Chapter 21 – The Confidential File
Two days later, Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus sat in his apartment in Pretoria, armed with a file marked ‘Confidential’, in being red letters.
He had collected the information about Loxton Mine from Colonel Jaap Cornelius and was ready to put his action plan together. What hyped him up even more was the fact that his three-month project was set to net him a cool R2 million, with ten percent of the figure to be paid upfront. That was huge money compared to a policeman’s salary.
Pieter took in a sip of coffee and began to survey the pages of the file.
Loxton Mine was situated about 48 kilometres east of Rustenburg in the North West Province. The reason that Lucas Sithole and his sidekicks were so keen on protecting the mine, was that big-name politicians, right through to the Vice President of the country, held shares in the business.
The mine was one off the world’s largest producers of platinum metals, but like most mines, it was reliant on manpower to achieve its goal. The miners knew this all too well and with an average mineworker on R8500 per month for his efforts, this was simply not good enough.
The mineworkers made the rich richer. Something needed to be done to safeguard the interests of the mineworkers, so strike action took place on a regular basis. When the mineworkers downed tools to strike, the mine lost money in terms of millions of Rands each day.
The mine bosses could not afford this, and when wage talks reached a stalemate, things got even worse. Violent showdowns between mineworkers and security were regular occurrences. Now, Pieter had been contracted to manage a team to not only guard the mine offices, but to show the mineworkers who was calling the shots here.
It was not only the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) who were stoking the fires politically with the workers, but the opposition political parties too. They knew all too well that billionaire Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa, who had founded NUM in 1982, was one of those who was keen on ensuring that the mineworkers did their job. The more they worked and discovered platinum metals, the more he earned.
Pieter read on with eagerness. He did not know that much about the Loxton Mine until he had seen their leaders talking on television.
In a way he could understand where the mineworkers were coming from, as they were earning a pittance for their efforts. Pieter understood where they were coming from as he did not earn that much more as a policeman, until now.
He could not side with the mineworkers as he had to defend his super duper R2 million deal. Yes, sorry mineworkers, but this is strictly business, nothing personal, he thought.
He looked at the previous security plans that had been used. Two security managers had their homes on the mine property torched and when some of the Loxton Mine offices had been raided, the security firm had their contract terminated.
This opened the door for Pieter to be called in. The mine owners believed that the owners of the previous security firm were the problem rather than the security personnel. So, the security company got the chop while Pieter was welcome to use their resources in terms of security guards.
Over two hundred security personnel would be at Pieter’s disposal. Then there was also the South African Police Services who were close at hand too. Oops. That could be a problem, thought Pieter who now realised that he would have to hand in his resignation from the police to do this project. He had hope to put in some leave and to moonlight the security job, but clearly this was bigger than what he had originally anticipated.
What would Pieter do once hi three-month job was over? He was no fool and realised that the money that he would be paid would not last forever. Right now, he needed to focus on his R2 million project.
Opportunities like this did not land in one’s lap every day and he needed to make the most of it.
Ching, ching, ching. He heard a text message drop on his mobile phone but this one sounded different. Yes, it was different. It was the sound of R200 000 dropping in his bank account.
Clearly, Lucas Sithole was a man of his word. Jaap Cornelius had passed on Pieter’s banking details to the client and the deed had been done. Of course, the R200 000 deposit was small change to Lucas, but worth platinum in the eyes of Pieter.
The Lieutenant suddenly felt like a man of status. He was now a bigwig in the world of security rather than just being a white Lieutenant in a blue uniform who the black masses did not respect.
Yes, Pieter Erasmus was set to hand in his Lieutenant’s title and outfit to move on in the world. As Lucas had mentioned, if he made a success of this security project, then there would be other opportunities for them to work together on in other countries on the continent.
Lindiwe Buthelezi Snr and Lindiwe Buthelezi Jnr were now furthest from his mind. He needed to focus.
Pieter carried on reading through the file. Besides the name of Vice President Ramaphosa, other high-profile people were also mentioned as being involved with Loxton Mine.
Then he got to the problem that the mine owners were facing. A huge strike was expected in a week from now. The mineworkers that the families of three miners who had been killed in a rockfall while on mining duty, had not yet received their pay-outs. The families were basically left destitute without a breadwinner. Times were tough and emotions were out of control. The other miners were left to wonder what would happen to their families if the same scenario played out on their lives.
Life was cheap to the rich mine owners. If a miner got killed it was not a big problem. There was a queue of other men just waiting for the job. That is the fortunate position that South Africa’s unemployment problem created for the rich. If the best miners wanted to leave, that was fine too, thought the mine owners. We will just train some more, and the show will go on!
How would Lindiwe Jnr have felt if she was present now? Well, she could quite easily have been on the road to becoming the wife of a millionaire!
Pieter’s financial challenges were about to be a thing of the past. Like many of his family before him, life had been a Monday to Friday 09h00 to 17h00 slog. There was a bit of time for the sipping of beers over the weekends, but generally, nothing much changed over the years, except for the higher cost of living that needed to be met.
The higher cost of living was also playing a role in encouraging crime as many people simply could not afford to put bread on the table anymore.
With the influx of African foreigners to South Africa, the opportunities were becoming less too. This led to xenophobia, whereby South African blacks took up arms against their fellow Africans and forced them to leave their businesses and the country.
Most of the Africans from other countries were honest, hard working people who had few opportunities back home and had opted to pack their bags and head to South Africa to build a better life.
