Chapter Sixteen -Trigger reaction, or not
The great Nelson Mandela was an advocate for equality for all the people of South Africa.
Pieter had his mind transformed to believe that, but the loss of Lindiwe Snr and now Lindiwe Jnr, had taken him back to his racist roots which had been installed in him by his parents.
The Lieutenant listened as another television promo drew the attention of viewers to be land debate which would take place later that day.
Pieter shook his head. If Mandela was such a great leader, then why was the country in the shambles that it is currently in? The faults surely cannot forever, and a day be put at the door of Apartheid. The ANC government had been in power for over sixteen years and the black people were restless.
Sure, they had the vote like their white counterparts, but inroads to alleviating the housing, employment and land issues had been slower than slow.
Despite the opposition parties calling for white-owned land to be returned to the blacks, few knew the actual truth, in that a large percentage of South Africa’s land is government-owned rather than by the Afrikaner boere (farmers).
“Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another.” Pieter knew the famous voice of Mandela that was being played on the television.
Then the former President commented on the land issue from his speech at the KwaZulu Natal land reform pilot programme on 26 March 1995: “With freedom and democracy last year, came restoration of the right to land. And with it, the opportunity to address the effects of centuries of dispossession and denial.”
Pieter gritted his teeth. This land issue was going to be a problem. He felt that the Afrikaner needed to act quickly before land grabs became a way of life like what had happened in Zimbabwe.
The Lieutenant, like many other white people, were of the clear belief that the ANC had been given its chance and had blown it.
However, with close to two thirds of the black majority living in South Africa, refusing to vote out the ANC, for fear of opening the door to the return of some sort of Apartheid from the official opposition in the form of the Democratic Alliance, the people adopted an ‘ANC until I die’ approach, irrespective of the consequences.
Of course, the Democratic Alliance had no intention to bring back Apartheid, but that notion had been implanted into the minds of many black people. The fact that the Democratic Alliance’s top brass happened to be of white skin colour, only enhanced the viewpoint.
By caring out his hit on black people walking peacefully at the Lilian Ngoyi Square in Pretoria, Pieter wanted to send a message to the ANC government that the Afrikaner should not be forgotten.
Already there were talks of Afrikaners undergoing secret military training too safeguard their families and properties should South Africa descend into a civil war situation if landgrabs got out of hand.
In return, the ANC had pioneered a set of deadlines for unlicenced firearms to be handed in at police stations around the country and for these weapons to be destroyed. Many Afrikaners viewed this as the ANC’s way of disarming their opponents.
Pieter, crouching low in shooting mode, looked for a black target. He needed to make this happen as soon as possible before another delay came his way.
Despite looking to the right side of the square, his well-trained policeman’s eye caught on to some activity on the left of the open space. A bag snatch was happening. Two black men were busy mugging a black woman, in her twenties. They had grabbed her sling bag and were demanding of her to hand over her mobile phone.
The woman was screaming hysterically. Attention from onlookers was mounting and that is the worst fear of a criminal. The two men cut their losses, turned on their heels and attempted to make a quick getaway.
From his position on the balcony on the fifth floor of the building overlooking the square, realised that he could shoot the two men with effortless ease, as they unknowingly ran in his direction.
Pieter took aim at the first man, who was wearing a blue cap, red top and torn jeans.
“Totsiens, jou fokker (goodbye, you fucker)!” said Pieter loudly, and then he pulled back on the trigger of the weapon.
He waited to hear that wonderful sound of ammunition discharging.
However, the pulling of the trigger was followed by silence.
For some reason, the shotgun refused to fire. Pieter tried again and again but to no avail.
This was particularly unusual as Pieter was a man who spent hour after hour checking his weapons and ammunition. He had never had a malfunction on his weapons before.
He noted the bullets in the chamber ready for launching, but for some reason the pulling back of the trigger would not send the bullet on its way to its destination.
The two criminals on the square were long gone by now. Not only had Pieter failed as a policeman, he had also failed as an assassin.
He got a feeling in the spirit that he was being laughed at. It reminded him of being made fun of during his school days. He hated being bullied. He was not a bully himself and demanded respect from others.
“Ja, Lindiwe Snr en Lindiwe Jnr, lekker lag (yes, Lindiwe Snr and Lindiwe Jnr, laugh nicely),” he uttered, as he looked at the grey sky which covered Pretoria.
“Onthou net die ou woorde dat die laaste lag, lag die lekkerste (just remember the old words that the last laugh, laughs the best).”
He was not sure if Lindiwe Snr or Lindiwe Jnr had heard him or even caught on to what he had said in Afrikaans, but right now he was more interested in sorting out his weapon.
That soap opera that he had seen earlier was back on the television screen. The black man was still in bed with the much younger white woman.
Pieter took a cloth from his bag and wiped down the barrel of the shotgun. He then carefully ran the cloth over the trigger-guard.
He made sure that the barrel of the weapon always pointed away from him as the last thing he now wanted was for a bullet to leave the chamber and shoot him in the foot while he cleaned the weapon.
He was almost certain that the firing problem lay with the chamber rather than the trigger. He had heard a light clicking sound when he had attempted to pull the trigger earlier, but the bullet never left the chamber.
Pieter was quite used to taking guns apart. It had been a part of his training at police college many years back. Dissembling and assembling a gun was like driving a car. It was something that one learns and never forgets, even if you do not touch the gun or car for many years.
The chamber of the shotgun rubbed against Pieter’s police hoody jacket and left a greasy strain. The Lieutenant curses himself for being clumsy.
He tried to wipe the grease mark off with his cloth but that only made things worse. Eventually he conceded defeat on this front and returned his focus to the job at hand.
