Your Life - Love It - Live

4) RABBIT HOLE...

Free will carried many a soul to hell, but never a soul to heaven…

TRANSCENDENCE

T.G

44 min read

Rabbit Hole...

Free will carried many a soul to hell, but never a soul to heaven…

‘Remember upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all. I can control my destiny, but not my fate. Destiny means there are opportunities to turn left or right, but fate is a one-way street. I believe we all have the choice as to whether we fulfil our destiny, but our fate is sealed’…

Hitch-hiking Home – If only I had known... Would have turned & run & never looked back. But then you wouldn’t be reading this. Our lives are determined by the choices we make. Choose wisely! The way fate rolls – sometimes so bizarre

While at university Tristan had taken up paragliding as a hobby. The December (summer) holiday of 1995 Tristan went with a friend from university Kerneels to Namibia. It was a great holiday. Kerneels was a great guy. An older student. Not childish like the others. Permanent defence force once & part of 32 battalion on the border. Remnant of PW Botha’s ego war...

Kerneels’s parents lived in Swakopmund and the West Coast of Africa is laid back like living on a different timeline. The mist often lifting around mid morning has a calming effect on the soul. No one seems in a rush as so many are content with a later start to their day. Being an old German colony means an abundance of quality beer. Being German also meant beer was a dietary necessity to Kerneels’s family. Tafel Lager being the local brew of Swakopmund made it 1st & favourite choice. A morning of fishing or ‘kreef diving’ (crayfish) which Tristan developed an allergy to, but Kerneels’s family enjoyed. And an afternoon of constant sea breeze meant that gliding on the dunes was a great way of improving one’s paragliding skills. Great holiday with great people. Something Tristan needed! But the come home messages and pleas for help from Brent and then also Tristan’s mom started coming thick & fast. The quagmire of shit on the farm both financial and operational was indescribable it was so bad.

A couple of months before Brent had resigned from the SADF (South Africa Defence force) & lined up a diving job on the West Coast. He had gone back to the farm to fetch his Land rover and gotten stuck helping out plant an onion crop. Now he was desperate for Tristan to come help with the harvesting & marketing. (To be the ‘boy’ a term I’ll refer to again later – a term over the years I have come to detest yet commonly used by many in colloquial language as normal. Yet only ‘normal’ in a fundamentally racist society? By people blind to their own racist and entitled ‘superiority’? When you study society critically, one picks up nuance that once noticed cannot be unnoticed. Happy to debate with differing views as I’m sure there will be.

Wading into a world of shit I needed to get out of Bloemfontein. Spent 7 years there between high school and University and the town for me was becoming septic. I saw going home a reprieve. Little did I know it would be like jumping from the pan into the fire. A friend had recently been shot during an altercation at one of the hotels in the city. Another friend and his unsavoury mate had also been arrested for drug possession and navigating their own self-made world of shit I fortuitously wasn’t dragged into. The ‘code’ at university was starting to get to me. Definitely a break was needed.

***

16 August 1996

It was a Karoo August Friday. Dusty wind howling. Cold winter mornings waking up to dry foul days. Tristan had done some stock work that morning & Brent was keeping staff busy moving ground with a tractor & trailer fixing furrows and getting ready for the next onion crop. The foul day had been aggravated into an even more foul day when Dad arrived. He was in a bad way financially – and emotionally. We had some fencers working and after walking down to see what they were doing, one (named Gerook – he who smokes a lot... & not just tobacco) but still a good soul who had grown up with dad on the farm commented that dad was not acting normally today “die ou seer is nie lekker vandag”. (The old boss/sir is not good today). We were weary when dad came out to the farm because it was usually unannounced & he was always trying to remove (steal) whatever he could. His financial situation was dire.

Earlier that year just prior to the manager at the local Standard bank branch giving instruction to a lawyer to begin foreclosing, one of the first things Tristan and his mother did following Rogers advice was take 5 years of his father’s bank statements to be independently audited.

This brought to light the overcharging of bank interest for years and the compounding on those over the years of already high interest rates was huge.

My father was aware of the audit but was so against it he became angry and had dismissed it. The bank manager had advised him against it ☺

That whole year Brent & Tristan had been in negotiations to buy the farm from their father who had repeatedly chopped & changed his mind. Tristan had staved off the local manager foreclosing by negotiating with the regional office in Port Elizabeth. When we couldn’t reach agreement with our father Tristan instructed the bank after consultation with our lawyer Louis Oosthuisen, to continue foreclosure on his father. This forced Ted to hand over debt obligations to Brent and Tristan. Even though there was more debt owing than the farm was worth, Brent and Tristan had agreed to give their father a retirement income from the farm starting in 9 years' time when he reached age 63. This was only possible because ultimately the people at the regional head office were far more understanding and financially literate than the idiot in the local branch. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to realise it was more beneficial for the bank to reach a settlement with Brent and Tristan. They would gain more from such a settlement both up front and ongoing than any insolvency sale. As Tristan thinks back, banks have a bad reputation as being big corporate entities that ‘squeeze the little guy’ but reality was the Gibbons family were in financial shit because of Ted’s stupidity (financial illiteracy). The regional head office was ultimately very accommodating. Maybe the carrot & stick negotiating tactic worked whereby we offered a lump sum up front. Funded by the onion crop just harvested. With the balance being paid after 15 months (time taken for the following crop to be harvested & sold). Because of the murder trial court case we’ll come to later we stretched this to 18 months before the Bank started chomping at the bit again.

