A thousand kilometers away to the north about the time when the Beemer flipped, former lieutenant-colonel Armand van Reenen was sleeping the sleep of the troubled. He’d had a tough life until now. One of three sons from a military family, he’d been in the “old” SADF, back when it was a force instead of the farce the “democratic” SANDF had become. He’d done his stint on the border and some ops in Angola, but he wasn’t an infantry kind of guy. Ever since his father had bought him four toy trucks for his tenth birthday, he’d been fascinated by the modern lumbering beasts of burden. His father used to draw little streets, gas stations and parking spots on the driveway of their home, and they’d spend at least a couple of hours playing together every weekend. It was what began his fascination with trucks and which later blossomed into a talent for logistics. The army helped with that and over the years he’d become quite well known for his inspection tours of domestic and foreign deployment bases from which South African troops tried to keep the peace in a few African countries. In the latter places, it was where his keen eye and problem-solving skills made him both respected and feared.

A lot of the black junior officers mistook his directness and drive to fix every problem he saw for rudeness and an attempt to get them demoted or fired, but nothing could’ve been further from the truth of that fatherly light colonel. Of course he’d had dreams of becoming a general and certainly had the skills, but after 1999, when the Mbeki administration began to get rid of the white generals and appointing people at every rank according to race and gender, there were at least ten whites fighting for every post, so never mind general, Armand van Reenen never even made colonel. Still, he kept working and by 2001, his second of three sons had joined the army along with two of his younger brother’s sons. That’s where Dan Iancu met them and a few months later, the man whom he would forever afterwards respectfully call “The Colonel”. These were proper Boers. Tough Afrikaners driven by family tradition (even the boys’ grandmother had been in the army) and patriotism, they served with pride and quite humane professionalism. Dan learned that patriotism from them, but if anything, he was the inhumane professional of the bunch, for whom “life and death” was quite literal, something he proved to them soon afterwards, when his military career came to an abrupt and quite bloody end. The van Reenen boys were his “brothers from another mother” and that family gave him a place at their table and in their hearts, which he likewise returned without reservation. Sadly, with the country going mad around them, they were fated to never meet again. However, The Colonel played his part in what came later. Over the years, he’d met soldiers across all ranks and got to know a few generals. They couldn’t help him with his career problems, but in time they drew the colonel in a circle only those involved knew existed. The group didn’t have a name and they always took security precautions, preferring to speak face to face rather than over phone lines. They were a mixed bunch of retirees. Former Special Forces and Military Intelligence, a civilian spook, a local level politician, some engineers and more importantly as it turned out, an ex-diplomat.

The old men met once or twice a year, normally during the early December holidays, but had decided that if ever there was an urgent need to meet, the best way to arrange it was on a Sunday when they went to the same church. They lived all over Pretoria and their wives couldn’t understand why they chose a church so far out of their neighborhoods, but over the years the women resigned themselves to the stubbornness of their old men. It was the church that gave them a chance to hold an emergency meeting at The Colonel’s house on the Sunday which followed the president’s announcement of the less than believable attempted coup. There they discussed what was happening in the country and looked at the various scenarios. They’d seen and done enough, knew what the blacks were capable of, so a potential civil war was at the top of their list. In that regard, they saw only two possibilities- either the whites stood their ground and fought, thus running the risk of being wiped out, or they ran. Running wasn’t exactly their style, so they’d planned for the future fight. The group wasn’t well resourced and their musings were theoretical, but at least they were always watching and thinking. When they had that meeting, it became clear to them that the only thing to do was run. End of Part VI. To be continued…

 

Mircea Negres

Port Elizabeth

South Africa