Chapter 20 – Ring, Ring Goes the Telephone
Time goes by, so slowly… Time goes by, so slowly.
Madonna’s smash hit of 2005, entitled ‘Hung Up’, is playing on the radio of Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus’ Toyota Corolla, as he made his way down the N1 highway towards Garsfontein for his meeting with his mentor, Colonel Jaap Cornelius.
Ring, ring goes the telephone, the lights are on but there is no-one home…
Pieter knew the lyrics well, but he had to turn up the volume, as Madonna’s vocals were being drowned out by the pelting hail that was landing on the vehicle’s windscreen.
Sometimes in life, one must take chances, and this was one of those occasions. Pieter had made his call between trusting that Jaap was serious about meeting with him over a business proposal or leading him into a South African Police Services trap.
Tick, tick, tock, it’s a quarter to two and I am done, I am hanging up on you…
The song was one of those that simply stuck in one’s mind.
It had no really meaning in Pieter’s life. In fact, he had never been keen on the lyrics. He had never really thought about them until now.
The highway was busy as people headed home from work, with many beginning the daily long haul back to Johannesburg from Pretoria.
Pieter took the Lynwood Road offramp and headed into the suburban area towards Garsfontein.
He heard a beeping sound on his mobile phone, and with one hand on the steering wheel, took his communications device from his pocket.
Verandering van plan. Kry vir my sesuur by die Wingate Golfklub (change of plan. Find me at six o’ clock at the Wingate Golf Club).
Pieter pondered over the message. Why was there a sudden change in meeting venue? The Wingate Golf Club was not far from the apartment where Jaap’s son-in-law lived. However, he still wondered why the venue had been changed. Perhaps he was over-thinking the situation. Maybe there was no threat to worry about.
As he drove towards Norval Street to get to the gate of the golf club, Pieter kept an eye for any unwanted followers’ courtesy of his car’s rear-view mirror.
The road behind him seemed quiet. He noticed that the golf club parking area was quite full but that made total sense as the golfers were probably all in the bar, downing some drinks after having their golf round cut short due to the weather.
There were certainly no cop cars in the parking area, not that the police would be stupid enough to do a stakeout in marked vehicles.
Pieter realised that it was simply too late to turn back. Jaap Cornelius had never done him down in the twelve years that they had worked together, so why would he now?
As he entered the golf club’s main door, two Afrikaners of large built passed by him. Pieter’s right hand formed a fist. He was ready for whatever was coming his way. However, the two men were not interested in him and were merely on their way out of the clubhouse on the way to their vehicles to make the trip home.
Pieter did not need to ask for directions to the bar as he could hear the banter from far away. Typically, the more the golfers drank, the louder they became, and braver in offering their opinions in conversation.
As he entered the bar, he froze in the doorway. Rather expecting a bar full of Afrikaners, he was surprised to see five black men standing in the corner, with one of them in deep conversation with Jaap.
Pieter had no idea if Jaap was keen on golf or not but presumed that the black men must be caddies at the club. Like most white South African men, Pieter found it hard to believe that black men were effective in playing cricket, rugby, let alone golf.
The Apartheid regime had brainwashed whites into the mindset that soccer and road running were the sports enjoyed by black people.
Pieter remembered his father’s racist jokes about how South African blacks should be world class athletes over 100 metres, as they were used to running away from the cops. Then what about the shotput athletes? The blacks were good at throwing stones and other objects when they protested so surely, they could win an Olympic medal in the shot put?
The javelin competition would be right up their alley too, as they had thrown the spear for centuries.
Another reason why Pieter believed that the black men in conversation with Pieter were not golfers, was because golf was an expensive game to play. First one had to book a round of golf. Then one may need to hire a caddy or golf cart. What about a snack with something to drink at halfway house after nine holes of play? Then it was inevitable, that all would end in the bar after the day’s play and more cash would be spent.
How was Pieter supposed to know that the tall, slim built black man chatting to Jaap was none other than Lucas Sithole, a senior consultant to the office of the Presidency.