It was a good half an hour before Pieter had his shotgun back in one piece. He boldly crawled over to his shooting position on the balcony and what he saw next did not please him too much.
While the Lilian Ngoyi Square was a hive of activity with black people rushing to and fro, two police vehicles had stopped near the bus stop below.
Four cops, presumably the occupants of the police vehicles stood in conversation on the pavement, in the rain which had slowed down to nothing more than a light drizzle.
Pieter cursed again. He should have committed the deed long ago and been home by now. Yet here he was, ready for action, but with four cops seemingly involved with chit-chat on the pavement.
He tried to see if he could recognise the faces of the four black cops but was unable too. He immediately decided not to have a pot-shot at one of the cops even though they were black. That would simply be too risky. All four cops were armed with their service pistols and like Pieter, would have a shot gun or rifle in the boot of their vehicle. If Pieter fired a shot at one of them, irrespective if he hit the target or missed, they would surely radio for back-up support and his chances of getting away would be lessened.
“Gaan werk, julle ly fokkers (go to work you lazy fuckers),” cursed Pieter towards his colleagues.
It would be a good ten minutes before the cops dispersed back to their vehicles in pairs. Once the cop cars had driven off, Pieter let out a sigh of relief.
The last thing that he wanted was for his masterplan to fall flat at the feet of his cop colleagues.
Again, he looked down at the picture of Lindiwe Snr on the floor next to his shooting position.
If only things had been different, but Lady Destiny was not playing in his favour. Then he pondered on the disappearance of Lindiwe Jnr.
Pieter began to wonder what sort of game his police colleagues were playing against him. He was adamant that they knew where Lindiwe Jnr was.
He caught an eye on the content on the television screen where the black man was making love to the white woman in the soap opera. If the colours had been the other way round, that could have been him and Lindiwe Snr.
Since the New South Africa had come into being, most white citizens believed that the world owed them a favour now that they were getting the wrong end of the stick, with the ANC in charge. Sharing was not a part of the mindset of most whites. ‘Sharing with blacks? No man, you must be crazy’ was the usual conclusion which is why South Africa has and will continue to take much longer to find healing and reconciliation from the past than expected.
Of course, there is no body deafer than those who don’t want to listen, hence Mandela’s Rainbow Nation dream could well remain just that – a dream – for the foreseeable future.
Black hatred continued to flow through Pieter’s heart. He reckoned that there were about two hundred black people walking across the square and he battled to see a white face anywhere. Yes, thought Pieter, the shooting must go ahead.
He got back into his crouching position and put the shot gun on its target line. With his right index finger wrapped around the trigger, Pieter was ready for action.
In his mind, he could hear his former school colleagues ridiculing him.
“Hey, hoendervleis man (hey, chicken meat man).” The laughter from those mean bullies from days gone by was deafening. He had never been popular at school. He was not great at sport or academic and was scoffed at.
All his classmates had a t-shirt with their matric date on. Pieter’s t-shirt was dateless because his classmates reckoned that he was so stupid that they were not sure what year he would finish matric.
This made Pieter into an introvert. He kept much to himself for many years after school. Then having completed training at the police college, he had met Colonel Jaap Cornelius, who took a liking to the younger cop.
Jaap believed in Pieter and offered to mentor him.
At last, someone who thought that Pieter had talent. So, the story continued with Pieter becoming the best shooter and maintaining a high fitness level.
Now crouching in a shooting position overlooking the squad, Pieter seemed to be on a road to nowhere. Even his mentor, Jaap, appeared to be playing a game with him over Lindiwe Jnr’s disappearance. Pieter took it as if even Jaap, his closest friend, was making fun of him.
The racist, aggressive side of Pieter was on display. He would never again try and be someone that he was not. He was not a liberal. He was a white man who was born superior to any black person. At least that is what his parents had taught him.
“Pieter, jy het meer breins as hulle (Pieter you have more brains than them),” his father had once said, about the blacks.
If Lindiwe Snr or Lindiwe Jnr had walked through the apartment door right now, it was highly unlikely that Pieter would have drifted from his plan.
‘I will show them,’ was his mindset. For Pieter, it was now too late to turn back. The emotional and psychological damage had been done. It was time to do what he had dreamed of for quite some time.
He could only imagine how South Africa’s soldiers felt on the border between South West Africa (now Namibia) and Angola in the 1980s. They were on a mission to defend the border and to teach the Liberation Struggle fighters who was boss.
In those days, the white South African army was thought of as one of the best on the continent. Those white South Africans who refused to do two years of national service after matric or who refused to carry a gun, found themselves jailed on charges of treason.
Pieter was ready to do his bit for his country, but not in the way that the ANC government would be proud of.
He noted a black man, clutching on to a Chicken Licken packet, walking across the square towards him. Pieter took careful aim. The target was less than forty metres away and would be an easy hit.
“I will always be here for you no matter what actions you carry out.”
This was the voice of the white woman in bed with the black man in the soap opera on the television screen, but the words cut like a knife in Pieter’s heart.
As much as he wanted to pull the trigger, he just could not. Was the aggressive Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus becoming soft?
He lowered the shot gun. A strong man was close to tears. How he wanted to pull the trigger and to cause carnage in the black community, but something deep down inside had latched on to the words that he had heard on the television. Pieter was from being the next Barend ‘Wit Wolf’ Strydom. He was set to go on another mission. He could feel it in his bones. Something big would happen to him. Whether Lindiwe Jnr would be back to see it, that was another story.
The Lieutenant gazed over the square. He could have created chaos. Perhaps chaos was still to come at another venue?