Chapter 01 – A Window of the New World
Khuthala Bo (be diligent)! Leon Schuster’s Bafana Bafana (South African men’s international senior football team) song was playing through the sound system at the Vosloo Bar in Jorissen Street, Sunnyside, Pretoria, as Lindiwe Buthelezi ran her cloth over the bar counter.
The 19-year-old tall, attractive girl had finished her schooling the year before and was on mission to reach her dream. She was one step away from studying law at the University of Pretoria faculty and the New South Africa held many opportunities for her.
Unlike in the past under the racist Apartheid system of the National Party from 1948 to 1994, which saw white people treated as highly superior to those of other skin colours, the doors were open to all.
While some of her female friends were more focused on boys, Lindiwe put her academic studies first. The bar lady job at the Vosloo Grill was something that put some petty cash in her pocket and kept her in touch with reality.
It was 2010 and FIFA World Cup fever was rife as the country hosted the world football showpiece event. Sport was known to galvanise black and white. Well, at least that was the line that the politicians preached. There was some truth in it as world sporting events such as the football one and the hosting of the 1995 Rugby World Cup, did bring all people together, but only for a limited amount of time.
South Africa had its problems. The economy was largely in the hands of the white minority, and while all people had a right to vote at election time, the black masses were still swimming in poverty, sixteen years into the new democracy.
The land issue was a hot potato. Who did the land belong too? The ruling African National Congress and many other black-dominated political parties believes that the land and its minerals needed to be nationalised.
The minority groups, especially many of the whites, had the mindset that Jan van Riebeeck had arrived in the Cape in 1652 to build a refreshment station for ships passing by, and that is where the ownership of land in the country started.
The coloured community felt differently. Harry die Strandlooper (Harry the Beach Walker)) was on the beach with his Khoisan people when Van Riebeeck’s three ships arrived. Harry and company were there first so surely the land belonged to them?
Lindiwe was not one for politics. Her family had been ANC supporters for many years. She was grateful to the ruling party for bringing a democracy to South Africa but that was old new now. It was time to build a future. No, it was time for Lindiwe to build a future.
A local law firm had seen talent in her school marks and had given her a bursary to study law at the University of Pretoria. She would have to work for the company in the future to basically pay back the money.
This was a huge plus to her. Jobs in South Africa were scarce. The unemployment issue was another major challenge facing the government.
The unemployment rate in 2010 sat at 24.69 percent. Many had given up on the ANC’s promises to deliver more jobs and had turned to crime. Murder alone, stood at 27.1 percent in the Gauteng (formerly Transvaal) province.
Lindiwe was a church-going girl, who lived her life according to the Bible. Her Sebokeng-based cousin, Titus Ndlovu felt otherwise. He believed that God did nothing for his life. The fact is Titus, in his early thirties, had found himself in the wrong company.
After quitting school in Grade 11, Titus got caught up in a world of drugs and alcohol. He had a trail of four children from four different women, and did five years in prison for rape, albeit a crime that he didn’t commit.
A few years back, when the boyfriend was at work, the girl was all too happy to spend time with the young Titus between the sheets.
The boyfriend got wind of it and one day pretended to go to work, before returning to the house to catch the girl in bed with Titus. The girl pleaded for the boyfriend to forgive her as she had nowhere to go. The boyfriend said that the only way she could stay is if she laid rape charges against Titus.
The story stuck and Titus did five years behind bars. Poor Titus was a slow learner. He would end up doing another year and a half for a crime that he wasn’t involved in.
Two years after coming out of prison, a crooked friend of his, knocked frantically on his front door.
“Hide this pistol,” said the friend.
“It is from a crime scene. The cops are coming. I have got to go.”
Titus put the gun safely in his bedroom, but a neighbour saw the friend at Titus’ house and told the cops. Titus’ bedroom was checked, and the gun was found, so it was another year and a half in the slammer for Titus, who could not answer the cops on how the pistol had ended up in his bedroom.
Lastly, Titus, a cleaner at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, found a way to supplement his salary. He would build rooms to rent on his property.
