Chapter 26 – Scheming in Marikana
As Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus walked into the meeting room, the conversation that had been taking place by those present came to an abrupt holt.
Pieter immediately recognised the face of Minister of Mineral Resources, T.K. Muronga. The cop had seen Muronga’s face many times on television and knew that he was a Venda man, as was Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa. It seemed inevitable that the Venda connection were safeguarding their stake in the Loxton Mine.
Vincent Khoza introduced Pieter to the Minister and then to the regional police commissioner, Lawrence Mathibe, before ushering the Lieutenant to a seat at the table. The way that Mathibe stared at Pieter, left the Lieutenant to wonder if the police commissioner knew that he was a cop and was moonlighting on the side, but the tension eased moments later.
“Pieter, we have been informed of a huge uprising by the mineworkers set for tomorrow 08h00,” said the Minister.
“The mineworkers have promised to torch the Loxton Mine buildings to the ground if their wage demands are not met.”
“The reality is that this afternoon, the Loxton Mine did make a wage increase offer to the union that the mineworkers belong too, but the offer was rejected,” went on the Minister.
“We need a comprehensive security plan to ensure that as little damage and bloodshed as possible will take place tomorrow. Mr Vincent Khoza has advised us that you are the right man for the job as far as putting a security plan in place is concerned.”
Again, Pieter nodded. He had hardly had time to digest the new information when the police commissioner began to speak.
“I have one hundred armed policemen on standby, and we still have fifty security guards who have availed their services on a freelance basis after the previous security firm’s services had been terminated,” explained Mathibe.
Pieter cleared his throat.
“If I may ask, why was the previous security firm’s contract terminated?” he questioned.
The Minister looked at the Police Commissioner.
“We are led to believe that several persons from within the previous security firm had fuelled the fires with the miners, so to speak,” explained the head cop, Mathibe.
“The more violence that there is here at the Loxton Mine, the more the security firm would charge the mine owners for their services.”
That made sense to Pieter.
“How trustworthy are the fifty men who are available to us?” asked Pieter.
The Minister answered.
“I think you will find that it’s a simple principle of if they don’t work then they don’t eat,” answered T.K. Muronga.
“Remember that another fifty security guards who remained loyal to their employer, are now without work until they are based elsewhere in the next month or so, so there is a serious need for the security guards to perform or be replaced.”
Pieter wiped his brow.
“How many miners are expected to advance on us tomorrow?” asked the Lieutenant.
Again, the Minister looked at the Police Commissioner, who answered.
“We are expecting about three hundred miners to be a part of the strike,” said Mathibe.
The wheels were spinning too fast as far as Pieter was concerned, but he was not in control of the future.
“I need a firm answer of what to do if tomorrow’s situation gets out of control,” asked Pieter.
The Police Commissioner looked at the Minister who nodded.
“We have no option,” said Mathibe to Pieter.
“My officers will draw a line as per normal and if the line is crossed, and the lives of my men are at risk, we will have to open fire and the same will apply to your fifty-strong group of security men.”
The Police Commissioner continued.
“As per protocol, we will first try to stem the strike via the use of our three water cannon vehicles, and rubber bullets, as well as stun grenades. If that does not work then, well…”
Pieter kept his gaze on the Police Commissioner Mathibe. There was something about this man, in fact, about this whole meeting, that did not sit right with him.
“How many weapons are available to my security men?” asked Pieter.
“Each of your men will be armed with bullet proof vests, helmets, 9mm pistols and shot guns,” explained Mathibe.
“Your men will not have rubber bullets but will be ready to fire live ammunition if their lives are threatened.”
Pieter was no fool. Being a cop himself, he could see through the Police Commissioner’s plan. Firstly, the cops would never want to take the fall for any deaths, so the blame would almost certainly go the way of Pieter and his security men, even though the police would probably cause the most damage.
What Pieter did like about what had been said earlier, was the expected onslaught of 300-odd miners. The figure was a conservative one, and with political parties and labour unions involved, the Lieutenant was fully aware that the figure could be much bigger.
