Chapter Seventeen – Tell Me More
The corridors at the South African police headquarters in Pretoria, had quietened down with the sun having set a while back, but Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus had no plans of going home. Pieter searched every archive file that he could lay his hands on with the aim of finding out more about the mysterious Lindiwe Buthelezi.
It would be another three hours before his eyes fell on to a name that awakened the rest of his body as if it was a new day. Albertina Buthelezi!
Wait a minute, what is this in the file…
An accident happened at Albertina Buthelezi’s place of work and she went missing and was found a week later. Pieter turned the page in the file to read more but there was no further information on this particular incident.
The Lieutenant searched the page for information as to who Albertina Buthelezi’s parents, husband or siblings were, but there was a shortage of detail on the woman.
He reread the earlier part on the page but was left with more questions than answers. He needed to get to Albertina and throw some questions in her direction but the trick was to get to her before Lindiwe did.
Cunning! Conniving! Distrustful! Disloyal! Unreliable! Backstabber! Opportunist! Lindiwe Buthelezi had the above words running through her mind as she boarded a taxi which would take her within four hundred metres of the house belonging to her mother, Albertina Buthelezi, in Mamelodi West.
Of course none of those nasty words had anything to do with Lindiwe’s character, but by going to Albertina’s house without Pieter Erasmus, some people could well question whether she was the honest, squeaky clean Lindiwe or was she living a double life?
What had happened to the sweet Lindiwe Buthelezi that everyone knew and what had forced her to abandon her so-called friends and go information searching on her own? Was it a case of that she didn’t trust the white man, Pieter Erasmus? Well no, it had nothing to do with the colour of the Lieutenant’s skin, but more to do with getting to Albertina first to try and save Nelson Mandela from being eliminated.
The rain had returned and the poorly-designed roads of Mamelodi forced the taxis to do their best to navigate around the puddles of water.
“Hey, wena (hey, you)!” shouted an angry vendor selling fruit at the side of the road. The taxi carrying Lindiwe had gone through the puddle at speed, and the water in the road had soaked the entrepreneur at the fruit stand.
Lindiwe grinned. She had been in that position many times before. The taxi drivers had no plans of slowing down. To them, it was all about getting their passengers to their destination and loading up the next lot, or more to the point, taking their cash.
Lindiwe turned her mind away from the fruit vendor and began to work on a strategy. She hadn’t visited Albertina in quite a while and she didn’t want it to seem like she only goes there to benefit in one way or another.
Ma Albertina Nikiwe Buthelezi was a sweet old lady who had done so much for Lindiwe over the years. When Lindiwe needed money for new shoes, Albertina was there to foot the bill. Not that Albertina was loaded with the bucks. She was merely a cleaner who was now living out her life off a small state pension. However, the old lady had the heart of a lion. Nothing was too much for her. She was a devout Christian who knew that if she helped the poorest of the poor, she would be blessed abundantly by God. She didn’t help others for the blessing though, she did it because she wanted too.
Lindiwe heard her stomach moaning. She suddenly realised that she hadn’t eaten breakfast. That reminded her of another of her mother’s strengths. Albertina was born to cook and bake and everyone in Mamelodi West knew that if they ever found themselves short of a bite to eat, then it was time to make a turn at the old lady’s house.
Ma Albertina never rejected anyone. Even if someone who had done her wrong appeared at her front door in need of food, she would still provide to them.
The old lady was a real Mother Theresa, who helped the needy to her maximum.
There was always pap (mealie meal) on the stove in Albertina’s house.
I would never be able to live there on a regular basis, thought Lindiwe. The daily routine was like being force fed. Breakfast was always huge, and the food had hardly settled when it was time for mid-morning coffee and freshly-baked biscuits. Then two hours later it was lunchtime.
Another two hours would pass before Albertina’s proud yell had people running to the lounge for afternoon coffee and scones.
Three hours later it would be suppertime which was usually the biggest meal of the day. Pap and meat would be in abundance. Sometimes it would be a good, old-fashioned stew.
Albertina took it personally when someone said that they were not hungry. Was there something wrong with the food, she would question in her mind.
Lindiwe had to live elsewhere. If she ate that amount of food on a daily basis, she would end up looking the same size as one of those huge Afrikaner Northern Transvaal rugby forwards. No man would ever glance in her direction as her legs would be like tree stumps.
The taxi went over a small bump on the road but it was enough to jolt Lindiwe back to reality. Why was she focusing on Albertina’s cooking when she needed to think of a way of getting information out of the old lady without being seen as that opportunist who only goes there when something is needed?
She was not that type of person at all but time seemed to tick by so quickly. Lindiwe was battling to come to terms with the fact that it had been so long since she had been to visit the old woman. It was not that she didn’t want to go. The clock and calendar just seemed to be in overdrive.
Albertina was always open to her and the conversations were always cheerful ones but how would the old lady react to Lindiwe’s arrival out of the blue and suddenly being on the receiving end of highly sensitive questions about the identity of the man who had been stopped from murdering Nelson Mandela?
Well, there was only one way to find out!
“Passage,” said Lindiwe loudly and the taxi driver pulled the vehicle over to the left hand side of the road to allow Lindiwe and two other passengers to disembark.
“Ngiyabonga (thank you),” said Lindiwe, the last to climb out as she stepped from the taxi to the ground. The door shut behind her and the taxi was on its way.
The other two passengers headed off into the opposite direction to Lindiwe. The rain was not heavy, but enough to be an irritation and Lindiwe could feel the water landing on her eyes.
She ran her right hand over her face while clutching her handbag with her left. Lindiwe walked down the road towards the old lady’s home.
Albertina Buthelezi was a lady of small build, but who looked much younger than her mid-seventies age.
With her weaved hair tied back in a ponytail style, Albertina was extremely agile for her age. The kitchen work obviously played a major part in keeping her mind and physical status in check.
“Nododakazi (daughter),” said the old lady upon seeing Lindiwe Buthelezi standing at her front door.
“Ngena ngaphakathi (come inside).”
It didn’t take long before Lindiwe was served with a cup of coffee and a plate with three huge scones on it. The black community were not big on serving scones with cream, jam and cheese as in the suburbs. Scones were scones and were there to be eaten just like that.
Lindiwe watched the women’s face and it was clear that the older lady had no issues with the fact that it had been such a long time since Lindiwe last visited her.
Perhaps Albertina had come to terms with the fact that Lindiwe was no longer the little girl, but had grown up and needed to run her own life.
“Ubukeka njengonyoko nsuku zonke (you look more like your mother everyday),” remarkedAlbertina, seated opposite Lindiwe in the small lounge. The room was typical of that of a middle-aged to older person. It was neatly maintained, clearly dusted on a daily basis.
Lindiwe noticed a photograph of her mother and her in a frame on the wall above where Albertina was seated.
Yes, there was no doubt that Lindiwe and her mother resembled each other.
Even at her young age, life had taught Lindiwe that she will not always get what she wanted. Expect the unexpected, was her motto.
Albertina reverted to English language, something she did often having worked for white bosses. She could speak and understand Afrikaans too but in her working days she did not want to give her conservative-minded bosses the pleasure of speaking to them in their mother tongue.
“So what brings you to Mamelodi West, my dear?” asked the older lady.
Lindiwe took in a sip of coffee.
“Oh, I just felt that it had been a while since I last saw you and wanted to make a turn,” replied Lindiwe.
Liar! Lindiwe’s conscience was playing with her emotions and common sense.
Respect your elders, she heard in her mind.
What? Who said that? It was clear that it was a voice of a mature man. Lindiwe did not know the voice of Nelson Mandela since the apartheid government censored all forms of media related to the man. However, something told her that it was the Mandela voice that was advising her.
“Ma, from your days working in the laboratory, you must have seen much that you were not supposed too?” said Lindiwe, and with her words out, she could immediately see how her grandmother’s face tensed up.
Albertina stared out of the small lounge window and shook her head. She had done her best to blot this part of her life out of her memory forever, and now here was her grandchild asking her to go down memory lane.
Albertina remained silent.
“Ma, please, it is important that I know,” said Lindiwe in a more aggressive tone.
“My dear, some things are best left in the annuals of history,” said Albertina, in the hope that Lindiwe would drop the subject.
“Why are you asking?” questioned the old lady, from which Lindiwe drew the conclusion that Albertina might know much but had quite possibly not been to the future.
Lindiwe’s eyes were like daggers in the way that they focused on her grandmother. The youngster was a woman on a mission and nothing was going to stop her from getting the vital information.
Albertina sighed and put down her coffee mug.
“Alright, I worked as a cleaner at a laboratory near the Natal border,” began Albertina.
“It was while I was working here that I fell pregnant with your mother, but that is a story for another day. The laboratory seemed like a good place to work for a young woman who needed the cash. I had my whole life ahead of me. I had great hope for the future.”
Lindiwe sat forward and listened with great interest.
“The laboratory where I worked at as a cleaner was not your ordinary place,” went on Albertina.
“My job was to clean the passages and the quarters where the scientists lived but now and then I was also asked to clean inside the laboratory, and it was here that I became suspicious of what was happening.”
Lindiwe gulped. Albertina paused for a moment and her granddaughter’s heart skipped a beat as she thought that the old lady was going to claim shut on the story.
“I noticed burning marks on the skin of the bodies of some of the scientists that worked in the laboratory,” went on Albertina.
“I had to be careful who I spoke to about the goings-on there as I was a black cleaner working for white bosses in a top secret laboratory in apartheid South Africa.”
Lindiwe’s eyes were lighting up as Albertina continued with the story.
“I spoke to one of the older black scientists and he said that he could not divulge much as, all staff who worked there was signed to a code of confidentiality,” added Albertina.
“He did whisper to me that whatever was happening inside the laboratory had caused a few deaths. Now, one day when I was cleaning near the laboratory, I heard a loud explosion which knocked me from my feet. I rushed to the door and was momentarily blinded by a bright light. That was all that I could remember.”
“What then, Ma?” asked an excited Lindiwe.
“I must have blacked out and when I came too, I was in a bed with silk sheets in a 5-star hotel room. I saw a man standing next to the bed, as he got dressed. He was the father of my child, even though I never knew his name.”
“Wow!” reacted Lindiwe.
“It was a long time ago when I was still young and free and we never had sex, my dear,” replied Albertina.
“Anyway, on with the story. The man kissed me and left. I was naked and wrapped a silk sheet around myself as I tried to make sense of all that was going on. I noticed a huge glass window in the room, which was from the roof to the floor. I tried to open it, and when I did, it was like I was standing high up in the clouds. I was in heaven and the world was beneath me. Heaven is real, and I have been there.”
“I will never forget the words that the man said to be before leaving,” said Albertina.
Lindiwe sat forward in her chair.
“He said: ‘I am going to save a man and change the world’. What it meant, I did not know.”
Albertina picked up her coffee mug and drank deeply.
“Lindiwe, this is the first time that I have revealed this much information on the laboratory story to anyone,” said the old lady.
Lindiwe shook her head.
“I won’t tell, I promise,” responded the youngster.
“Lindiwe, I was pregnant without a man in my life, you don’t know how that feels and I pray that you never will find out,” quipped Albertina.
You must go out there and live the real life. You must become a top lawyer. I didn’t give birth to you for no reason. You are a gift from God.Albertina Buthelezi
Discuss This Chapter on Twitter
Download Black and White, edition-1, published at 20 May 2020. Download Other Editions