The settlement agreement was basically an offer of an up front payment if the bank wrote off a large chunk of the debt (upfront payment being the carrot) meaning the bank wouldn’t need to go through a forced insolvency process to recoup money. With a threat of court action (the stick) because of the overcharging of interest - which would freeze the accounts for at least two years with no interest accruing and a chance of losing a lot of reputation and more money.

Yeah No, from their perspective a settlement agreement made sense. A number of farmers had committed suicide because of financial pressure and the banks were getting a bad reputation of having real blood on their hands. Tristan still speculates as to how many of those farmers that committed suicide were overcharged bank interest similarly to his father and would they still be alive if such unethical practice not taken place?

Anyway, what made the settlement so generous was that during those negotiations Tristan proposed that the balance would need to be interest free for it to work which the bank accepted. Now people in today’s lower interest environment especially those with a party on debt with no concern for consequences tomorrow mindset may not appreciate this, but in a country with at the time of 18 – 20% interest, this was like free money.

And more importantly financial breathing room for 15 months – stretched to 18 months. That we were now borrowing money from the Land Bank to fund the next crop and livestock was a separate issue (borrowing from Peter to pay Paul) but we stayed farming – still from hand to mouth but all the time allowing the stock numbers to grow. Even though we played the carrot and stick negotiating game with the bank, I still commend them (Standard Bank) for accepting our seemingly hopeless situation and allowing us to continue farming. The local Ds were of course taking bets on our chances of survival. This is a mindset I have come to detest. The thrill & enjoyment (Groot lekkerkry) some people get at other people’s hardship and suffering. It is a mental sickness that many people in South Africa suffer from, black and white – and it is disgusting. It is this mindset which has driven me to keep writing. A demonical mindset that was no longer out there, but infesting my own family.

Back to 16 August 1996

Tristan and Brent had thus bought the farm from the banks. Ted had a vested interest in them succeeding for his retirement, but he needed to survive 9 more years. He supposedly had a job and was ‘doing well’ selling insurance. Tristan knew that the ‘doing well’ was a lie. He had been running up credit card debts at multiple banks and various loan shark’s and they would all be putting the squeeze on soon. I do not feel guilty about forcing the squeeze on him and taking charge of the farm debt stuff up. None of us told him about the settlement we/I had negotiated with the bank. It was a mountain of debt Brent and I had to chew on with very little means. His recent personal and unnecessary debts run up that year were his problem.

So that day Ted obviously found no sympathy with Antoinette. Brent had stopped speaking to his father. Brent had physically thrown Ted off the farm earlier that year. Tristan didn’t stop him. I was newly arrived and trying to get my head around the dynamics and how/if we could survive.

Tristan was sick of the family shit and had come home to try fix it. He felt he had made progress by dealing directly with the bank. There was a pathway to recovery, but it would require a long hard slog of remaining on an onion treadmill until the stock numbers were sufficient enough. (Brent and I were on that treadmill for more than eight years and any crop failure would mean insolvency) we were on a financial knife edge. Fixing finances is the easy part. Attitudes, perceptions & undercurrent egos – yeah no, not possible.

Lunch was very tense with no one saying very much. After lunch Tristan wanted to check stock waters and put out energy licks for the sheep before the weekend. August is a dry time and during winter the stock need a little supplement boost. It helps to utilise the roughage in the veld and delays the expense and need for supplementary feeding. Anyway, Ted asked to come. OK, jump in...

Ted started with a lack of appreciation angle... “you kids don’t appreciate... bla bla bla bullshit”.

Tristan had had enough of that shit being guilt tripped his whole childhood and teenage years and was sick of it. Cut him off curtly. Here he was, just negotiated a deal with the banks at the ripe old age of 21 years to take over the debts of more than the farm value and the only reprieve was a chunk written off for a lump sum just paid (meaning they were currently broke)and begging the Land Bank for bridging finance to get the next crop in and the balance having a halt on interest for 15 months... so the family could keep the roof over their heads and remain serfs on their own farm – because Brent wanted to farm. Ted didn’t know that and Tristan wasn’t feeling conversational that horrid windy day. Tristan was wondering if Brent did actually appreciate his work?? He seemed to. The bullying Brent of their childhood wasn’t obviously there? Brent had good friends and Tristan often assesses people by the company they keep.