So, with 300 to 500 attackers plus 150 cops and security men all black skin colour, Pieter’s dream of black bloodshed was set to become a reality.
Minister Muronga spoke up.
“Whatever happens tomorrow, the Loxton Mine needs to be protected, but I must make it clear that the use of live ammunition is an absolute last resort,” he said.
By saying this, the Minister was acknowledging his awareness of the live ammunition plan, but naturally this would be something that he would deny knowing about when it came to the Commission of Inquiry into the shootings a few months later.
“Look, one of two wounded miners from gunshot will send a strong message to their leaders that striking and advancing on the mine’s offices is not going to help their cause,” chipped in the Police Commissioner.
That was easy for the police boss to say. He would not be in the front-line dodging pangas and other objects that would surely be thrown at the defenders.
Nor would Pieter for that matter if he had his way. His plan was to send his black security men in to face the music.
“These miners need to understand that the Loxton Mine loses millions of Rands every time that they go on a strike that that will affect their livelihood at the end of the day,” said the Minister Muronga sternly.
“If they don’t want to work then that is fine. There are thousands of unemployed people out there who are only too willing to get the opportunity to earn a living.”
Pieter noted that Vincent Khoza had not said a word throughout the meeting. Clearly the Ace Mabuza had the inside track on the tender otherwise Pieter would not have been at the meeting with Vincent.
So where did that leave Lucas Sithole? Pieter did not have the energy to think about that now.
He grabbed a map of the Loxton Mine precinct from the table and asked the Police Commissioner to take him to the arms room, where he could go through the weapons to be used by his team.
“Let’s go, Pieter, the security men will meet with you at 20h00,” commented Police Commissioner Mathibe.
Pieter cringed. 20h00! No, he could not do a 20h00 meeting! He was due to meet with Lucas Sithole at 20h00!
Accompanied by Vincent Khoza, the Police Commissioner and Pieter headed off down the corridor.
The senior cop looked around to make sure that nobody was following them, before unlocking the door to the room where the ammunition and weapons were being stored.
“We got fifteen minutes to sort this out,” said Mathibe aggressively with a glare towards Pieter.
“Start counting and place your goods in this trolley.”
Pieter counted 50 of each pistol and shotguns weapons and double the amount of ammunition.
He sensed the Police Commissioner’s tone had changed since the meeting. Was the Police Commissioner forced into this working relationship with Pieter?
Did he have a finger in the pie with the Lucas Sithole group, perhaps? Or did he have his own people who he believed should have got the job?
Still Pieter believed that the Police Commissioner did not know that he was speaking to a Lieutenant from headquarters in Pretoria.
Pieter realised that it was now his turn to lay down the law.
“I will meet with my team at 21h00 and then I will present the security plan to you at 22h00,” said Pieter.
Lawrence Mathibe was taken aback, and Vincent Khoza was about to enter the conversation, when the Police Commissioner spoke.
“Alright, see you at the meeting room at 22h00, but the plan had better be a good one,” said the senior cop, as he escorted Pieter, Vincent and the weapons out of the room, before locking the door.
Pieter had noticed that his security men were not offered shields or bulletproof vests. Did Mathibe know something that he did not or did the security team have their own? Either way, it made things easier as far as Pieter’s bigger picture plan was concerned.
Vincent led Pieter to another meeting room and locked the door behind them.
The last thing that they wanted was to get a visitor who was interested in stealing the weapons and ammunition.
From his black leather folder, Pieter took out the map that he had collected at the main meeting room and unfolded it.
From his jacket pocket, he took out green, red, black and blue marker pens.
He gazed at the map for a good few minutes before Vincent spoke.
“Look, the main Nkaneng township is to the east, so that is where most of the miners live, however, there will also be miners coming towards the mine from the township in the south, but they will need to cross the railway line to get to us.”
Pieter marked the two township positions with his red marker pen.
He then drew circles around the Karee 3 and Karee 4 mineshafts.
With his blue marker pen, he marked the platinum smelter which was a few kilometres south of the Nkareng sports stadium.
