Part II

Mircea “Mitch” Negres, South Africa

How will it happen?

In the beginning, there was discord. Then hell followed… To his neighbors, Jan van Onselen was a nice guy with a moderately prosperous carpentry business. He was good at what he did, and very reliable. Always with a ready smile and solutions to every problem, Jan didn’t have loud parties or strident political views. Instead, he went to church every Sunday and looked after his family. To all appearances, just another ordinary man who lived an ordinary life. What nobody besides his wife knew was that in his youth, Jan had been a sergeant in the Recces… It wasn’t easy to soften his outward demeanor, but 30 years of marriage and his two teenage girls had mellowed him somewhat. Still, behind the façade lurked a prowling lion who watched over his pride with steadily roving eyes and always calculating mind. That Friday night in August 2024, he was at home relaxing with a glass of brandy and Coke in front of the TV, when he listened to the country’s president announce three hours earlier there had been a coup attempt by what he called “a cabal of right wing extremists, former politicians and soldiers”, who were beaten off by “the watchful groups of patriots in the government security services”. He listened with concern to the declaration of a national state of emergency and the hairs on the back of his neck stood up when the president said security forces were to round up coup members and their supporters.

He had friends both from the army days and later. They were spread across the country and in varied professions. Some were still in state security services and a few were connected to Afrikaner groups. From his house in the suburb of Walmer in Port Elizabeth, he went to his office, took out a cell phone and began to dial. None of his friends, especially those in military intelligence and the AWB (Afrikaner Weerstandbeweging) had heard anything about a coup being in the works, and they were as surprised as he was about this. “No, man. Something’s wrong here”, they all began to say… He poured another brandy and dusted off his intelligence analysis skills. The ANC was in deep shit. They’d barely won the election three months earlier, and that was only after promising their voters to put an end to “white monopoly capital”. Zimbabwe II seemed to be in the works, but it was surreal- could this be happening now? He needed some time to see what would happen next, and then he’d decide what to do. With that, he went to bed and slept fitfully through the night. Saturday was quiet. Nobody went anywhere, and only police vehicles drove around. That changed on Sunday morning. He woke up to find his satellite TV wasn’t working. DStv (private satellite TV network, owned by MultiChoice) was off the air and only SABC (the state-owned broadcaster) was on the air. Programming was as usual on those stations, but it was the sound of a truck stopping in the street, followed by the bang of a falling tailgate that got his attention.

He’d heard that sound often enough in his youth, having jumped out of Samil trucks in Angola. He went to the window and peeked- three police vans and an army truck were there, the cops and soldiers were all black. Not terribly unusual in that regard because the blacks had taken over the government and in the preceding three decades, had basically pushed out everyone but a handful of pathetic whites. No, that wasn’t the problem. It was where they went. James and Annette Hammersmith were senior executives at a private bank, who dealt with very wealthy people’s investments. They’d done well over the years, having become multi-millionaires. They were nice people who didn’t belong to any political party and pretty much only gave money to charities and the local library. What the hell were the cops and army doing there? Uh oh, they’re taking assault positions… The gate is knocked off its hinges by the Samil truck, the troops stream in and move towards the front door, weapons sweeping the yard. The assault groups stack up on the side of the front door and other elements cover the side windows. After an unseen signal, they break down the door and they go in. Shouts are heard, some glass shatters inside, a woman screams. Two minutes later, James and Annette come out in handcuffs with black bags over their heads, and the troops leave. Over the next few hours, three more houses on his street are hit, the occupants taken away. These were rich white people in finance, about as far from political or military as one could be. This was many things, but right wasn’t one of them. He knew it- the wildest scenarios of his youth were coming true and the time had come to make a decision.

Stay and become a victim, or go and become hunted? He wasn’t the victim type and didn’t want his family to become statistics, so without saying anything beyond advising the women not to go near the windows, he went to the bedroom to get passports, birth certificates, the emergency cash stash and gun, then loaded the spare clips. It wasn’t too bad. All told, he had four mags and the maximum 200 rounds of ammo he could legally keep. Next he went to the garage, where he began to load up camping supplies. The family tent, sleeping bags, camping stove and so on. He then went to the kitchen with every cooler box he had and began to stuff in instant noodles, cans of food, cooking oil and whatever he could think of. Then he called his wife to their bedroom and told her quietly that they had to leave. She was stunned and tried to argue, but the serious look on his face along with what had happened to their neighbors put an end to that. He told her to begin packing their most practical clothes and shoes, take underwear, socks, medicines and first aid stuff as well as “feminine products” and tell the girls to begin doing the same. His daughters weren’t spoilt brats, but neither were they used to seeing their father be decisive to the point of dictatorial. They had to go to university next day, but more importantly, were supposed to meet their boyfriends at church that evening. This was too sudden. They couldn’t leave just like that, without a word… Jan didn’t take no for an answer. He gave them a steely eyed look they hadn’t seen in their entire lives and said “Pack up your stuff! We’re going to uncle Mike’s, now MOVE!” Bewildered, they obeyed. In an hour, their white double cab 4×4 was packed. Next he had to consider one more security issue- EMCON, or EMission CONtrol. He told his wife and daughters to bring out their cell phones, modem dongles, GPS units and tablets, then proceeded to remove the batteries and SIM cards. From this point on they would be electronically invisible. Even better, he blessed his decision long ago not to install a tracking device on his car. It may have kept his insurance premium higher than it would’ve been otherwise, but at least nobody would know where he was whenever they decided to tap on a few computer keys. It may have been hard and come with quite a price tag, but Special Forces training had been paying dividends ever since he’d left the “old” army. Furthermore, what the women didn’t know was that in the final months of his military service, when civil war and even invasion had seemed likely, he and his buddies had made arrangements for such a scenario, but first they had to make their way to Mike’s farm…

To be continued…