They hadn’t had much contact with each other since junior school and Tristan wanted a good relationship with his brother. Brent seemed to want such a relationship with his brother to?

There was of course one other trait of Brent that Tristan had come to admire. That was he never once had seen Brent get jealous. Not of him, which was quite a problem in childhood or anyone else either. Maybe people do change?? Because Brent and Tristan had not been to Agricultural training college, they had a lot to learn. Growing up on a farm is one thing. Scaling things up to meet the debt challenge and not messing up is something else. There wasn’t internet like today’s world of fast information. If they messed up, they would be sold up, no second chances. Every crop HAS to be a success. So, you HAVE to make it work.

To fast track learning they would go on fact finding missions to well established farmers who had years of experience and soak up as much knowledge, information and tips as they could. Many of these farmers were wealthy, all were wealthier than Brent and Tristan but not once did I see Brent ever get jealous. On the contrary the bigger the boerdery (farming business) the keener and more eager Brent was to get busy doing... it was always wow, gee, we can do it to!

Very inspirational. And it’s a natural thing that if people aren’t jealous of your success and even inspired by it, they don’t mind helping you where they can. It was this can-do attitude and help which we (or at least Tristan) really appreciated. It was so different to many settings where jealousies of people tearing each other apart means no one meets their true potential... One of Tristan’s big frustrations with the kids at Brebner school in Bloemfontein where he worked as a student master the year before.

Tristan was thinking about the mountain of work ahead and how tricky it would be and there’s no way Brent would pull it off. Brent had done no stock work, didn’t have a clue about looking after livestock and showed no interest in learning. The onion crop was only a success because Tristan had taken charge of the spray program and watering. Brent had even cocked up the fertilizer requirements.

I was going to help out with one semester, then go back to university. Now it’s a year off but always just this crop... and these sheep... Tristan was debating in his head if changing his life plans for Brent was worth it? He did love his brother because he saw a man who was inspired by other people’s success, not jealous of it. Unfortunately, in this world that is a rare characteristic. No, for such a person I will do what I can. But he’s going to have to step up more, I’m carrying too much...

Then Ted starts up about “Klein Vraggies” (little loads) again... Tristan hit the roof and told him to shut up!

Klein Vraggies was an idea Ted had approached Tristan a few months back about transferring the truck into his name and they both go live with his girlfriend Mariette du Toit in Bloemfontein and Tristan drives the truck while he ‘organizes the loads’??? Tristan graciously declined – Yeah no, fuck off I’m not going to be your truck driver & I don’t approve of your girlfriend...

One of the camps water troughs had a blocked pipe. Tank had water but for some reason the trough was empty. Maybe an air lock or a stuck frog? Who knows I’ll sort it out Monday... Fortunately, there were still pools of water in places in the river. Unfortunately, Ormond Ferraris had a number of years previously bought Rooispruit, a neighbouring farm and was pumping water for a very expensive Lucerne land. The added pumping had been slowly dropping the water table which meant the river pools of water were getting less & less and Tristan hadn’t been to that part of the farm for a while so got out the bakkie (ute) and took a little walk down the river to see if there was actually reliable stock water there. Ted got out and walked with. Started on about selling sheep (which we had bought with land bank money) to pay off some or other debt - settle a credit card debt at some exorbitant interest rate? Tristan knew he had a few going. Or a loan shark? Tristan informed him that no sheep would be sold...

I’m actually in a bit of a hurry so I’m just going to walk ahead... Ted started walking back to the bakkie. I started walking back & was catching up. Dad reached the truck, milled about a bit but didn’t get in. He did open the door but then closed it again. I wasn’t taking much notice. The wind was still blowing quite hard though not as hard as earlier, so I was keeping my head down.

When walking through the veld I’m always taking note of grazing conditions and what signs of other animals are there. E.g., If you see jackal spoor (tracks) you know there’s jackal. Same with other animals. What spoor? What droppings? Is that baboon? How old? Rough mental calculations of how long I’ll be able to keep this number of sheep in this camp before moving or feeding? With experience you get a map in your head of when & where each flock or group of sheep go. Obviously, you keep a backup with written records, but your mental map is dynamic, always looking ahead. If I apply pour on or even dip (I often just used backpacks to apply dip to sheep and cattle) how long before I can put them back up into the mountain camps which we couldn’t really use in winter because of paralysis tick...

All this thought going on in my head & oh look dads walking back towards me. Now he’s stopped & turning back towards the bakkie.

BANG!

Dads shot himself...

I guess I was about 10 maybe 12 meters away from him and he was maybe 10 or so meters from the bakkie.

I run forward, Dad? You stupid fuck!

He’s lying limp on the ground...

Now anyone who knew my father would know how thick set and heavy he was. Even when he ran the Comrades marathon (in his prime) he weighed about 120kg’s. Maybe age and a bit of humping his Mariette du Toit in Bloemfontein had brought it down to say 110 – 115kg but he was a heavy guy and I’m trying to lift him onto the back of a 4x4 Toyota Hilux bakkie. The police later criticised me for not putting him in front. Well for me when I’m thinking speed to help is of the essence that is not only impractical, but physically impossible.

