Chapter 39 – The Final Goodbye
At four minutes to midnight, South Africa lost a hero. At least that is what the right wing-thinking whites thought when Pieter Gerhardus Erasmus breathed his last at 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria.
The suspended Lieutenant fought his wounds to the very last and could have survived longer had a black doctor on night shift not refused to put the patient on to the life support system in the Intensive Care Unit.
“The patient refused to be put onto life support,” was the doctor’s excuse. Of course, Pieter was not there to give his version. His spirit was in a place high up in the sky.
In the early hours of the morning, Pieter’s parents, Frik and Petro Erasmus, were woken up by a phone call from the hospital.
Frik and Petro had refused to attend the Marikana Commission and the hearing in Pretoria as they feared that the respective venues would be filled with black people.
Later that morning, the South African Police Services assisted Pieter’s parents in putting the funeral arrangements in place. Pieter would be laid to rest at the Eersterus cemetery, 475 Canary Avenue in Pretoria.
The black officer on duty was astounded when listening to the wishes of Pieter’s father.
“Please, Officer, don’t take it personally, but we don’t want any blacks present at Pieter’s funeral.”
Be that as it may, the Erasmus family’s wishes were respected.
Laurie Armstrong was one of the first to arrive at the home of Frik and Petro to extend his condolences. The lawyer was still blaming himself for Pieter’s death. If he had been a bit firmer about not letting Pieter go with him to address the media on the steps of the CSIR Conference Centre, the suspended Lieutenant may have still been alive.
“He was a good man but just born in the wrong era,” sobbed Petro Erasmus, as she poured a cup of tea for Laurie.
Seated next to her on the couch in the lounge was her husband, Frik.
“I blame F.W. de Klerk for all of this,” said Frik.
“If he had not sold the whites out to the communist ANC, life would still have a value today.”
“I am afraid that de Klerk was caught between a rock and hard place,” explained the lawyer.
“The ANC and its liberation struggle partners were making huge inroads on border raids and the Afrikaner military was also losing patience with de Klerk over his reforms. If the former President did not end Apartheid, we could have had a civil war blood bath.”
Frik did not agree.
“At least during the negotiations with the ANC, de Klerk should have hung on to either the army or the military,” said Mr Erasmus.
“Now we have nothing. Look at the other African countries which have become hellholes since the white man was chased out. Africa is built on dictatorial rulers, nothing more, nothing less.”
Laurie could not really argue the last point as many of the African countries were governed by Presidents who had been in power for many years. He also knew that Frik was in an emotional state following the death of his son.
“None of this would have happened if Pieter had not got involved with that black woman,” said Petro with reference to Lindiwe Buthelezi Snr, as she pushed a plate of freshly baked rusks in front of Laurie.
Of course, the Erasmus family had not met Lindiwe. They refused point blank to have tea or coffee with a black person. They believed that this would stop them from entering heaven one day. It was a common conservative white form of belief that whites worshipped God while blacks, through the witchdoctor, belonged to Satan.
After spending a good hour consoling Frik and Petro, Laurie mentioned that he needed to head back to work.
“Please give me a shout if there is anything I can assist with in terms of the funeral,” said the lawyer.
Frik was quick to respond.
“I told the police over the phone, but I want you to also know that I am adamant that no blacks should attend my son’s funeral,” said Frik, with his eyes raging.
“The blacks killed my son, and they mustn’t come to the graveside to pretend that they are sorry for what they did.”
Laurie nodded to show that he understood Frik’s sentiment.
Laurie was fully aware that the man arrested for being in possession of the pistol that shot Pieter was a black man. The lawyer had not been present when the man was interrogated by the cops, but he had shown no remorse for his actions. The man claimed that he was a relative of a striking miner who had been shot by the police in Marikana on the order of Pieter.
Pieter Erasmus had to die before he allowed any more black blood to be spilled, the man allegedly told the police.
It had been noted in Pieter’s will documentation, that he did not want a funeral, but just a small ceremony at graveside. His wishes were respected although the ‘small’ part would come into question.
Four days later, Pieter’s mentor, Colonel Jaap Cornelius, stood at the graveside, observing the hole into which the coffin containing Pieter’s remains would soon be lowered into.
Next to him stood Frik and Petro Erasmus, and Laurie Armstrong.
The hearse transporting the coffin made it into the cemetery with effortless ease, but shortly thereafter, there was a huge commotion at the gate.
“Sorry, sir, but this is a private farewell for a former policeman and his family have requested that no black people be present at the graveside,” said the security guard on duty.
If one did not know better, it would have seemed like a bunch of black protestors were attempting to enter the venue. Of course, these were not protestors, but men dressed in suits. As per the orders given, the front car, driven by Ace Mabuza with Vincent Khoza in the front passenger’s seat, was prohibited from entering.
Ace was not keen on arguing with a security guard who was simply doing his job. The mere fact that the guard spoke to him in English and not in an African language indicated that the man on duty was non-South African. Ace sensed the guard could be a Malawian.
He parked his vehicle and stepped into the open. Soon he was joined by Vincent Khoza and several other black people. Lerato Tshabalala walked slowly towards the pair. He was followed by Nikiwe Moeng, Julius Shongwe, Amos Morewa and David Wilkinson. Even Dikgang Marawa, who had chaired the hearing in Pretoria, had made the trip. Yes, the vultures were on-site to pay their last respects to the man whose life they had ruined.
The last to arrive was Chris Chuene, the security official who had served under Pieter at the Loxton Mine in Marikana. Chris was there as a genuine friend even if Pieter had not been able to accept him as such due to skin colour.