Pieter considered himself fortunate to get this financial break. He would forever be thankful to Colonel Jaap Cornelius for setting it up. What he did know was that Jaap was a genuine mover and shaker, and if Pieter was in at R2 million on the deal, then Jaap would certainly be in for much more. What Jaap’s role in the project was, Pieter did not know.
Pieter wiped his brow. Soon, he would be able to move out of his rented flat in the middle of Pretoria, to a suburban home which would be a million times better than the one in which he grew up. He remembered his father telling him that the three-bedroom house had been bought for R12 000 back in 1971.
Of course, salaries were much less too in those days and Pieter’s old man had worked three jobs to try and ensure that his family had a place of happiness.
The Lieutenant was never one to duck a challenge and he knew that the project in Marikana would be a huge success if he put his mind to it. He approached any task with a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C. One could not go in with just one plan. What if things did not work out? He needed to have back-up plans too. The security deal in Marikana was exactly what he had been dreaming about and he could not screw things up. If he did not seize the opportunity, someone else would and he would live in regret.
Pieter let his finger run through the papers in the file. Like in most places in life, there would be a lot of people that would take delight in seeing him fail. The previous security bosses who had got the boot would not want to see him make a huge success of the project. Then there was the matter of the security personnel who might still be aligned with the previous security firm. What if some of the men on the ground deliberately sabotaged Pieter’s plan to make sure that he failed? That was a distinct possibility.
For this reason, Pieter realised that he needed to recruit at least twenty men that he could trust and to place them at strategic positions in his plan. Finding such men would not be a problem. Like Pieter, there were many other policemen with immense experience and expertise who could get the job done.
The trick now was to pick people who would not try to overshadow Pieter and attempt to steal the connection and future projects from him.
That was of major concern to Pieter. It was dog eats dog out there. He was in an era where loyalty meant little. Most felt that loyalty did not pay the bills. What they did not understand was the Biblical principle that promotion stems from submission. One’s long-term credibility was more important that sticking someone in the back and making a quick buck overnight.
In his haste to turn the pages in the file, Pieter knocked over his coffee mug and some of the drinking content spilled on to the paper in front of him.
“Fok it (fuck it),” muttered Pieter out of frustration.
He went to the kitchen to fetch a damp cloth and returned to do a bit of cleaning up.
The cloth made him think of his mother and how she had spent hours dusting and cleaning the house during his younger years. Now he would be able to give his parents money for them to afford a domestic worker. That could be a problem too. The Erasmus parents would certainly not be keen on having a black domestic worker cleaning their home. All blacks steal, was their attitude. Then what about the coloured domestic workers?
He remembered his father having to fire a coloured domestic worker for drinking on the job. Once his parents went out to the shops and left the coloured worker alone. When they returned, the level of whisky in one of the bottles in the alcohol cabinet, had dropped significantly.
Well, finding a white domestic worker would be a tough ask. Perhaps his mother would want to do the cleaning and take the money for herself.
Meanwhile, back at police headquarters in Pretoria, a stranger walked through the door.
The nightshift staff were going about their chores, when the woman arrived at the reception counter holding a piece of paper.
“Oh, would you like a Commissioner of Oaths stamp on that copy of a document?” asked the young officer behind the desk.
The woman smiled.
“No, I am looking for one of your colleagues,” she said.
The officer immediately recognised the face of the man on the photograph.
“You are looking for Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus,” nodded the cop.
“Actually, we are also looking for him too.”
“He works here, doesn’t he?” asked the woman.
The policeman puffed out his cheeks. It was not his place to divulge too much information.
“Well, yes he does normally, but he hasn’t been in for the past few days,” explained the cop.
“I hope he is alright,” pushed the woman, as she placed her scarf on the counter.
“I hope so too,” replied the officer.
“Well, if you see him, could you please tell him that I am looking for him,” said the woman, as she scribbled down a contact number on the paper, before handing the sheet to the officer.
“Sorry, I never got your name?” asked the officer.
“Lindiwe Buthelezi,” said the woman.
The cop stared at the lady. He knew the name Lindiwe Buthelezi well from the bulletin board, but this woman looked quite a bit older than the one that was being searched for.
The officer cleared his throat.
“Yes, sister, I will tell him as soon as I see him,” said the cop, who was trying to make sense of the situation.
The woman smiled and left the building as the bewildered cop looked on.
The officer noticed the scarf on the reception desk.
“Sister, you forgot your scarf,” he said as he ran from the back of the desk to the door.
Once at the doorway, he looked up and down the street. There was no sign of the woman. She had seemingly disappeared into thin air. There had been no time for her to climb into a car and the taxis were scarce at this time of night.
The cop stood at the door with the scarf in his hands.
There was something mysterious about this woman. He rushed back to the reception desk and looked at the paper that the woman had given to him.
Yes, there was her name. Lindiwe Buthelezi. Next to her name were three letters, written in capitals. SNR.
Another cop walked in from the back office with a cup of coffee in his hand.
“Bra, it looks like you have just seen a ghost,” said the newcomer, as he looked at the face of his colleague.
“Maybe I just have,” said the younger cop.
“You know that Lindiwe Buthelezi story?”
“Ja, there is no sign of that girl after the blast,” said the cop with the coffee mug.
The officer returned from the doorway to his position behind the desk and placed the scarf in a draw.
“Either I just saw that girl or else I don’t know what I just saw,” muttered the bewildered policeman.
“Eish,” said the other cop.
“I think you need some coffee and time to relax.”