Chapter 38 – Racism Fights Back
Four weeks passed by since the Marikana hearing and many were wondering how Pieter Erasmus was managing to live with his conscience.
Well, he was all good. Black life meant little to him on a good day. In fact, he felt that if the Marikana incident was to happen again today, he would have done the same in terms of his decision. To Pieter, those who take on authority deserve what they get.
Seated in his apartment in Pretoria, Pieter had learnt to ignore the text message bleeping sound of his mobile device. He had counted to thirty-five death threats since the hearing ended. Where the people got his personal mobile number from, he did not know, but he was quite impressed with how much time and effort they took in their racist, aggressive wording of their messages.
Having just returned from the local corner café, where he collected a copy of the daily Pretoria News newspaper and a loaf of bread, he sat down on a chair at the small kitchen table and stared at the front-page headlines of the publication.
‘Mabuza for top Eskom job’, read the wording. Pieter giggled. Yes, there it was. Ace Mabuza was being tipped for the Chief Executive Officer post of South Africa’s leading electricity supplier, Eskom.
The electricity supplier was in serious financial trouble due to pure bad management and corrupt deals. Some of its newly built power stations which should have eased the crippling load on the current providers, were due to have been operational last year. However, they were still in the process of being built.
The opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, was roasting the ANC in Parliament over the shortage of electricity which led to temporary load shedding sessions throughout the country. This meant that certain cities had to cut their power for four to six hours to ease the load on the national grid. Foreign investors were laughing at South Africa.
Never mind, thought Pieter. Good, old Ace Mabuza claimed that he was the saviour to South Africa’s electricity issues.
Yes, Ace knew how to cut a deal with suppliers better than anyone!
Pieter stood up from his seat at the kitchen table and went over to the lounge window, where he pulled back the curtain to peep at the goings-on in the street.
He noticed a police vehicle positioned at the curb near the entrance to his apartment block.
With his life being in danger, he had informed the South Africa Police Services of the death threats that he had been receiving. For all he knew, the threats could have been coming from the cronies of former Police Commissioner Lawrence Mathibe, but he needed to do the right thing and inform the cops on the matter in case he disappeared off the face of the earth just like Lindiwe Buthelezi Jnr did.
To hell with Lindiwe Jnr and her mother, Lindiwe Snr, thought Pieter.
“If Lindiwe Jnr had not disappeared, I would probably have not got involved in the Marikana affair in the first place,” thought the suspended cop.
As for Lindiwe Snr, Pieter was hoping that she really was six foot underground this time and would not be making any earthly comebacks. To him, the past was just that. He needed to move on and save his people from black incompetence and turmoil.
His thought process was interrupted by a knock on his apartment door. With his 9mm pistol at the read, he looked through the peephole. Standing on the other side of the door was lawyer, Laurie Armstrong, who had come to fetch him. Today was the big day. He would know his destiny, one way or the other.
Once in Laurie’s car, Pieter asked the legal man if he had seen the Eskom story about Ace Mabuza.
“What a joke,” replied Laurie, as he drove the vehicle towards the CSIR Conference Centre.
“If Mabuza can score big, so can you. Today is the day that you get your credibility and your job back.”
Pieter shrugged his shoulders.
He prided himself on his credibility in the eyes of people of his own skin colour but did not really want his old police job back. Thanks to the late Lucas Sithole and Ace Mabuza, Pieter was richer than most, but what good was it all if he was going to spend the next few years in a prison cell?
Four hours later, cries of joy were heard in Meiring Naude Street outside of the CSIR Conference Centre, following Dikgang Marawa’s reading of the outcome of the hearing.
As expected, the panel had decided unanimously in favour of a good jail term for Pieter, based on manslaughter. The fact that the law enforcers had defended their own lives against the aggressive, advancing striking miners in Marikana, seemed to matter little.
Pieter and Laurie sat stone-face in the small meeting room.
This would be the first time that Pieter had heard his lawyer swear.
“There is no fucking justice in this country and the system is corrupt to the core,” exclaimed Laurie.
“Don’t worry, we will appeal the outcome of the hearing. They cannot sentence you here as only a court can do that, so you are still free for the moment, but you will have to surrender your passport. I am sure they will fear that you may skip the country.”
There was a knock on the meeting room door.
“It’s time, gentlemen,” said a police officer, indicating that Laurie would be led to the outer steps of the conference centre where he would address the media.
“Laurie, I want to go with,” remarked Pieter.
“I really don’t think that is a good idea,” replied the lawyer.
“Your face to the protestors at the gate is like a red rag to a bull.”
“This is my damn life and my doing,” pressed Pieter.
“I want to face the media, even if you do all the talking.”
Eventually Laurie relented and the police officer, accompanied by two other men in blue uniform, led Pieter and Laurie to face the media.
As the front glass doors of the conference centre opened, the noise outside went to new levels.
Some of the protestors outside the main gate tried to push their way past the riot police who lined the entrance, but to no avail.
For some reason, Lindiwe Snr’s last words seemed stuck in Pieter’s mind.
My time on earth is over and yours is fast running out too.
Pieter did not have too much time to think about it as he joined Laurie in facing up to over sixty media people on the conference centre steps.
“I will be answering all questions on behalf of my client, but what I can assure you is that if the hearing outcome is taken to court by Honourable Chairperson, Dikgang Marawa, we will appeal the outcome of the findings that were released here today,” said Laurie, as the television cameras rolled and the photographer’s clicked away with their equipment.
“You have to agree that manslaughter is a serious offence whichever way you look at it?” quipped a reporter from the Afrikaans language Beeld newspaper.
“Yes, it is, but what is one expected to do if your life is in danger?” asked Laurie in rhetorical fashion.
