Chapter 34 – Troubles Times Ahead
The rain pelted down on the windscreen of Pieter’s Toyota Corolla as he made his way to the CSIR International Conference Centre in Meiring Naude Road, Brummeria, Pretoria where his destiny would be decided, it seemed.
Unusually, the car radio was switched off. Pieter felt that the voice inside his head was enough, let alone other voices on the radio.
Ja, Pieter, so this is what it has come down too. Remember there is no such thing as a clever crook. This country belongs to all those who live in it, and you are just like the other whites, who don’t understand that, or rather, who don’t want to understand that.
Pieter’s eyes were raging with anger. The last thing that he now needed was for Lindiwe Buthelezi Snr or Jnr to be reading him the riot act in his head. His life was hanging by a thread. If he were found to be the person who allowed the Marikana Massacre to happen, he could well spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Which Philistine had paid big bucks for the Marikana Commission to be reopened and why?
Not that it was hot in the car, but Pieter could feel the sweat of anxiety running down his arms. In his days as a cop, he always had back-up support. Now he felt totally alone. How embarrassing it would be if some of his cop colleagues would march him to his holding cell!
What he really needed was that guardian angel or perhaps even a fairy godmother. He needed someone to tell him his future or what to do.
Pieter was pretty sure that the black family members of the deceased miners from Marikana would not be present at the conference centre. They surely would not have had the funds to make the trip to Pretoria.
Wrong, Lieutenant Erasmus. As he drove down Meiring Naude Road, he saw a large group of protestors in the distance, and he instantly knew what was up.
The rain did not bother the 100-odd group. One man, in jeans and a t-shirt, held a cardboard sign which read ‘Erasmus, go to hell’. Another danced with a sign stating, ‘One Pieter, One Bullet’, clearly a spin off of the anti-Apartheid war cry ‘One Settler, One Bullet’.
The police presence was clearly visible, with five water cannons parked in position for action, while over one hundred cops, many with shields and rifles with rubber bullets, lined the area. A cop recognised Pieter and ushered him and his vehicle into the main parking area.
As he climbed from his vehicle, the noise was deafening.
“Today is your last day on earth, Erasmus!” yelled a man in a yellow t-shirt.
“Our blood will stain the streets of Pretoria until justice is served!”
How the crowd would have loved to throw objects towards Pieter, but the police presence prevented that.
Pieter made a point not to look at the angry mob as several cops led him from his car into the building.
For the first time, he realised just how much he was really hated. However, was this because that the people believed he was the one who gave the order for the law enforcers to fire on the striking miners in Marikana or was it simply because he was of white skin colour?
Once inside the building, Pieter was body-searched for weapons, before being taken into a side room. At last, he saw a familiar face.
“Hello, Vince,” said Pieter, in greeting, Ace Mabuza’s right-hand man, Vincent Khoza.
“Pieter, you look stressed, but just relax, all will be well,” said Vince, as he shook Pieter’s hand, and ushered him over to the coffee stand.
“This is a storm in a teacup and will be over in no time.”
Pieter straightened his tie. He was not used to wearing a tie and did not enjoy it at all.
“I hope you are right, Vince,” he muttered.
“Where is Mabuza?”
Vince poured two cups of coffee.
“He is coming,” answered Vincent.
“Sugar and milk?”
“Two sugars and milk please,” replied Pieter.
As hospitable as Vincent Khoza was, Pieter got the feeling that something was wrong. Vince was not making eye contact with him like he did in the past.
“Vince are you alright?” asked Pieter.
Mabuza’s aide, dressed in a grey suit with matching tie, stopped with the coffee preparations and turned to Pieter.
“Why do you ask?” he quipped.
“Well, you have been asking about me, but I just want to make sure that the stress hasn’t got to you,” replied the Lieutenant.
Vincent nearly dropped the filter coffee pot, as he attempted to fill the two cups.
“I am alright, Pieter, but I will be glad when this is all over,” quipped Vince.
Pieter Erasmus was not fool. His years of police experience led him to believe that Vince was hiding something. Mabuza’s aide clearly knew more than he was letting on.
“Vince, I need you to be straight with me,” said Pieter.
“What is the game plan to take me down and who is behind it?”
Vince still refused to make eye contact with Pieter.
“Has someone paid you off to shut you up from telling me?” asked Pieter in a stern tone.
Vince remained silent and carried the two cups of coffee over to the meeting room table.
“Pieter, I told you I don’t know more than what I have shared with you,” replied Vince.
“Bullshit, Vince!” snapped Pieter as he moved towards Vince.
“You know much more, and you had better spill the beans now if you know what is good for you.”
Vince Khoza realised that Pieter threat was real. The confrontation could turn physical within seconds.
A wrestling showdown between Pieter and Vince would have been a no-contest. Certainly, people would not have paid to watch it like they used too in the days of wrestling legends Jan Wilkens, Danie Voges, Percy Hall, Vrystaat, Danie Brits and many more.
Vince had a slim figure, while Pieter was far more muscular.
“Vince, I am counting to five and then things will change for the worst,” said Pieter, in a tone that assured Vince of what would happen next.
“Pieter, if I tell you then he will kill me,” said Vince, as he first stared at the door and then at the window.
“Well, if you don’t tell me, then I will kill you,” replied the Lieutenant.
Vince sat down and took in a sip of coffee.
“Pieter, the stakes are high here,” began Vince.
“Tenders, Pieter, tenders. Worth hundreds of millions of Rands. He will only get those tenders if Minister T.K Muronga and Police Commissioner Lawrence Mathibe are in the clear.
“When you say ‘he’ you mean Ace Mabuza?” asked Pieter.
“I thought Mathibe got a payout and is no longer Police Commissioner?” questioned Pieter.
Vince took in another sip of coffee.
“Pieter, that guy is dangerous,” muttered Vince.
“They call him the ‘Godfather’ for a reason. There is nothing that goes down inside the South African Police Services without him knowing. He has his informants and is in cahoots with Ace.”
“What about Minister Muronga?” asked Peter.
“Muronga used to be in the inner circle with the President until the Marikana fiasco. The President sees the Minister as a risk and a danger to his reputation so Muronga got sidelined.”
“So, what has that got to do with me?” asked Pieter.
“Well, the only way for Muronga to regain
the President’s confidence is to set the record straight on Marikana,” explained Vince.
“You mean to find someone to take the fall for the lives lost?” questioned Pieter.
“Yes, exactly that,” quipped Vince.
“So Muronga reopened the commission to take me down,” assumed Pieter.
“No, Ace Mabuza did,” replied Vince.
“If Ace can rebuild Muronga’s reputation and please Mathibe, he stands to make millions or rather billions of Rands. Pieter, you cannot mention a word of this. If you do, I will not leave this building alive today. Promise me, you won’t breathe a word?”
Pieter promised to put Vince at ease, but his mind was in overdrive as he rallied to find a way forward for himself.
Five minutes later, the meeting room door opened, and a large man walked into the room.
Vince did the introductions.
“Mr Ace Mabuza, I would like you to meet Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus,” he said.
“Oh, at last I get to meet the Lieutenant,” said Ace, dressed in a black suit.
Pieter produced a fake grin as he shook hands with the tender-cooker.
“Well, I am actually not a Lieutenant anymore as my rank has been taken away,” said Pieter.
“I am sure that can be fixed in time,” said Pieter as he sat down at the table and pointed at the coffee.
Immediately Vince moved to sort his boss out with some of the liquid refreshment.
“Pieter, I would like to thank you for not mentioning our dealings during the Marikana Commission,” said Ace, in his late thirties, and with a shining forehead.
Pieter had to hold back his thought.
You bastard, you are thanking me for saving you at the Marikana Commission and now you are about to throw me under the bus to safeguard Muronga and Mathibe!
Pieter coughed to clear his throat.
“Well, I am glad it all worked out well for you and hope we can do more business in future.
Ace grinned and pulled out his mobile phone before sending a text message.
Seconds later, one of Mabuza’s henchmen arrived in the room, carrying a briefcase, which on the nod from his boss, he promptly handed to Pieter.
“What is this now?” asked Pieter.
Ace received his coffee from Vince and replied.
“It is R3.6 million in cash. You know, the balance of the R4 million after we paid you the R400 000 deposit.”
For a moment, Pieter felt like he was about to have a heart attack. He was holding R3.6 million. That would set him up for much of his life away from the police, but he knew that he could not accept it. Surely this was a part of Ace’s strategy to take him down when the commission reopened.
“Mr Mabuza…” began Pieter, as he tried to pass the briefcase back to the henchmen.
“Please, call me Ace, and the money is yours,” said the tender king with a smile.
“Don’t worry about it. It is all good.”
Pieter was struggling to find the words to speak and even if he could, he would have struggled to get them out. He was battling to breathe. His heart rate was up and so too was his blood pressure.
Eventually, Pieter spoke.
“Ace, this is not right.”
“It’s the way we role,” quipped Ace.
“One day I will ask you for your help. Right now, enjoy the money. Whatever happens today, you can go out and build a new life.”
The briefcase was still in Pieter’s hands as the henchmen knew better than to except it back.
“Ace, I can’t,” said Pieter.
Ace was starting to lose patience and the friendly smile disappeared off of his face.
“Pieter take the cash, I don’t want to hear any more of it,” he said.
Pieter caught Vince’s glance and knew better than to press any further on the matter.
“Well, thank you,” said Pieter.
“Remember what I said about you going off to start a new life?” remarked Ace.
“Well, when you get to your car after the hearing today, there will be another of my men waiting to give another briefcase to you. It will contain another R2 million.”
Pieter’s face lit up. Even Father Christmas had never been this generous to him before.
“What do you need from me?” asked Pieter.
“I need somebody on the inside that I can trust,” replied Ace.
Pieter gulped. Inside? Inside of what? For a moment, his heart sank. Surely Ace did not mean that he needed someone on the inside of Pretoria Central Prison.
Take the briefcase, Pieter, he heard a voice in his head say.
You are no better than what they are. Take the briefcase and the next one at your car.
“Fuck off, Lindiwe,” muttered Pieter under his breath.
“Inside of where?” asked Pieter.
Ace knocked back his coffee and stood up to leave.
“You will find out shortly,” he said.
“Ace, I just hope you are not selling me down the river in the hearing, as no amount of money is worth the fall for the Marikana disaster?” said Pieter.
“I will see you at the hearing, Pieter,” said the tender fixer.
“Relax, whatever happens, your family’s future is financially secure. Isn’t that what life is about?”
Ace Mabuza and his henchman left the room follow by Vince Khoza.
Outside the door a scuffle took place.
“Erasmus knows more than he should know,” sad Ace, as his henchman held Vince Khoza up against a wall.
“Have you been shooting your mouth off, Vince?”
“No, sir, I haven’t,” replied Vince, with the henchman’s right hand clasped against his throat.
“For your sake I hope you are right,” quipped Ace.
“Remember who made your career and who has looked after your family. I hope you are not stupid enough to throw that all away.”
Ace and his muscle man left, and Vince returned to the meeting room, looking quite rattled.
It did not take a genius to work out that Vince had been roughed up in the corridor.
“What happened, Vince?” asked Pieter, as he guided Ace Mabuza’s spokesperson to a chair.
“Ace suspects that I told you what is going down,” explained Vince.
Pieter shook his head.
“Don’t worry, Vince, this will all end well for us,” said the suspended Lieutenant.
“Pieter, remember you promised me that you won’t breathe a word about what I told you or else Ace will cut my head off and stick it in that briefcase,” pleaded Vince.
“Just be careful what you say at the hearing. Ace doesn’t have patience on a good day let alone when it comes to sell-outs.”
Pieter assured Vince that all would be fine.
“So, what are you going to say at the hearing?” asked Vince, as he adjusted his tie and shirt, following the incident outside.
“What do you want me to say?” asked Pieter in return.
Vince shrugged his shoulders.
“I am a truthful guy, Vince, you know that?” remarked Pieter.
“Don’t get me wrong here, if I am going down, which I suspect might be the case, I will make damn sure that I will not go down alone.”
“Pieter, I have a young family to think about,” quivered Ace Mabuza’s spokesperson.
“No, I didn’t mean you, Vince, you are a good guy, but Ace cannot crook his way to the top forever,” replied Pieter.
“Pieter, just be careful, Ace has some very dangerous friends in very high places throughout the law enforcement circle,” warned Vince.
“So, what are you going to do with the money?” asked Vince.
“What is money worth if I am going to spend the rest of my life as a yes-guy to Ace or looking over my shoulder for a bullet that has my name on it?” asked Pieter.