He did not have the money to build. It was the perfect gap for some Pakistanis to latch on too, as they looked to implement their illegal trade of goods in Johannesburg.
The Pakistanis would give Titus R15000 to build his rooms, and Titus in return, would speak to his connections at the airport, to allow the Pakistani goods to enter the country without being checked.
All was good, until the someone at airport security became jealous of not being cut in on the deal. One day, the cops checked the security video camera tape and poor Titus was caught red-handed receiving a financial kickback from a Pakistani.
Lindiwe’s other cousin, Zandele, spent much time in prison too, having been a drug mule for a Nigerian syndicate. Again, she was a good girl from a solid family, who simply got caught up in the wrong company. She died of HIV-Aids-related illness about three months after serving her prison sentence.
Lindiwe would always be grateful that she wasn’t as close to her cousins, and they had never tried to invade her mind and make her join in on their dodgy business.
Many black people, unlike the privileged whites, had not owned a car prior to 1994 and had relied on the taxi industry for transportation. In fact, that still applies to present due to the difference in wages and salaries between various population groups.
None of Lindiwe’s family members had ever owned a motor vehicle. When Lindiwe had signed for her bursary at the law firm, the company CEO had said that if she got her learner’s licence and driver’s licence, the firm would consider assisting her with a small vehicle to make her transportation that much easier.
Lindiwe was taken aback by the thought. She, like many blacks, had never thought of her herself as a person who would sit behind a steering wheel. She just assumed she would spend her whole like using the taxi service.
The black-run taxi service itself was a challenge. Many of the driver’s bribed their way to getting a driver’s license, and to take it further, bribed the cops when stopped after breaking the laws of the road.
Driving down the yellow side-line of the road to avoid sitting in queues of traffic is the way the taxi’s do things, and over-filling the taxi to make the maximum amount of cash, led to several accidents.
Having been born in 1994, Lindiwe Buthelezi did not experience the brutality of the Apartheid era like her elders did. In the dark 1980s of Apartheid, a black person was not allowed to occupy certain sections of a restaurant, train, bus or even toilet. These were deemed to be whites-only areas as were the plush suburban residential areas under the Group Areas Act.
Most blacks lived in townships with little form of sanitation. If stopped in a whites-only residential area, the black person would need to present a passbook and a note from their white employer as to why they were there.
Like Lindiwe, many black people of 2010 could not imagine the pain that their predecessors went through under Apartheid. They had heard stories about it, but many thought that their elders were exaggerating matters.
Lindiwe’s mobile phone began to vibrate in her apron pocket. She was not supposed to check her phone during work hours at the bar, but the venue was still quite empty. The 5pm rush would come later. The girl glanced at the screen of her mobile phone and smiled. Her friend Lesego had dropped her a message to remind her of their coffee catch-up the next day.
Lindiwe had not seen her friend from school days for over five weeks, such was the rat-race in Tshwane. Time just seemed to fly by.
Lindiwe looked at the time on her mobile phone. It was 16h15 and the beer-hungry citizens of Tshwane would need her services at the bar very soon. The volume of people inside the venue had already doubled since she had arrived for her shift.
Moments later, another of her friends, Tshidi, arrived.
“Chomi (friend), I got it, I got it!” said Tshidi, who was the same age as Lindiwe, and wore denim jeans and a light blue blouse.
“Well stay away from me, I don’t want to get it too,” teased Lindiwe.
“No, silly,” explained Tshidi.
“I got the temporary waitress job at the Wimpy in Centurion. It is not huge bucks, but it is a start.”
“That is great, friend, when are you inviting me for a hamburger?” smiled the bar lady.
“Eish, the Wimpy food prices just went up, so I am hoping that when they appoint me as a fulltime staff member, I will be paid more,” grinned an excited Tshidi.
“Well, I am really happy for you as I know how hard you have tried to find employment,” quipped Lindiwe.
“It is great that we all have equal opportunities these days but there are so many of us and so few jobs out there.”
As Lindiwe looked to her right, she saw Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus enter the Vosloo Grill with his usual step of confidence.
Lindiwe’s heart skipped a beat as she watched him make his way over to join two other policemen standing at the far end of the bar. One of the men, she recognised as Colonel Jaap Cornelius, who was Pieter’s mentor.
“Fok it, Pieter, die land gaan agteruit (fuck it, Pieter, this country is going backwards),” said Jaap.
“Ek het n span na Mamelodi gestuur om n bank rooftog uitetjek en terwyl ons ouense binne die mall was, het iemand die battery van die polisievoortuig gesteel (I sent a team to Mamelodi to check out a bank robbery scene and while our guys were in the mall, someone stole the car battery out of the police vehicle).”
Pieter shook his head.
“Ja nee, deesdae as dit nie sement is nie, dan gaan dit maar voete kry (yes, these days if it is not cemented down, it will grow legs),” replied the Lieutenant.
“Wat praat jy, hulle het een van Mandela se staanbeelde by die Uniegebou gevat (what do you mean, they even took one of Mandela’s statues at the Union Buildings),” quipped Jaap, as he gulped the last of his beer.
“Nog n dop (another drink)?” asked Pieter.
“Laat hom val waar hy wil, net nie op die donderse grond nie (let it fall where it wants, just not on the bloody floor),” said Jaap, about a drink going down one’s throat.
“So maak mens (that’s the way),” joked Pieter.
Pieter made his way over to the bar and tapped his beer glass against the bar counter.
“Fill it up please, Ms Buthelezi,” he said with a wink to Lindiwe.
Lindiwe smiled back at the Lieutenant. If anyone had been watching, they would have been a fool to not realise the special bond between the policeman and the bar lady.
However, nobody was paying any attention to them, as everyone was more interested in chatting about their own affairs as they consumed alcohol.
How Lindiwe wished that her future husband would be something along the lines of the Lieutenant. Right now, she saw Pieter as a fatherly figure as in someone she could turn to for advice.
Pieter on the other hand, didn’t think of himself as a fatherly figure at all. In the prime of his life, Pieter still believed that he could charm younger women and could not keep his eyes off Lindiwe.
Unlike the conservative minded Jaap Cornelius, Pieter was more open in terms of the New South Africa. Besides, there was something special about this girl, he thought.
Lindiwe poured a beer into Pieter’s glass and placed it in front of him.
“There you go,” she said with a smile, that in Pieter’s mind, had enough rays to light up the room.
“There is a long weekend coming up,” said the Lieutenant, as he tried to make conversation and at the same time, find out what the girl’s plans were.
“I will probably spend the weekend in my room reading law books,” replied the bar lady.
“That sounds boring,” he said.
“Yes, well, I got this bursary from a law firm which will allow me to study at the University of Pretoria, and I don’t want to let anyone down,” she said.
Pieter tilted his head to one side and then the other.
“Different strokes for different folks, I suppose,” he muttered, as he clasped his beer glass, with a bottle full of beer for Jaap, in the other.
Once he had given Jaap his beer, he turned his focus back to Lindiwe.
Reading law books on a long weekend, I mean now, he thought.
He needed to work a plan to get some private time with the bar lady.
Jaap opened his beer and turned to Pieter.
“So, wat maak jy op die lang vakansienaweek want ek sien jy het verlof ingesit (so what are you doing on the long weekend because I see you put in for leave)?” asked the Colonel.
Pieter nodded but kept his stare on Lindiwe.
“Dis tyd vir n bietjie pret (it is time for some fun),” muttered the Lieutenant.
Jaap caught on to Pieter’s glance towards Lindiwe.
“Lyk vir my soos n one-night stand (looks to me like a one-night stand),” said the older man.
Pieter took in a sip of beer before answering.
“Ek sal vir jo una die tyd laat weet (I will tell you afterwards),” he said.
“Voorspoed, jy weet diis nie my mark nie (good luck, you know it’s not my market),” uttered Jaap, as he looked at Lindiwe.