“Should Mr Erasmus have instructed the police to hold fire and be injured by the striking miners?”
“Yes, but should rubber bullets and teargas have not been used instead of live ammunition?” chipped in a journalist from The Citizen newspaper.
“Those routes had already been exhausted and further action needed to be taken against the miners,” replied Laurie.
“Protesting is one thing, but violent or deadly protesting against private people or their property is something else.”
“So, you believe that people do have the right to protest?” asked a reporter from 702 Talk Radio.
“My client nor I ever said that protesting should be not allowed but it is the manner in which it was conducted which is questionable,” answered Laurie.
“If the protest had been actioned in a law-abiding manner then the firing of live ammunition would not have happened as none of the police or security personnel’s lives would have been in danger.”
Laurie went on.
“My client was hired by a consortium to safeguard the Loxton Mine and he was doing his job to the best of his ability. In the absence of the Police Commissioner, Mr Erasmus made use of his experience and expertise in what he deemed was the best way to safeguard the lives of the police and security personnel against the advancing striking miners, who clearly wanted to make their point well beyond a normal protest.”
“Do you feel that the highest ranked police official on-site should have taken the decision in the absence of the Police Commissioner, which would have saved Mr Erasmus from having had to make it?” asked a reporter from the Sunday Times.
“Indeed, that would have been the ideal case and …”
Before Laurie could finished his reply to the question a cracking sound was heard. It sounded like people celebrating New Year’s Eve with fireworks, but nothing could be seen in the blue skies at just after 15h00 on a warm afternoon in Pretoria.
Moments later, a cop standing to the right of Pieter and Laurie cried out: “Get down!”
Laurie fell to the floor and the media dispersed in different directions. It was now clear that what Laurie thought had been celebrational firecrackers was three releases of live ammunition fired in his direction. It did not take a genius to work out that the shots fired were not meant for the lawyer but actually for his client.
As Laurie lay face down on the steps of the conference centre covered by a policeman with a bulletproof vest, his right hand felt some form of liquid next to him.
A quick glance at his hand let him know that it was blood. He ran his hands over his body, and it seemed that he was not hit or in any form of pain.
“Pieter!” shouted the lawyer to the lifeless body on his right.
There was no response and as soon as the cops gave the signal for Laurie to move indoors, the lawyer called for medical help for his client.
The nearest cop tried to usher Laurie to the main door, but the legal man resisted as he was more worried about his client. During the commotion Laurie made out from a voice that a man with a pistol had been arrested for the shooting.
Laurie’s mind was flustered. He had never been this close to death before. As he watched on from safety on the inside of the glass doors, he saw two paramedics attending to his client.
Five minute later, one of the paramedics updated the cop in charge and Laurie was able to catch on to some of the news.
“Die man is in die nek en skouer geskiet en het baie bloed verloor (the man got shot in the neck and shoulder and has lost a lot of blood),” said the paramedic.
“Ons sal hom spoedig hospital toe vat en die doctor sal vir julle laat weet oor sy toestand (we will get him to a hospital quickly and the doctor there will update you on his situation).”
Laurie could not hold back.
“I have to go with, that man is my client.”
“Alright,” said the cop in charge.
“I suggest you go with one of my colleagues in one of our police vehicles as getting a civilian car through the protestors will be a problem at the moment.”
The ambulance left the conference centre parking area with its siren in full cry, followed by a police vehicle with Laurie seated at the back.
Laurie adjusted his sunglasses and ran his right hand over his hair. He had lost precious few court cases and had not lost a client in this fashion before.
The lawyer was beginning to blame himself for what had happened. He thought back to how he had pleaded with Pieter to remain inside the building and not to join him in facing the media on the steps of the conference centre. Laurie felt that perhaps he had not been persistent enough.
Perhaps the Marikana hearing was getting to the lawyer too. The last few weeks had been extremely stressful for both Pieter and Laurie.
The small convoy made its way to 1 Military hospital, in Voortrekker Street, Pretoria, with the paramedics inside the ambulance doing their best to stop any further loss of blood from Pieter’s wounds.
Of course, Lindiwe Buthelezi Snr could not predict the future, but she was pot on with her prediction. How did she get it right? It seemed to be a case of karma. Lindiwe was a firm believer of what goes around, comes around. She believed that if you are good to others, the same will be returned to you sooner or later.
Pieter too had developed similar beliefs while Lindiwe Jnr was growing up, but that had all changed for the worst, particularly since her disappearance.
His wounds were quite severe, and he was hanging on to life by a thread. If he were to leave this earth today, few would shed a tear, particularly after the Marikana affair. He had left the North West Province unscathed while some kids would grow up without fathers, uncles, or grandfathers. They blamed Pieter for this, irrespective of if police lives were at risk or not during the protest.
To many, the world and indeed South Africa, would be a better place without the likes of Pieter Erasmus. He was an example of a man who simply could not understand that South Africa was a black country, not a white one, at least not since the fall of Apartheid.
Instead of finding a way to make the best of the situation, Pieter was determined to hang on to what he had and encourage his fellow whites to do the same. To Pieter, if God wanted black people to live in the suburbs, then Apartheid would not have happened. Not for a moment did a man of Pieter’s calibre put the blame at the door of the evil Apartheid era politicians. To him and those of a similar mindset, the black man was always wrong, stupid and a thief in the country.
To the black man, the country was theirs. To closed-minded whites, the country had been sold out from under them, as stated in the lyrics of one of Leon Schuster’s songs – ‘Platwiel de Klerk het ons uitverkoop’ (flatwheel de Klerk sold us out), about former President F.W. de Klerk.
Where do people like Pieter Erasmus go to when they die, black people often wondered. Were people like him simply evil from birth, or brainwashed by family members to think with a pro-white mindset?