General Matotsi comes from a long line of shepherds: he’s used to being obeyed. Running DEAD is a simple affair for him: you issue orders and await results. This time, however, reality didn’t fit into the scenario he had hoped for. Surely warning off an old lady cannot be this complicated?
He gets off the helicopter. trying to look grim. Unfortunately, his features pucker themselves up in a cartoon-like resemblance of Nemo, which is why Gertruida has to concentrate to keep her face straight. The little general stomps in to Boggel’s Place, comes to a halt, and studies the bemused faces studying him.
“What is this all about?” Attack being the best form of defense, he doesn’t bother introducing himself.
“Ah yes. You must be the general?” Syrup dripping from Gertruida’s words. “Come in, dear man. Sit down. It’s so hot outside, you must be thirsty? What can Boggel get you, sir?”
Matotsi cannot decide whether the woman is stupid or being sarcastic. Nevertheless, he sits down at the counter, refusing the beer Boggel is waving at him, growling “Not while I’m on duty.”
Boggel nods with his understanding barman face, suggests a cooldrink, and excuses himself to fetch it from the storeroom.
“We still have the other chap.” Vetfaan seems to be talking to his glass. “A veritable fountain of information he’s been. I actually like him. Pity he isn’t here. Not feeling well, he said.”
“Wha…?” Matotsi swings around to face Vetfaan. “Where is he?”
“Listen, General, let’s get something straight. This is Boggel’s Place. Maybe you’ve never heard about it, which explains your confusion. The first rule upon entering here, is that you stomp the dust off your boots, take off your hat and say hello. Then, if you don’t know the people, you introduce yourself. Thirdly, we only drink cooldrink when the cactus runs out. Otherwise we’d think you’re a bit of a whimp, see?’
Matotsi can only stare at the big man.
“So, let’s start over, shall we? I’m Vetfaan and you’re…?”
The general gives his surname, but Vetfaan shakes his head. “First name?”
“Alpheus.” By now the general is completely unsettles. Who are these people?
“Okay, Alphie, this is how it’s going to play out. We’re a peaceful bunch over here. We don’t pick fights – especially the ones we cannot win. But we do believe in peace and harmony and we subscribe to equal opportunities. See? We have women in the bar and a disabled barman. We also practice religious freedom, which explains why Oudoom’s church isn’t always full on Sundays.
“But we don’t assault old men, and we don’t threaten mature ladies. That’s what your men have been doing. We don’t take kindly to that. Gertruida – she’s the one over there – knows all about DEAD and she’s written a most entertaining letter about it and it’s recent activities regarding the lady over there, Elsie. Now she’s waiting to see if she must post it to The Mail and Guardian.
“I suggest we all sit down, relax, and share a brandy. Then, as becomes civilised men, let’s have a friendly chat.”
This is the longest speech anybody has ever heard Vetfaan make, and it is so eloquent that he receives muted applause from the Rolbossers.
“Ja. And tell your three men – the bodyguards outside – to take a scenic tour of the town and its surroundings. They make me nervous.” Kleinpiet feels he has to say something, anything, to show everybody he’s brave, too. He puts on his Basset face when he gets no response from the little crowd…
Gertruida says you mustn’t think shepherds are stupid. They live in the veld, get to know the weather very well, and understand risks. Matotsi weighs up the odds as he accepts his cooldrink from Boggel. If he tastes the generous tot of Vodka in the orange juice, he shows no sign of it.
Gertruida is fond of saying alcohol is the greatest social lubricant ever invented. She also says smaller quantities are the source of great wisdom – before the next glass brings out the imbecile in you.
So it’s no surprise to find the bar a rather rowdy place two hours later. Vetfaan discovered that he and Matotsi must have had each other in their sights during the bush war. Strangely, it forms a bond between the two men.
“You were at Cuito Cuanaval? Hey man, that time I was really scared! Eish…I think we all were.”
Vetfaan nods, orders another round, and tells Matotsi he still wakes up at night, hearing the mortars explode.
“I do, too,” Alpheus Matotsi admits, clinking his glass with Vetfaan’s.
“Now tell me, Alphie. What’s this with you being involved with scaring old ladies? You guys fought bravely in Angola…what’s with you now?”
Matotsi remains silent for a long time.
“I’ll tell you,” he says after obviously coming to a decision. “But what I say now, remains here. I have the power – and the influence – to make your lives…very difficult. Understand?”
Oudoom assures the general that they won’t whisper a single word of the conversation. He doesn’t lie – he didn’t say anything about talking or writing.
The general’s account tends to drift off the subject every now and then, but Gertruida manages to piece it together.
The Nationalist government realised it was in trouble in the 70’s. The world was turning against them, their funds were drying up, and civil unrest took it’s toll. They were still firmly in the saddle, though – but they needed a lot of money to keep them there.
It was general van den Bergh who remembered the story of the City of Baroda. It was one of the bits of gossip making the rounds in the internment camp where the pro-British government of the 40’s held the members of the Ossewabrandwag (who sympathised with Germany).
According to the talk in the camp where van den Bergh and John Vorster were locked up, the Third Reich was crumbling under the combined assault of the Allies. However, the die-hard members of the Hitler regime refused to believe the end of the war would be the end of the Nazi dream. No, they planned a Fourth Reich.
“The Germans smuggled out something to South West Africa.” By now Matotsi had to concentrate really hard to keep the narrative together. “Had a lot of sympathy there amongst the people – most of whom still spoke German as a first language. And then they wanted to let their sympathisers in South Africa know about it. So a letter and a box containing evidence of what they’ve done, was sent to a member of the South African parliament – somebody they trusted. But…” he waves a wobbly finger in the air, “the box was on a ship. Ironically, the ship was sunk by a German U-boat.”
Matotsi’s eyes, set high and wide on his pointed face, starts drooping. Boggel immediately serves a mug of strong, black coffee.
“Van den Bergh guessed this had to do with a massive fortune. Gold. He knew the Nazi’s already established a bank in Monaco in 1943 where they tried to hide their treasures. Later, in an investigation by the Americans into the way Germany tried to secrete away money for later use, they confirmed that a shipment of gold was smuggled to South West Africa.”
“Operation Safehaven,” Gertruida whispers. “The West stealing the assets the Germans stole…”
General Matotsi almost loses his balance as he spins around to face Gertruida.
“You know about this?”
Boggel laughs. “She knows everything, Alphie. Everything. Get used to it.”
“Oh.” Matotsi sipped the scalding coffee. “Well, that was what Boss was looking for back in the 70’s. The Minister of Finances sent an expedition. They died in the desert. That was the end of it, until this woman started poking around.” His one eye focussed on Elsie. “And we couldn’t have that. No sir. Not at all.”
“Because we’re looking for it, too…”