Jaap turned around as if knowing that Pieter was watching him from the doorway and ushered to the Lieutenant to join the group.
Pieter was on the brink of turning around and heading back to his vehicle. The last thing that he now wanted was to spend an evening with a bunch of blacks. He certainly had no plan on doing business with them. He would almost surely be paid short or not at all. The Lieutenant was convinced that anything went wrong with a business deal with black people, the white man would surely be the fall guy.
Pieter froze in the doorway and Jaap had to excuse himself from the group to come over and fetch him.
“Jaap, ek gaan nie n dop drink met daai swart fokkers nie (Jaap, I am not going to drink with those black fuckers),” said Pieter sternly.
To avoid a scene, Jaap grabbed Pieter by the arm and escorted him out into the corridor.
“Luister, Erasmus, daar is geld op die spel hier, groot geld (listen, Erasmus, there is money on the go here, big money),” explained the Colonel.
“Jy weet mos ons het altyd gepraat van n geleentheid om sekuriteitswerk te doen en baie geld te maak? Wel, hier is ons kans (you know that we always spoke about an opportunity to make big money in the security industry? Well, here is our chance).”
“Ken jy die naam ‘Lucas Sithole’ (do you know the name ‘Lucas Sithole’)?” asked Jaap.
Pieter wiped his brow with his right hand.
“Jy bedoel seker nie die voormalige Umkhonto we Sizwe man wat vrygelaat was in 1997, nada thy sewe wittes in n ontploffing in Johannesburg vermoor het (you don’t mean the former Umkhonto we Size man who was released in 1997 after murdering seven whites in a bomb explosion in Johannesburg)?” muttered Pieter.
Jaap put his arm around Pieter’s shoulders to usher him further away from the bar entrance just incase Lucas Sithole overheard part of the conversation.
“Erasmus, Sithole is besig om mense te soek om Marikana myn in die Noord-Wes optepas (Erasmus, Sithole is looking for people to guard the Marikana mine in the North West),” stated Jaap.
“Die mynwekers soek meer geld en sal moontlik die plek afbrand (the miners want more money and may burn the place down).”
“Janee, dis hoe ek hulle ken, vernietig alles (yes, that is how I know them, they destroy everything),” quipped Pieter.
Jaap was getting frustrated with the Lieutenant.
“Dink vir eers, dis swart teen swart op Marikana (think for a moment, its black against black in Marikana),” snapped the Colonel.
Jaap was right. Here was an opportunity for black miners to vent their anger against their own people who were financially oppressing them.
All Pieter would have to do was to generate the operations plan and send his black security guards into the front line of defence. If they got wiped out, it would be put down as being a tough day at the office.
Perhaps this was why God, or some other force had stopped Pieter from carrying out his assassinations at Lillian Ngcoyi Square in Pretoria. There were bigger fish to fry in terms of returning the country to its rightful white owners, thought Pieter.
Again, Pieter subscribed to the belief installed in him by his conservative-minded parents, that black people did not believe in God. They all made a visit to the witchdoctor to throw the bones. Chatting to their ancestors was their understanding. The Christians would see things differently in believing that once a person had passed on then the spirit left for immediately for the heavens above and all that was left was a body in a box.
Of course, this was not true, but many white people believed it based on the scenario that black people could not possibly be Christians if they behaved the way they did.
Pieter was still not convinced but Jaap took him by the arm and led him into the bar and over to where the group of black men were standing.
“Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus, I would like to introduce you to Mr Lucas Sithole,” said Jaap with a grin, as he went on to introduce Lucas’ colleagues to Pieter.
Once all had a fresh drink in their hand, Jaap led the way over to a table where they sat down.
“I trust Jaap has told you about the deal?” questioned Lucas, with his eyes firmly peeled on those of Pieter.
“You mean about Marikana?” asked Pieter.
“We need the right men with the right experience,” quipped Lucas, dressed in a white golf shirt and black pants.
“The stakes are high and so too are the rewards. There is no room for error.”
