under a thick jacket, and a black leather file with all his research notes in it under his arm, Pieter headed towards the control room at the main gate.
He worked out quickly that the on-duty pair of guards were not experienced men in terms of security. If they were, they would have wondered why he was wearing such a thick jacket on a hot day. No, they were lower-level security guards who were there to make sure that all visitors signed in the logbook before entering.
Pieter also noticed that the guards were not armed. In their control room were two-way radios, a kettle, microwave oven and a small television set which was on with its volume blaring out some audio from an afternoon soap opera.
Pieter signed in the logbook but his mind was on the fact that the security men were not armed. This was simply not on at a time when miners could storm the mine offices at any moment.
He remembered some of his cop friends telling him stories of their days as police reservists in the early 1990s. They took were unarmed at a time when white coloured and Indian South Africans had voted unanimously to close the book on Apartheid. The fear then had been that the militant right wing could attempt to raid police stations and military points to arm themselves with weapons and ammunition to stop the new South Africa from happening.
With nothing more than a torch at their disposal, what was a police reservist supposed to do if a big Afrikaner jump out of a bush at night and forced the cop to unlock the police armoury?
Some things were just not thought through in the early 1990s. Another example was a case of some pathetic patrol rounds. This saw cops driving their patrol vehicle to a railway line near Mamelodi township to allow the workers to cross through the gate and to the other side to get to their daily jobs.
Sounds good, except next to the railway line gate was a huge hole in the fence which people walked through anyway. So, what was the purpose of unlocking the gate if there was a humungous hole in the fence for people to enter through? No man, the Apartheid bosses said the gate must be unlocked daily so orders will be followed!
Pieter realised that he was walking a tightrope. He needed to win the support of the security guards at the mine, without them feeling undermined by a white Afrikaner. However, he needed to stay totally in control of the situation if his plan of creating black on black violence was to succeed.
If Pieter had been able to understand Sesotho language, he would have heard the security guards passing remarks about him.
“E ‘ngoe e tšoeu haholo. Ke ne ke nahana hore re ba lahlile ka 1994 empa baetapele ba rona ba tlameha ho rata chelete ea bona. (Another damn white. I thought we got rid of them in 1994 but our leaders must love their money.)”
The last thing that the security guards at the mine wanted right now was to take orders from a white security official. They did not trust the white man. They had no reason too after the days of Apartheid. However, it wasn’t their call. Their black bosses would decide whether white or black security firms would be appointed. The problem that the black bosses were facing was that they had put their faith in black security firms before and things had not ended up so well.
So, like many businesses in South Africa, it was now a case of appointing a black firm who needed to give the assurance that they could deliver. The best way to do this, as Lucas Sithole and Vincent Khoza knew, was to bring in experienced white security consultants like Pieter Erasmus. It was the best way to avoid a potential disaster.
Of course, the mindset of the security guard on the ground could never understand this. They had seen some of their black brothers and sisters climb the ladders to financial safety in politics, business, and other sectors. However, the spirit of ubunthu (a Zulu word for common humanity) had seemed to be forgotten. Once the black person had climbed the ladder, they seemed to forget their brothers and sisters still on the ground. It was a case of looking after oneself and stuff the rest.
What Lindiwe Buthelezi Snr or Lindiwe Buthelezi Jnr would have thought about this all? What about Nelson Mandela? Surely this is not what he had fought for?
Yes, to many blacks stuck at the wrong end of the table, the situation was fast turning to a state whereby the privileged blacks looked down on the lower end majority working class.
This led to the planting of many new political parties. Simply put, these new leaders had stopped a gap in the market to enhance the view that the ANC had last its way and no longer cared for the poor. Rightly or wrongly, these new parties had struck a chord at the right time in the minds of voters. The ANC would retain power, but many of these new parties would get a meal-ticket in Parliament.
Pieter entered through the security beam. He was quick to realise that the security beam metal detector was not working, otherwise it would have bleeped to the fact that he had a pistol on his hip. He walked through with effortless ease. This made him wonder how many others like him were also armed and on the premises?
Up ahead he saw the familiar slender body frame of Vincent Khoza. He had to put his sunglasses on to guard his eyes from the bright smile of Ace Mabuza’s man.
“Hello, Pieter,” said Vincent as he shook hands with the cop.
“Let’s go through to one of the meeting rooms.”
They walked through the administration offices and Pieter could smell money. The offices were neatly painted and well furnished.
Another sign that the mine owners were happy to work in a classy environment while the miners struggle underground.
He noted the security cameras in the corners of the roof in the corridor. Yes, he was walking in a warzone area where much was sought-after clearly. So, Loxton Mine had money to put security cameras inside their office corridors but not at their main gate. Interesting, very interesting, thought the Lieutenant.
Through the way that Vincent walked, Pieter got the feeling that he knew the terrain well. He had clearly been here a few times before.
“I can see by your expression that this is all new to you,” smiled Vincent, dressed in a white shirt and black pants.
“I am taking mental notes,” said the cop.
“Good,” replied Vincent.
“You will get a lot of information at this meeting, but hopefully we will be done in two hours.”
That was music to Pieter’s ears. It was now 16h00 and he needed to leave the meeting at 18h00 or 18h30 at worst. He could not run the risk of staying in the meeting until 19h00 and then Lucas Sithole arrived early through the door. He was not even sure if Lucas Sithole knew Vincent Khoza, and what a disaster that could be.
They reached the meeting room and Pieter went through the door first half expecting to see Ace Mabuza seated in front of him. Yet Mabuza was not there, but someone else was.