Pieter was sure that the striking miners would assemble at a point, and that would most likely be in the town’s shopping district.
They would be on a mission to make a noise in the hope that their numbers would grow before they arrived at the mine.
So, the cops would need to position their water cannons and barbed wire fences about fifty metres in front of the main entrance to the Loxton Mine.
He marked the main entrance with his black pen.
“Vincent, are you one hundred percent certain that there are no other areas of accommodation to the north or west?” asked Pieter, with his eyes firmly focused on the map.
“I am dead sure, unless some are living in the mineshafts underground,” joked Vincent.
Pieter did not even flinch at the joke as his mind was racing in other directions.
“So, what is the plan?” asked Vincent.
Pieter puffed out his cheeks.
“We put ten heavily armed men behind the police cordon and in front of the security guard house,” said the cop with confidence.
“Then we form a second cordon of twenty armed men with shotguns at least twenty metres inside the property. The balance of the men will be the third tier of security around the offices.”
Vincent grinned. He enjoyed Pieter’s thinking.
“Do you need me to come with you to the meeting with the Police Commissioner later or are you alright to handle it alone?” asked Vincent.
“I will be fine, Vincent,” smiled Pieter.
Vincent shook hands with the cop.
“I am going to run a few errands so I will call you much later,” said Vincent as he headed to the door.
Pieter saw this as a lucky break for two reasons. Firstly, he would now be able to get away for his meeting with Lucas Sithole.
Secondly, he would now change his security approach but only for his peace of mind. He certainly did not trust the Police Commissioner and was still trying to work out just how far he could trust Vincent Khoza.
Pieter rolled up the map and replaced it in his black leather folder. Then he checked out the corridor before wheeling the trolley filled with weapons down the side path. Once at the side gate, he found it unlocked and worked his trolley through it. Then he whistled as he pushed the trolley towards his car, where he stored the weapons in the vehicle’s boot.
No sooner had he shut the boot lid of the vehicle, than his mobile phone began to ring.
“Erasmus, waar die fok is jy (Erasmus, where the fuck are you)?” asked the caller who was none other than Colonel Jaap Cornelius.
“Jaap, ek is op Marikana (Jaap, I am in Marikana),” replied Pieter.
“Ek gaan nou met Lucas Sithole vergader (I am going to meet shortly with Lucas Sithole).”
“Nee meer nie (not anymore),” said Jaap.
“Wat bedoel jy (what do you mean)?” asked Pieter.
“Die Marikana polisie het Lucas Sithole se liggaam gevind binne sy motor so tien kilometer van die myn af. Hy het driee koeels in the kop gevat (The Marikana police found Lucas Sithole’s body inside his car about 10 kilometres from the mine. He took three bullets to the head).”
A cold shiver went down Pieter’s spine. What did Lucas Sithole know that forced someone to silence him? Had the hit been carried out by one of Ace Mabuza’s men? Was that the reason why Vincent Khoza headed off? Was Pieter’s name also on a hitlist?
Pieter cast an eye around the parking area to see if he was being watched. All seemed in order.
Like with Vincent Khoza, he could not share his true security plan with Police Commissioner Lawrence Mathibe. For all he knew, it could have been one of Mathibe’s men who had taken out Lucas Sithole.
The only good news was that Pieter now only had to concentrate on the Ace Mabuza tender.
He needed to sit down and drink something. He needed to think straight. The stakes in the game were being raised by the minute. He had enough ammunition in his vehicle to blow up half of Marikana and other towns too. The question was how would he achieve his goal without being the fall guy for his black bosses?
He looked up towards the heavens.
Ja, if Lindiwe Snr and Lindiwe Jnr had not been taken from him, things could have been different. His life had now become a misery and it was time for the blacks to pay the ultimate price.
Tomorrow will be a day of black-on-black violence like never seen before in the Republic of South Africa, thought Pieter with a wry smile. Tomorrow would be the day of Pieter Erasmus except nobody would know that he was the schemer of all schemers in Marikana!