Now in the movies they show death as man dies & falls down. Even a gory death, person dies & falls down & usually remains still? Reality is far from it. There’s often a lot of twitching & thrashing about. It’s not called death throws for nothing. It’s involuntary muscle movements. Spasms, large and small thrashings about. This happened for what seemed a few minutes while I’m driving.

Once I saw that is when I realised dad was dead. But still more thrashing about and nothing I can do. It still haunts me at times.

Brent had come to the house when he saw the dust of my returning. You can often tell the speed a vehicle is doing by the dust cloud it leaves – ground & gravel roads.

I told mom what had happened & she said she didn’t want to look. I said I was going to take him to town and Brent said he’d come with.

On the way in while I was driving Brent leaned across and gave me a hug. It was special, he was my brother – and I loved him.

We are Great When we Cooperate:

1996 pre-16 August

The few months from the beginning of that year when I arrived from Hitch-hiking back from Namibia to that fateful day were like a lifetime of trauma and shit condensed. In order for a business to work and grow it needs momentum and building such momentum takes energy, drive and dedication.

The Ooms (Afrikaans word for uncles but in this setting refers to the lazy bitter old farts) of the district didn’t like ‘youngsters’ upsetting their status quo. Especially some ‘Souties’. There weren’t many other young people back on the farms yet. A thing that changed over the next few years as the ANC government anti white labour policies meant less opportunities for white people in cities sent young people overseas and some back to their family farms. You soon distinguish between who’s supportive and enjoys seeing you succeed and who isn’t. And the one’s betting on your failure. First time I walked into the club after dropping staff was greeted with a ‘nou wie is die okie’? from some little elderly Dutchman squeaking in a high pitch voice. Looking down on him from at least a head higher with a response of ‘wie die fok is jou okie’? He left promptly; the other horrors shocked & I enjoyed my drinkie drink in peace.

About a week later observe a funny looking little man driving around on our farm. He stops & asks Brent if he’s Ted Gibbons. I observe Brent inform him no to which he waves his arm out the window of his vehicle, swings it in a circular motion a few times and releases a piece of paper which floats to the ground and then he proceeds to speed off in a cloud of dust. My mother saw the guy from a distance, and I ask her who this guy was? Oh, that’s so & so she did mention his name, but I can’t remember, he was the sheriff of the court. I look down at the piece of paper lying on the ground and it looked like a summons, but I deliberately didn’t pick it up. Wasn’t for me, I’m not touching it. Brent turned his nose up in similar disdain. It lay there for days until some rain caused it to start disintegrating. A process I took interest in observing because it lay between the house and sheep kraals and walked past fairly frequently.

The telephone rings, Brent answers and I hear him saying ‘well you can come out, but you’ll be leaving in a box. So, I don’t think it’s a very good idea. Bad for your health’. I ask who that was? And what did he want? Brent informed me it was one of the local lawyers who wanted to come out & draw up a list for a farm sale. He had been instructed... Oh. We couldn’t concern ourselves as were busy harvesting onions. I was getting my head around the livestock management and still waiting for the auditors to get back with the results of interest calculations. According to my quick calculations the bank was way out of line but we needed confirmation. I knew we weren’t going anywhere until both the crop was harvested and sold and those results were confirmed.

My father had disappeared. Cell phones were not a thing yet. He no longer lived on the farm and none of us had any interest in trying to find him either.

Working relentlessly was easy, we were a team. At least that’s what I believed – why all this shit was just the curtain raiser of the real ugliness still to come...

Results back – the bank is taking a fat chance the fucking crooks!

We begin negotiations with the bank at a higher level. I had lost interest in the local manager who Brent had recently informed ‘that money my father apparently owes you, sorry but you’re not going to be seeing much of it’. We need to sort this issue of dodgy interest overcharging out first. Watching him choke was amusing. ‘And by the way what we actually need is more money so we can keep paying wages to get this crop harvested’. To which he started choking a second time even more. As we are leaving his office Brent turns to the guy and says “by the way, I don’t like you”. And I’m thinking that’s not exactly how to make friends and influence people.

A few weeks later I drop our staff in town & go for a little drinkie drink at the club and get accosted by Hubert Vorster who informs me in a drunken state that “if you push your father over the edge, I’m going to be coming out to your farm with a lynching mob”. My reply was “you had better be in the front of that mob because I’ll be shooting you first”. Brent overhead the threats and came over to echo my response in an even more emphatic way. Now I had lost all respect for the older generation. Here was a guy who styled as a friend of my fathers who my father had obviously confided in and as I had gone to school with his son, a nice enough guy even though we’d had differing opinion from time to time we had shared rides to school on numerous occasions. Even though we’ve had little contact since school I still regard him a friend. I had been raised to respect older people and up to that point though diminishing still did. With all the shit I was dealing with for some old prick to start on this angle – didn’t elicit a good response. (old to me but maybe early 50’s) Old for a 21 year old.

