Chapter Fifteen – Running from your actions
Whatever the outcome, Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus did not want to become one of those apologetic Afrikaners. Whatever he did, he would take full responsibility of his actions and treat the situation with a sense of pride.
He did not like the approaches of people like Apartheid era Foreign Affairs Minister ‘Pik’ Botha and his colleague, former Minister of Law and Order, Adriaan Vlok, who basically bent the knee to the new regime.
Prior to 1994, Roelof Frederik Botha, nicknamed ‘Pik’ because some felt that he resembled a penguin when he was dressed in a suit, was always at the coalface of defending South Africa’s Apartheid policies to the world.
Pieter always had huge respect for Botha (not related to former President P.W. Botha). That was until the post-1994 new dispensation kicked in and ‘Pik’ became was given the portfolio of Minister of Mineral and Energy Affairs in the Mandela government.
Botha met Mandela for the first time and was impressed with the ANC man’s knowledge of Afrikaner history.
Prior to that, Botha led the Nationalist Party line that Apartheid was not a serious crime and that law and order in South Africa needed to be protected.
Apart from the President, ‘Pik’ was arguably the next most powerful politician in South Africa. His life was nearly taken on 21 December 1988 when a bomb destroyed PAN AM flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, as it travelled from London to New York. Botha and six of his fellow South African politicians were due to be on that flight but were fortunate to get seats on an earlier plane.
What Pieter only found out later was that Botha was instrumental in the peace talks between South Africa, Cuba and Angola to end the Border War, which led to the independence of Namibia. Previously, South Africa had been governing Namibia, which was then known as South West Africa.
Another factor which would have turned Pieter against ‘Pik’ had the cop known about it at the time, was that Botha had been instrumental in preparing P.W. Botha’s Rubicon speech, which was read in Durban in 1985. The speech was due to mention the imminent release of Nelson Mandela, but President Botha read the whole draft speech except for those important paragraphs.
It was ‘Pik’ who rounded up the media in Durban in preparation of the earth-shattering news of Mandela’s release, only to be let down by his leader.
Despite rumours that ‘Pik’ had crossed the floor in the New South Africa to join the ANC, this never actually happened as the former Foreign Affairs Minister said that he could not join the governing party due to his issues with their Affirmative Action policies.
Some people did not forgive ‘Pik’ so easily. In fact, his name, along with that of Chris Hani, Mandela, and several others, were on the hit list which Janusz Valuz had. Hani was taken care of before Valuz got arrested and the others lived to experience the New South Africa.
Pieter had no issue with ‘Pik’ serving in the Government of National Unity after 1994, as the National Party were a part of the government and the former Foreign Minister was still with the Nationalists. However, the cop and many other South Africans would have freaked out if the die-hard Nationalist Botha, jumped ship to the ANC.
Pieter shook his head. He had also worked for the Apartheid regime as a cop and now his police salary was being paid by the former opposition, the ANC.
However, there was another individual who Pieter had learnt to hate. Former Minister of Law and Order, Adriaan Vlok, was the only National Party minister to appear before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1999. Pieter took it a step further. Vlok was the only National Party Minister who was stupid enough to appear before the Commission. The others simply washed the blood of off their hands and moved on with life.
Vlok was loathed by the ANC and he knew it, so much so that President F.W. de Klerk was forced his minister to the office of Correctional Services to appease the ANC.
Vlok, who sat on the Apartheid government’s security council which gave the orders for bombings, assassinations, and other evil acts, received amnesty for ordering the bombing of the headquarters of the South African Council of Churches and the offices of trade union, COSATU.
However, some of the evillest acts carried out by the Apartheid regime will seemingly forever be buried with the perpetrators not coming forward to be held accountable.
In 2006, Vlok would go on to become a reborn Christian and it was at this point that he made several sensational revelations that he had not brought forward to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
As a sign of requesting forgiveness, he publicly washed the feet of Reverend Frank Chikane. In 1989, Chikane was the secretary-general of the South African Council of Churches and a leading activist against Apartheid. Vlok attempted to silence Chikane by sending him a letter laced with poison. However, the Reverend survived to live and tell the tale.
Other people who would have their feet washed by Vlok, were the widows and mothers of a group known as the ‘Mamelodi 10’. These ten political activists were also sent to their graves, on the orders of Vlok.
Vlok was the type of character that Pieter despised. The boss had given the commands and now he was apologising for them. Worst of all, Vlok had called on other Apartheid era leaders to come forward and to be held accountable for their crimes against humanity. The former Law and Order Minister believed that this would give the guilty ones a clear conscience.
Pieter had thought about leaving the police on several occasions. The problem was that he did not have any other options on the table.
How could have trusted a bunch of leaders who gave the ground force orders to carry out and then run for cover when the going got tough?
Then there was the new regime. With the death penalty having been abolished, there seemed little or no respect for the men and woman in blue uniform, who patrolled the communities. Some criminals seemed to believe that if they got arrested today, they could possibly be out on bail tomorrow, and would continue with their life of crime.
Pieter wiped his brow. There had to be more to life than this, like… well… like… shooting some blacks on Lilian Ngoyi Square!
One of Pieter’s biggest challenges at work was to identify his black colleagues when they were in civilian clothes. When the cops wore their uniforms, they had their nametags on for identification purposes. However, when they were off duty and wearing their civilian clothing, Pieter had a major challenge in working out who was who.
It was nothing new to many white people, particularly the older ones, who believed in the ‘all darkies look the same’ philosophy.
Pieter went down into a crouch position behind the furniture on the balcony. He took aim at a black woman who was standing at a bus stop. It would be easy prey for him. Her death was imminent. He could not see the woman’s face, but that didn’t really matter, or did it?
Suddenly, a painful thought went through his mind, which painstakingly seemed to cripple his whole body.
What if he accidentally assassinated Lindiwe Buthelezi Snr or Jnr?
Surely, he would recognise his former lovers from a distance, he pondered. Maybe not.
Pieter strained his eyes to see if the person who was about to have her head blown away, was Lindiwe Snr or Jnr.
“Kyk op, dammit (look up, dammit)!” exclaimed Pieter, with his finger on the trigger.
The woman at the bus stop had earphones plugged to her ears and to her mobile phone. Pieter remembered Lindiwe Jnr was fond of doing that too. He had often scolded her for walking in public with earphones on, as she would not hear approaching cards, trains, busses, or any other vehicles which may be close to running over her.
The woman in the firing line was of the same height and build of both Lindiwe Snr and Jnr.
“Kan nie wees nie (it can’t be),” hissed the cop.
It was like a force of gravity was making Pieter’s trigger finger spring into action. He was not sure how long he would be able to hold out for before the shotgun fired its first ammunition of the day.
The Lieutenant narrowed his eyes as much as he could in a bid to get a look at the person at the bus stop. He was sort of sure that the person was not Lindiwe Snr or Lindiwe Jnr, but he had been wrong before in his life. He would not be able to live with himself if he assassinated one of the girls who had been closest to him.
The wind had also picked up and began to blow the rain drops towards Pieter. He shook his head in disgust and crawled from his position in the lounge of the apartment to grab his hooded police jacket.
Once he had the jacket on, he crawled back to his shooting position.
“Fok dit (fuck it),” he muttered.
The girl at the bus stop was gone. What ever happened to his policy of seizing the moment?
His eyes gazed over the terrain below in search of another black target.
It did not take him long to spot a black mother with her two young daughters walking on the pavement. Hold on a moment, one of the small kids was not black. She looked to be mixed race. Could the father of the child be white, as was the case with Pieter and Lindiwe Jnr?
Again, Pieter hesitated. It seemed like this shooting would never happen. Every time he got into the zone to pull the trigger an obstacle seemed to block his mind.
The wind pushed the hood of the jacket against Pieter’s face, and he removed his supporting hand from the shot gun to push the head cover piece of the garment away.
As a cop he had shot at people in the rain in the townships many times before, but he had never been obstructed by the hood of his jacket.
His focus turned back to the women with the two children. They had walked a good fifty metres closer to him by now. Hitting the target would now be easier than ever. He could not miss. He was seeing it as big as a pumpkin.
Then his hearing picked up a conversation on the television screen. He picked up on a promotional 30 seconder on-screen that was talking about a debate that would be broadcast later that day. The topic was about land expropriation without compensation and the pro’s and cons of it.
So, it was true, thought Pieter. The blacks now had the vote and were on a mission to take the land from white people. This had happened in several other African countries once they had obtained independence from their colonialists so why should South Africa be any different.
The downside was that most of these African countries now had huge challenges to face on their own, from unemployment to food shortages and more.
Pieter’s face turned red with rage. His father was right, he thought, the blacks cannot organise a piss up in a brewery!
Pieter gripped his weapon tightly and moved it into a shooting position. He remembered how one of his cop colleagues had joked about shooting a shotgun at a group of black people in the townships. One did not need to aim too much when shooting at the masses. Just pull the trigger and one would be sure to hit someone, the colleague had boasted.
Pieter was far more meticulous than that. He could shoot within less than a centimetre of any target out there. Missing by much was not a part of his repertoire.
Pieter stared at his target. Bloody hell, the woman and the two kids were climbing into a taxi! He tried to change his shooting target to the driver of the taxi, but there was a pole in the way. The black taxi driver and his passengers would live on.
Erasmus, jy raak te oud vir die spel. Skie en daarnaar kan n mens terug sit en dinge bekyk (Erasmus, you are getting too old for this game. Shoot first and then afterwards you can analyse the situation).
Pieter watched as the taxi drove off with his would-be corpses inside. He began to look for his next prey. Well, well, well! A man, in his early thirties, dressed in blue jeans and an ANC t-shirt walked along the pavement at speed.
Pieter settled into his shooting position.
Stadig, mik en skiet (slowly, aim and shoot), Erasmus.
Pieter began to put pressure on his trigger finger. The weapon was moments away from firing. Then a white man ran up to the black target and the two men began to enter a conversation. The black hugged the white one. The spirit of a unified South Africa was ever-present. Pieter could not fire the weapon as the white man’s body was blocking the black target.
“Stap weg, fokker (step away fucker),” said a frustrated Pieter about the white guy.
The conversation went on for a good two minute and Pieter was getting more aggressive by the second.
It was almost like God was sending some angels to protect his targets. Surely God did not want a country where the whites were oppressed by the blacks, as this was the opposite to what the blacks had been through during Apartheid?
Pieter took his left hand off the shotgun and patted the photograph of Lindiwe Snr which lay on the floor next to him.
“Soon this will all be over, Lindiwe, very soon, my parents will be very proud of me,” said the Lieutenant.
He placed his hand back on the weapon to support it.
The black man was walking off with the white person, but Pieter could still not get the shot in for fear of shooting the white guy.
The Lieutenant shook his head.
“Lindiwe, is it you who is playing games with me?” he asked out of frustration.
There was no answer from the spirit. Time was ticking A task that had seemed so easy, had become so complex.
Pieter’s heart felt heavy. Maybe that is how the Apartheid era assassins felt too before they pulled the trigger or detonated a bomb, he thought.
He looked towards the sky. What was he seeing? A rainbow? He wiped some rain from his face and looked back. The rainbow had disappeared. Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus could be forgiven for thinking that he was losing his mind.