Chris kept his distance from the bigshots who conversed before heading towards the main gate where the security guard stood. The last to join their group was Lawrence Mathibe who was one step away from getting his job back as Police Commissioner, despite the juicy lump sum paid to him as a ‘golden handshake’ departure gift after the Marikana Commission.
“Look, we are here to pay our respects to Mr Erasmus,” explained Ace to the security guard.
“We knew him well and have no dealings with his family.”
If Ace had not paid big buck back-handers to have the findings of the Marikana Commission re-examined, so that Lawrence Mathibe could get his job back to control several tenders, Pieter Erasmus could well have still been alive.
Before the security guard could respond, the group marched through the main gate. Frik Erasmus’ face tensed as he saw the group of black people heading towards his son’s burial. He turned at speed and headed towards them.
“You must be Pieter’s father?” asked Ace.
“What’s it got to do with you?” snapped Frik.
“We knew Pieter well and …” said Ace before being interrupted.
“My son did not mix with black people, he had ethics and knew who the real owners of this country are,” quipped Frik in a voice filled with emotion.
Seeing that Ace was about to lose his cool with Frik, Nikiwe Moeng, dressed in a black dress, took over the talking.
“We knew Pieter from the hearing and…” she began before being cut short by Frik.
“You people are the reason that Pieter is dead today!” exclaimed Mr Erasmus.
“All he did was to help the cops at Marikana to defend themselves against the aggressive miners and for that he got pinned as the devil!”
Frik went on.
“The best thing you all can do is to turn around, go to your cars and head off because you are not wanted here.”
Ace wanted to speak but Lerato Tshabalala tapped him on the shoulder and ushered him and the rest of the group back towards the main gate.
“Unbelievable,” quipped Amos Marewa, once the group were out of earshot of Frik Erasmus.
For once, Lerato Tshabalala made sense.
“How would you feel if your son had died in this fashion?”
“My son would not have ordered miners to be killed like animals in Marikana,” replied Amos.
“Look,” hit back Lerato.
“If the miners were not killed, the cops would have been. The situation was so tense out there. That does not resolve Pieter of his decision. Unfortunately, lives were lost, and someone had to pay the price. However, none of us thought it would lead to an assassination.”
The happenings at the CSIR Conference Centre would haunt the panel and Ace Mabuza for years to come. The one who felt the guiltiest was Vincent Khoza. He has signed Ace’s affidavit under duress and had it not done so, the hearing in Pretoria would not have happened. Pieter may well have lost his job in the South African Police Services, but he would have still been alive.
Frik watched from graveside as the contingent of blacks climbed into their vehicles and headed off. He then turned his attention to the prayers that the dominee (priest) was reading.
“Onse Vader, wat in die hemel is, laat u naam gehuilig word, laat u koningkryk kom… (Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, they kingdom come).”
In Frik’s mind, some other words were raging, being words of the Afrikaans part of the South African national anthem.
Ons sal lewe ons sal sterwe, ons vir jou Suid-Afrika (we will live, we will die, for you, South Africa).
Petro Erasmus stood next to her husband, wiping tears from her eyes. This was all F.W. de Klerk’s fault, she thought. He surrendered South Africa to the blacks and now her son has been murdered because of that. How she hoped that several right-wing organisations would eliminate a few thousand blacks to show that the Afrikaner still has power and can fight back.
Nobody had known of Pieter’s devious plan to ensure the shedding of black people’s blood in Marikana. Even if Lawrence Mathibe had been present, Pieter could well have found another devious way to bring about the killings.
Frik turned around and saw that one person remained at the main gate. He did not know who the man was. Chris Chuene watched on from a good two hundred metres away. He had been closer to Pieter in Marikana than anyone else. He was adamant that had he been in Pieter’s shoes, he would have taken the same decision. If it meant that he would have been assassinated too, then so be it.
Mr Erasmus did not move to chase the last black man away. He merely gave him a glance and turned his attention back to graveside.
Suspended Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus had run his race. He had seen the good and bad of the New South Africa. He had grown up in a middle-class white suburb and by force, had to mix with black people in the South Africa Police Services’ workplace.
The ruining of a once prosperous country built by the colonialists, had got to Pieter and he had taken law into his own hands.
He had done what many frustrated whites only dreamed about. There was not a sense of cowardness in Pieter’s body. He was the bravest of them all who had hated the blacks, then befriended the new system through his love for Lindiwe Buthelezi Snr. Finally, the loss of both Lindiwe Snr and Jnr and the destruction of South Africa was all too much for him.
He had paid the ultimate price. His name would not go into any record book not would he be saluted for what he did.
Frik and Petro Erasmus were your normal blinded Afrikaner unit. They did not see the poverty that black people lived in at the townships. Mr and Mrs Erasmus lived a quite life. They had a meal on the table in the morning and at night and just managed to get all their bills paid.
“Kak, maar dis alright (crap, but its ok),” was how Frik always summed up things, when someone asked how he was doing.
Like many conservative-minded Afrikaners, they could never have imagined a black man being President of South Africa. They cursed de Klerk for not allowing Apartheid to continue for at least another ten to twenty years.
De Klerk saw things differently back in the early 1990s. South Africa was under siege, both internally and externally. The economic sanctions were so tight that it was not possible for a local supplier to export a glass of wine or a chocolate bar. Things had to change, and de Klerk saw himself as the catalyst to bring about the transformation.
Lindiwe Buthelezi Snr was shaking her head with disappointment in the spirit.
Are you happy now, Pieter? Was it worth it? Can your soul now rest in peace? Do you believe that you made the world a better place for your people? You could have lived a happy life through to old age but no, revenge for your people is what you wanted. Of course, things don’t always turn out as you want them to be, do they?