The week after some tosser telling me he’s going to arrive on our farm with a lynching mob which I’m still irate about, from the sheep kraals I note a vehicle turn into the homestead. It was an unfamiliar vehicle travelling at an odd speed. Something’s not right, I’d better go investigate? I see Brent in heated debate with someone who is very confrontational. Knowing my brother don’t think it’s long before it gets physical. Walking up I note it’s some of the tribe with same mentality I’d gotten a gut full of at Free State University. Hell, these specimens are large. In what laboratory are these growths being produced? I hear words ‘julle Souties moet pak’... and ‘fokkof’... ‘ons kom Maandag terrug en...’ by this point I had stopped listening. Maybe adrenalin but definitely lack of interest. The disdain, no more than that, hatred of these people speaking code threatening & derogatory at my home was like a red rag. People talk of fight or flight response? There’ll be no flight response here. Just anger. A twelve-year-old girl would have had a better result of delivering whatever message these growths had been sent to – execute? My anger at seeing these specimens from this tribe I had come over the years but most recently to detest on our farm with this bullying attitude... I walked straight past everyone ignoring events & insults to the gun safe. In those days many farmers were still part of commandos affiliated with the military and my fathers R1 military issued assault rifle was in the gun safe. I had used it a number of times and familiar with its workings. Being 7.62 calibre and taking a clip of 20 rounds was presumably adequate for dealing with these bullies. Ridgewater house is large and walking back down the passage was numb with anger and knowledge that today I’m going to shoot some Dutchmen. Third Anglo Boer War was about to start and these fucking cocksuckers were not going to see tomorrow’s sunrise. I’m going to kill these fuckers right now were the thoughts going through my mind as I walked out that door. I put two rounds at the fucks feet who had been doing the talking. At that point I noted a less imposing Dutchman further back with spectacles who had a gun noticeably concealed. I presumed it a 9mm as those were most common for that kind of concealed carry. Tunnel vision meant I hadn’t even noticed the second vehicle pulled up on the other side of the courtyard. The courtyard of house and outbuildings magnified the sound. They left promptly and didn’t come back 'Maandag. Then you’re busy with the weeks work and it becomes just another incident. Desperate measures for desperate times. Behaviour slowly being normalised? Maybe for Brent but not me. It did occur to me that it may have been another financial institution as my father had recently run up debts all over the place. Nevertheless, we still informed the local Standard Bank of our dealing with their head office and we wouldn’t be dealing with them again. A few days later I remember looking down at my hands shaking. Not just little tremors either. Really shaking. Sweating, really tight chest, battling to breathe. Shock. That I very nearly started shooting at the mans head instead of near his feet. How close and how much more shit I’d be dealing with if I had shot them? My finger was already squeezing the trigger. Fortunately, that trigger wasn’t as responsive as one of the hunting rifles I was more familiar with. Shocked by my own response. The layers of trauma were accumulating – for someone hating conflict and confrontation. That was early 1996. Over the next few months, I suffered some more panic attacks. Some worse, some not as bad. The bad ones gave me a tummy ache. You try clenching your fists in your pockets to keep a pose & normal appearance, but you can’t. Too weak. Whole body shivering & shaking to near collapse. They don’t make cartoon characters in such state sweating with knees knocking without reason. At night I’d feel it coming and get out of bed & go for a walk through the veld usually the camps with lambing ewes. I’d had one such attack in high school then nothing. The frequency of these weren’t often. Every few weeks maybe. Random though, coming without much warning. It’s weird because you actually fear the attack more. It’s so tiring, leaving you completely drained. The Triggers weren’t so much the finances or the hostile encounters but more the fear of Brent. And to a lesser extent my mother. And their strange relationship. I’d had a taste of his bullying in childhood and then fortunately circumstances separated us. I was now making life changing decisions for him and the family and if that monster re-emerged my worst nightmares would eventuate and all this work would be in vain. Those monsters, my mother had a proud, vile streak in her to.

Those monsters did sadly re-emerge. In the most evil and vile way.

I started running again, which helped. It’s not depression, that’s something else. The first time I had an episode of real depression, not just the feeling downs was the year before. A girl from a farming family near Colesberg had asked me to accompany her to their school formal. I had accepted and was looking forward to it. I was asked to go home that weekend because my father was away. It was the first time I had seen my mother crying which had a profound effect. The banks were putting serious pressure on my parents and when I looked at the numbers my heart fell in my shoes. I had never seen my mother in such a bad state. My father was drinking heavily and never home. Every time he went home his health would take a turn for the worse. I had a question mark about my mother but still cared deeply about my parents. I didn’t want to be bad company to anyone and needed to deal with this new level of what I later realised was depression alone. I phone her and let her know I couldn’t make it which only made me feel worse. It’s a special event and I didn’t want to let her down. Going in that state and having to be around people suddenly seemed overwhelmingly daunting. In hindsight I realise it may have been a good cure but at the time you just feel like crawling into a hole curling up and dying.

There seems to be a mental health problem at least in the Western world? The explosion of drug use both legal and illegal as well as covid lockdowns and a multitude of other societal pressures have society heading in the wrong direction? Mental health experts prescribing a record amount of anti depression medication. I wonder to myself sometimes how much drug abuse is people attempting to cope with childhood trauma? Not claiming to be an expert but there are some things medications can’t fix. Maybe help for a while but fixing? Know there’ll be people who scoff but later in this book will outline some strategies that helped, and still help yours truly. Re the title. This background so you know it’s not theory. Lived experience...

***

Rumor Factory & even more shit!

1996 post 16 August

In a small town the rumours were doing the rounds. I had been alone with my father. Just the two of us. Yet every Oom & Tanny (uncle & aunty) knew something. Or knew someone who knew something. It’s murder? It was murder? It must be murder! ‘Moord’ here, ‘moord’ there, ‘moord’ everywhere. Laughing joking Teddy would never do such a thing? Teddy’s grieving sisters (my aunts especially Mad Helen and Ruthless Ruth) were openly hostile and accusatory. I noted them comforting the girlfriend at the grave side and all very hostile. The girlfriend grieving profusely? Who I soon after saw laughing and joking around the shops in town and proceeded to steal Teddy’s computer from his office in town. My stress and trauma levels were rising even further. The rumour mongers were having a field day. Every trigger happy ‘hunter’ was now a ballistics expert. Facebook wasn’t a thing yet, but just like the experts in the comments section on Facebook today know everything, yeah, everyone from some aunty that overheard a conversation to Oom Kogg Venter (which to his credit did decline getting involved but didn’t stop Kay Donian Die Winter Miskiet quoting) was such an ‘expert’.

Even after cutting the testimonies of many people out, the state still fielded 43 state witnesses and even more ‘experts’ called upon at trial. The police informed me ‘they were going to do this one properly’. This one what I was thinking?

About a year or so earlier the girlfriend of someone who had been doing some truck driving work for my father had died unnaturally. Her family thought it murder but the police cocked the investigation so badly that no charges could be levelled at anyone. I knew the local police were hurting from being reprimanded over it.

My fathers brother in-law Kay Donian basically camped at the police station. Kay Donian aka ‘die Winter Miskiet’ (the winter mosquito) being so mean & tight he’d suck the last drops of blood out of a victim – even in winter... Was the first state witness to take the stand. If there was even the smell of money or thought thereof there was Die Winter Miskiet. Smug, greedy, gloating and lying. Yes, a real piece of shit. One of the reasons the prosecuting advocate started on the back foot when my turn for cross examination was because he was questioning bullshit straight out of Kay Donians mouth. Judges don’t like bullshit. Strange how that work? Blinded by the zest for blood they make themselves look silly.

I have no issue with my cousins. Nice enough people. Times of trouble test who your real friends are though and when you note your cousin (Daughter of Die Winter Miskiet) fog horning to all ears around the Hofmeyr district that there’s ‘foul play’ and ‘the police suspect murder’... You begin questioning what motivates people? Family is supposed to work together, right? When I was listening to accounts of all this bullshit was thinking with family like mine who needs enemies? Now the thing is I don’t hate or even dislike these people. Lynette’s husband David is a really nice guy. The ‘Ooms and tanny’s’ like Christo ‘Stadtril’ Stadler who had been running cattle on our farm were motivated by who knows what? Here’s a guy who had spent countless hours riding around the farm with me in the bakkie and couldn’t be nicer to your face yet going around the district spreading horrid insinuations that I’m a murderer. What would any of these people benefit from destroying my life & me going to prison for who knows how long? What would they gain except ‘n lekkerkry’ at my expense? I’m going to return to ‘the devil made me do it’ statement mentioned by the ex SA cricket captain a number of times because Satan does use people especially people close to us without them knowing, without us knowing. It’s something we all need to guard against. I could feel the presence of evil acting out through members of the community and prayed for spiritual protection. This isn’t religious nut stuff. Brent was openly hostile to anything church or religious and even he commented on it.

Or is it that humanity is just wicked? I don’t know. Traumatic events highlight the best and worst in people. So many people gave us such love and support. Yet so many others were obviously overjoyed at the prospects of our, but particularly my hardship and suffering. What drives people to have such differing wishes? Yeah, there sure are two wolves in all of us. Even Kay Donian had his friends who were great people. His kids and these people must have seen good in him? But he was the main driving force trying to destroy my life. Even the police got caught up believing the whirlwind of bullshit so much, they lied to the magistrate. Years after this shit was over the odd policeman who I hold absolutely no grudges against would say to me “I was just doing my job”. That’s what they all said at different times. People like to believe their own made-up thought bubbles. I’d say nothing but think to myself yes, but lying to the magistrate during an inquest is not 'just' doing your job.

You smile and hold no grudges. Life’s too short and these are good people doing – well I think police serve a vital role in society. Good people sometimes bouncing around the wrong echo chamber...?

***

Around this time there had been a chick called Amor riding cock all over Port Elizabeth. Her husband Merwe Swart was gunned down in the driveway of their Walmer home in a hit style murder the same weekend my father shot himself. After a salacious trail with detailed descriptions of sex, lies, premature ejaculations and jealousy – all the shit newspapers love, her boyfriend Fanie de Lange was convicted of culpable homicide and sent to prison. Only mentioning this because it kept “murder and robbery who aren’t here for nothing hey” (will get to soon enough) busy and the local police fumbling some. It also was a welcome distraction from the wild rumours running amok around the district.

It made sense years later when I questioned the magistrate on these issues after the high court trial had ended. Elbe Botha was Middelburg magistrate at the time and as fair as anyone can be. No nonsense in court and with a critical mind able to see through layers of bullshit made her perfect for the job. I asked her wasn’t there supposed to be an inquest or something to which she replied that yes there indeed had been but the police had lied to her, which she didn’t know at the time and with all the rumours going around thought it best to send the matter to trial to clear the air. When I was formally charged, she put my bail at R100 (amount I had in my wallet) knowing our financial situation was dire. When there’s so much ugliness directed at you, those small gestures of kindness are never forgotten. Over more than a year of reporting to her court every Monday morning can say I had nothing but respect for her and the prosecutor Charl Strydom.

Years later Brent had a charge of assault laid against him by a Mr Bruwer whom he had beaten up in a bar fight. Over the year or so of observing courtroom proceedings I gained an insight into how the prosecutor and Magistrate thought and worked and what made them tick. As the prosecutor if you have a charge levelled against you then he is the person acting against you so it’s counter intuitive speaking with them directly. However, they also don’t like wasting courtroom time on bullshit. Before proceedings which I had become all too familiar with I used the opportunity to point out that Buwer was at fault. Fortunately, they were aware he had recently been a habitual troublemaker doing things like hooning around town and firing randomly out the window of his car presumably to intimidate people? With the incident against my brother, he had indeed been the aggressor of which there were a number of witnesses. They dismissed the case. There had apparently been other incidents of trouble that I wasn’t aware of. Can’t think of his first name but he actually quietened down after that and I remember having pleasant conversation with him a few months after. Frank Fitzgerald gave him some guidance in setting up a smash repair shop and had a calming effect on him. He confided to me that was the hardest he had ever been hit. I knew only too well as had been hit by Brent so many times throughout my life. Brent still had a lucky let off. No matter how hard a man thinks he can punch, the courtroom punches harder.

A couple of years later Charl Strydom died in an accident while photographing trains at Rosmead. He slipped and was electrocuted by a high voltage power line. The world lost a good man that day.

A few weeks later when Port Elizabeth Murder & Robbery “who aren’t here for nothing hey” had finished sniffing around Amor’s... Merwe Swart and Fanie de Lange they graced Middelburg.

Let’s roll back quickly to the day my father died. I had used an old farm bakkie to take my father to town. Brent came with. All we had yet the police criticized us. He was noticeably distraught. I was numb. The accumulation of financial stress and now this shit. The visions of my father thrashing about in spasms and death throws will never leave me but that day were like a recorder playing on continuous loop over & over through my mind. It was noticeable the police were forming opinions. The Middelburg station Superintendent was there asking questions.

Brent & I were separated. The Superintendent Eben Olivier had me in the front seat next to him and stopped by the police station to pick up Billie Lombard who was the detective put onto this case. Billie Lombard crawled out the Bar they had in the station & sat behind me. I could smell the booze on him as he was breathing down my neck. They took me out to the farm along with a tribe of what seemed now like about 20 other police. I noted that Billie Lombard and I were going to have a communication problem. Suddenly there’s five or six people barking questions at me at the same time & I decide not to repeat myself anymore. I’m tired now as the whole day has been stressful. These people are all mentally bouncing around in the same echo chamber and collectively not believing anything I say. A Van de Walt that has a small farm not far away and is affiliated with the police is taking photographs. I note the scorn and begin wondering to myself how many of these people associate with the local Broederbond who had a stated mission to ‘werk die Engelse uit’? Eben Olivier sees me withdrawing and says I only need speak with him and Billie Lombard. I agreed. Yes, there’s a communication problem and Billie Lombard is incoherent. Must be the booze? Not exactly inspector Columbo at his best. But trying. I’m attempting to recall our movements and our footsteps that were clear when we arrived were no longer visible because of the multitude of police milling around walking all over the ‘crime scene’. Fucknuckle Van der Walt’s taking photos of... what’s the point now I’m thinking to myself? Tracks everywhere. It’s getting late so the cops call it a day. Columbo & team are out first thing in the morning. There’s a blood spoor on some rocks in the dry river bed? You must have shot him there? I explain that there’s been a poaching problem and probably from that. Was thinking to myself it’s more than likely one or a few of your mates in the police who were constantly poaching. And mostly using small calibre firearms so leaving a lot of animals wounded which would be found dead later. It was a constant irritation. Disgusting poaching with hand guns and other small calibre firearms.

Obviously they tested it and later confirmed to be animal blood. Bloody poachers.

Billie Lombard hands over a bag containing my fathers bloodied hat & shirt to my mother. He wanted to see her reaction. She discarded them in the trash drum where trash was burnt & disposed.

Rumours on steroids have grown wings and Die Winter Miskiet is camped at the police station putting pressure on the police. The bloodhound couldn’t help himself.

About six weeks later Murder & Robbery from Port Elizabeth “who aren’t here for nothing hey” arrive in Middelburg and the police come collect our staff for questioning. It was Thursday.

When our staff were brought back, they were noticeably distraught. I asked what went down and was shocked and furious at the same time. They had been separated, slapped around, threatened and called lying Kaffirs. One was quoting the police “jy lieg jou Kaffir” with the accompanying foot stomp mimicking the policeman’s actions. Tears were visible and all were distressed. I was thinking this mentality ran the country for all those years and no matter how much tax payer money was siphoned off (usually via Pretoria) in the name of black development, it means nothing when filtered through an attitude like this.

After I was charged and we received the docket the police action made more sense. They were at first trying to pin the ‘murder’ on Brent. Or at the very least associate him with it as well. A person who styled as a friend of my father a Roy Honeyborne from Port Elizabeth (an insurance salesmen who had bought up all my fathers lapsed insurance policies he had sold my father – unknown to totally stressed us at the time. Something friends do to each other??) Had made a sworn statement to the police that my father feared for his life because “Brent had come back from the military a killing machine”. After reading this rather far fetched statement I joked with Brent that it’s like he’s just walking down the street hammer milling people up like exercise before breakfast “vrang! You’ve just ‘vreeted’ (slang Afrikaans word for eaten) another one” ...

But Brent was working with our staff. I’m quite sure if he had left them for any reason even to drink water or go have a wee or fetch tools or something he would have been charged as well. Even though my father and I were some 4km from the homestead.

The next day Friday the police asked Brent and I to come into the station and “make statements”. Being weary of how our staff were treated the day before we still went. We were separated and given the expected nice guy, nasty guy interrogation. These Murder & Robbery police “who aren’t here for nothing hey” were dismissive of and insulting everything I said. So, I just kept quiet. My uncle Michael Arnold had suggested a couple of weeks earlier that because there may be a communication problem that I should write events down before making a statement to police so as to help alleviate confusion. Billie Lombard, Eben Olivier and one other from the local police kept coming in and standing over me in a threatening manner huffing and puffing while the smaller darker runt from Murder & Robbery who’s “you guess the words ...” was threatening me with among other things “taking me for a drive” pronounced ‘draav’ in a thick accent. After being informed a number of times that “you’re not lekker in die kop” (not nice in the head) “think we need to take you for a draav” x stuck record repeat and “hierdie saak gaan hof toe” (this case will go to court) and suicide is “impossible” and “jy lieg” (you lie) “just tell me now what happened – I’m your friend”... I asked whether I’m detained or under arrest and didn’t get a reply so stood up and walked out. I paused at the door and thought to myself when this is all over there’ll be a black Superintendent in charge of this station. We’ll all be dancing to a different tune including these Ds. My mother verbalized the same sentiment to these two goons when they went out to the farm the following day. This when Brent overhead one saying to the other “Ag, lyk vir my dis (slang for dit is) maar net n familie saak die” (just a family matter) after which they had nothing more to do with the case. The ANC had been in Government for two years. Change was happening and inevitable especially in any civil service setting. Up to that point AfrikanerDom still reigned Supreme in the Middelburg police. I had walked past the Superintendent Eben Olivier and detective Billie Lombard and some other goons outside the door and as I was turning down the steps a way down the corridor I heard the words “waar gat (scum Afrikaans pronunciation of gaan) hy? Gaan roep daai (again the correct wording would be daardie. But this is gutter level Afrikaans being spoken by someone in a position of authority) fokken Soutie terrug”. I attributed the words at the time to Eben Olivier because he was the Superintendent and the top of the pecking order at the time. But thinking back it could have come from one of the other foul mouths. No matter, I knew karma would come back to bite that fucker as I walked down the stairs and out onto the street. I remember thinking ‘thank God we still have an independent court system’. At that time he was second only to God himself in his world of Afrikanerdom importance and worshipped by all in his station. At that time I was just some snotkop Soutie to him. (Die Engelse vyand?).

Shortly after the trail had ended I noted he had duly taken early retirement. