Chapter 29 – When a Stranger Visits
Flash! Flash! Flash! Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus pulled his body to the side of the corridor and had his 9mm pistol out in shooting mode within a second. What was going on at the main gate?
Chris Chuene giggled as they got within twenty metres of the security booth. The media had arrived and the flashes that Pieter saw were from the photographers’ camera equipment. A South African Broadcasting Corporation television news crew was on hand busy interviewing bystanders. Then the news reporter saw Pieter.
“Mr Erasmus!” shouted the black reporter dressed in a white blouse and jeans.
Fuck it, Erasmus, your cover has been blown, thought the Lieutenant. His master plan of creating black bloodshed and getting away without anyone knowing of involvement had just bit the dust.
Pieter was not sure as to how the news crew knew who he was. He had never done a media interview before and until recently, he was nothing more than a low-ranking cop. Yet now the media were calling his name in a bid to get his side of the story for the news bulletins.
Before Pieter could respond, he heard footsteps behind him and Police Commissioner Lawrence Mathibe, accompanied by Minister T.K Muronga made their way past him to grab the limelight.
“Well, I can tell you that it was thanks too the speedy efforts of the South African Police Services, that an even bigger bloodbath was averted here today,” said Mathibe, with several news reporters dictaphones positioned close by while some journalists wrote down notes as he spoke.
“Did you believe that this is the end of the uprisings over miners’ wages?” asked the television news lady to the Minister.
“I hope that the strikers have now got a clear message that violence is not a means to finding a solution and the best way forward is for their representatives to return to the negotiating table,” answered Muronga.
The media were eating up every word from the smooth-talking politician.
Then came the bombshell that knocked the wing out of Muronga’s sails.
“Minister, we understand that it was the police who opened fire from the front on the advancing strikers and this caused the situation to get out of control,” said the news reporter.
T.K Muronga began to do his goldfish impression. His lips moved to answer the question, but no sound came out. Firstly, he had only arrived at the security office at the back after the first shots were fired. Secondly, he never knew that the cops had opened fire on the protestors upfront.
“Ur, the Police Commissioner would be better placed to answer on that,” said Muronga, who was sidestepping better than a Springbok rugby centre ever could.
Taken by surprise, Lawrence Mathibe cleared his throat.
“Well, I can tell you that the police are only to use live ammunition if their lives are in danger,” said Mathibe, with a lack of confidence.
“Yes, Police Commissioner, but from what we have heard and seen, surely teargas, rubber bullets and water cannons would have been used upfront, and not live ammunition?” pressed the news as she held the microphone close to Mathibe’s chest.
The Police Commissioner coughed almost to buy time before answering.
“Look, I never gave any command for the use of live ammunition to be released on the strikers upfront,” he said.
“Then who did?” asked the television reporter.
“That I don’t know at this current moment, but I am sure that all such questions will have answers in due course,” replied Mathibe.
About twenty metres to his right, mortuary officials were busy placing bodies in silver foil-like covering.
With the television segment done, a radio reporter from 702 Talk Radio pushed for his pound of media flesh.
“Police Commissioner, we understand that the Loxton Mine property was also invaded at the rear, meaning from the mineshaft side,” said the tall newsman in a red t-shirt and cut jeans.
“That is indeed what happened but how that happened remains a mystery at the moment as there are no people living or working at the shafts at present,” said Mathibe.
“The premises are secured all around, so the only way that someone could get in at the back is if they were allowed through the pedestrian gate there.”
“So, you are saying that someone may have unlocked the gate to allow an attack from the shaft side?” went on the radio man.
“At this moment, all options are being investigated and we will update you as soon as we have worked everything out,” replied the Police Commissioner.
It was like a game of table tennis. Ping, the questions went to the Police Commissioner. Pong, the reply from the top cop.
Pieter listened with intent. Not once had his name been mentioned. The media seemed keener to get the views from the Minister and the Police Commissioner and that was fine as far as the Lieutenant was concerned.
Pieter looked around. There was no sign of Vincent Khoza. Well, he knew that Vincent did not get along with the Police Commissioner, but he was half expecting Ace Mabuza’s man to be listening in on the goings-on.
Then the 702 Talk Radio reporter turned to the Minister.
“Minister, the government have known for a while that a strike situation like this was on the cards,” he said.
Muronga had no intention to throw himself in at the deep end and waited for the question part.
“There is much fact that this could be linked to the President of the country who is believed to have a major vested interest in the mine and its minerals,” went on the radio guy.
“Are you asking or are you telling me?” quipped Muronga as he did his best to dodge the question.
Whatever he said would get back to the President, so he needed to choose his words carefully.
“The law enforcement agencies have had ample time to prepare for such a showdown,” added the radio reporter.
Muronga did not budge.
“Surely several deaths here today could have been averted?” questioned the media man.
Ah, at last a question and the Minister was compelled to answer.
“Yes, any life that is lost could possibly be averted,” said Muronga.
“So, are you saying that the law enforcers could have handled things differently?” asked the radio reporter.
“Are you trying to put words into my mouth?” questioned the Minister.
This brought about some mutterings form the media group.
“Look, the Police Commissioner said that all options surrounding today’s happenings will be investigated and once we have answers we will update the media accordingly,” covered the Minister.
“Thank you and that is all for now.”
Pieter watched from a distance as the Minister was ushered away by his bodyguards and the Police Commissioner Mathibe. Before he got hooked into doing an interview, Pieter also retreated along with Chris Chuene.
Pieter and Chris spent a good fifteen minutes in the corridor chatting as they carried out a post-mortem on the goings-on.
By the time that they returned to the main meeting room, a few new faces had arrived. Titus Magubane, the spokesperson for the Minister, was busy setting up a mini-call-centre. Soon the phone lines were buzzing and not with much complimentary talk either.
“You bastards, you killed my husband!” yelled a female caller down the line.
“I hope you and your family all rot in hell!”
It was not going to be an easy day for any of the parties.
Pieter knew that some would be yelling similar abuse at him over the fact that some of the security guards had perished.
Extra policing had been placed around the meeting room. Following the ambush from the rear early in the day, the Minister’s safety needed to be safeguarded as well as the other big shots in the meeting room.
What worried Pieter was that television presenter who had called him by his name. He did not want anyone to know who he was but that seemed to be water under the bridge now. It was all rather strange. The Police Commissioner had not yet worked out that Pieter was a Lieutenant in the police, but the national broadcaster knew exactly who he was. It was like the people knew more than the leaders did.
“Pass that marker pen to me, please,” said Pieter to Chris, as they sat staring at the map of the Loxton Mine. However, Chris was not listening. He was far more intrigued with a conversation that was happening in isiZulu two seats to his right.
The name ‘Sithole’ had made his ears pick up. He did not know the person who was speaking to Titus Magubane. However, he could clear make out the context of the chat. Yes, the man felt that Lucas Sithole had to be taken care of as he knew too much about the Minister’s dealings in the Loxton Mine. It sounded like Sithole was about to sing like a canary about several dodgy dealings involving the Minister of Mineral and Energy Affairs, T.K Muronga.
Chris did his best not to let the two men know just how interested he was in their chat. He listened in further. The Minister was on a mission to get a nice big, fat kickback from Ace Mabuza, should that consortium have received the security tender. So that was another reason to keep Lucas Sithole out of the picture.
Then Chris heard them talk about Pieter. He was the obvious choice to be the fall guy for what had just transpired. They would play the race card and work Pieter out the door.
He would be replaced by one of the top security men who had worked for Lucas Sithole. Every man had his price.
So why had Vincent Khoza been so keen on bringing Pieter Erasmus in in the first place? The answer was race. Several of the white Loxton Mine shareholders would have felt more comfortable with a white man heading up the security arrangements. Now that the white man had made a mess and lives had been lost, the point could be argued that it would be best to appoint a black man who knows the terrain.
Then Chris overheard something else that raised his eyebrows. A women’s march on Loxton Mine was seemingly being planned for later in the week. A women’s march. Yes, the wives, sisters, daughters, and aunts were tired of watching their men being killed or taken advantage off!
Surely if a few hundred women marched on the Loxton Mine, the security and police would not open fire with live ammunition, particularly after what had happened earlier today?
Once the two men had moved on, Chris called Pieter out of the room and updated him on what he had learnt.
“Fucking hell, you mean Muronga put a hit out on Lucas Sithole?” he exclaimed rhetorically, and then whistled as he let the air out of his cheeks.
“The good news is that there was no mention of eliminating you by means of a gun, but you are definitely down to be the fall guy for what happened here today,” said Chris.
“You know that the Police Commissioner will support that one hundred percent.”
“Ke tsela e feng e lebang Marikana (Which way is it to Marikana)?” asked a middle-aged lady as she climbed on to a taxi in Pretoria.
The radio in the taxi was blaring away about the massacre in Marikana. Those onboard the taxi were stunned. Was the ANC showing its true colours and starting to control the people that they said they cared for, through the barrel of a gun?
It happened like this in many other African countries who had fought the good fight to receive freedom for their people from the colonialists. Then when power was in the hands of the black leaders who had led the charge for freedom, a semi-socialist democracy came into being. Freedom was there unless the government said otherwise.
Was the ANC going this route too? When there was something that they did not like and the people stood up for their rights, gunfire was used to quell the situation.
In truth, South Africa was one of the only true democracies on the continent. Sure, other countries claimed to live according to democratic rule and had national elections, but the result was usually known before the votes were cast.
Governments come and governments go. The Apartheid government came into being in 1948 and eventually was pushed aside at the polls by the ANC in 1994. How long would it be before a more popular black political party came to the fore to oust the ANC from the top spot?
The woman on the taxi was not one who cared too much about politics. She was on a one-objective mission. Her aim was to find Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus. She had tried to find him at the police headquarters but nobody there was too keen to help her. She had not seen him for years and at one stage had begun to think that he was no longer on this earth. Then along came Marikana and there he was. Standing a few metres wide of the Police Commissioner on the television screen.
Again, it seemed that Pieter’s plan of keeping a low profile while shedding black blood, had come to nought.
There were more people interested in Pieter Erasmus than just the Minister, T.K Muronga, the Police Commissioner, Lawrence Mathibe, and a few other hangers-on in Marikana.
Things were about to change for Pieter. His life was set to become that much more complicated. Would he stray from his plan?
Or was he ready to embark on another showdown against the blacks? Surely, even Pieter Erasmus was not that heartless that he would turn his anger on the women’s march planned for a few days’ from now?
If this mystery woman made her way to Marikana and found Pieter, was it a case of that he had finally met his match?
Back in Marikana, Pieter felt a great sense of achievement for what had happened earlier in the day. He felt like he was the king of his castle. No man or woman could knock him from his throne. Yes, he needed to plane another mass attack. The miners were creating the platforms and he was capitalising on them. Time was ticking. He needed to carry out these onslaughts before his opponents tried to use him as the fall guy for the Marikana disaster.
If anyone were able to stop him, it could possibly be Lindiwe Buthelezi Snr and Lindiwe Buthelezi Jnr, but they had both been taken from his life. Now it was Pieter on his own as he looked to make his family and ancestors’ smile. They hated the blacks and had that spirit inbred into Pieter just like it was inbred by other white adults into their youngsters.
The difference was that Pieter had the courage to carry out what other whites merely dreamed about.