Pieter kept his gaze on Lucas.
“I don’t make any errors,” said the Lieutenant with much confidence.
“That is exactly what Jaap told us about yourself and why you are here,” replied Lucas.
“We will give you the manpower to do the job, but you need to train the men and work out the operations plan. If you mess this up, consider your career a thing of the past.”
There was no doubting the sincerity of Lucas’s words.
“What if I make a huge success of this?” asked Pieter.
“Then we pay you a bonus and take you with us to do similar jobs in African countries where you will earn US Dollars,” said Lucas, before taking in a sip of Hansa beer.
Pieter could sense that Lucas was a big-time role-player.
“Remember, if you sell us out, I hope you can run very, very fast,” threatened Lucas.
Pieter got the message loud and clear.
These guys were putting their futures on the line here and banking on him to make the project happen without any hitches.
Pieter raised his beer bottle as if to tell Lucas that the deal was done.
“Right then, I will finish the money talks with Jaap and give him all the information that you will need,” said Lucas.
“There is no backing out now. We are playing to win.”
Pieter glanced at Jaap, who nodded in agreement.
Pieter took in a sip of beer. This was what he had always dreamed of.
His days as a policeman were seemingly coming to an end one way or another. Now he would be reporting into a black man. Of course, Pieter had a different motive. Watching black vs black violence seemed quite appealing to him.
The Apartheid government had used similar tactics to fire up the IFP to take on the ANC in the early 1990s, so why reinvent the wheel?
“Do you play golf?” asked Lucas to Pieter.
“Well, not very often and not very well,” replied the Lieutenant.
“Strange that, I have a feeling you are a man who would be good at keeping his eye on the ball,” quipped Lucas.
“Better than most,” said the Lieutenant.
Pieter got a strong hunch that he and Lucas were on the same page. The black man was going on what Jaap had told him about Pieter’s skills and experience. Pieter needed to make sure that he kept Lucas’ high level of confidence in him. It seemed clear that Lucas realised that black lives could be lost here, but if they were not the lives of the mine management in Marikana.
Pieter’s mind was racing. What could go wrong? All he needed was to go to Marikana, light the fuse and wait for the big explosion.
Lucas’ colleague had not uttered a word since Pieter arrived in the group. Was this a positive sign?
Pieter asked Jaap about this after the group of black men had shaken hands and headed out the door.
“Sithole sou lankaal opgestaan het en huistoe gegaan het as een van sy manne nie vir jou vetrou het nie (Sithole would have stood up and gone home long ago if one of his men did not trust you),” explained Jaap.
“Doen net jou beste. Dit was altyd suksesvol in die verlede (do you best. It was always successful in the past).”
“Wat van die polisie en die Lindiwe saak (what about the police and the Lindiwe case)?” asked Pieter.
“Ontspan, ek het dit onder beheer (relax, I have got it under control),”: said Jaap with a sense of confidence.
“Kom ons kry vir jou nog n dop (lets get you another drink).”
Jaap ordered another round of drinks from the bar and once Pieter had a full beer in his hand, the Colonel toasted the occasion.
“Laat hom val waar hy wil, net nie op die donderse vloer nie (let it fall where it wants, just not on the bloody floor),” said Jaap with a grin, before taking in a few mouthfuls of beer.
Pieter smiled. He was with Jaap again and that gave him a sense of comfort. He did not want to spoil the mood and ask questions about Lindiwe Jnr. That time would come later.
Besides, Pieter now had bigger plans to make. Once he received the client’s notes from Jaap, he would begin to put a security operation plan together. He would probably have to make a few trips t Marikana to understand the territory. There were exciting times ahead. Perhaps it was a sign from above that Lindiwe Jnr was not with him. Life was going on without her and there seemed to be a flicker of light at the end of the rainbow.
Pieter relished the challenge. This was just up his ally. If there was one man in South Africa who would be able to pull off this daring masterplan for his own interests and get away with it without his client knowing, it would be Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus!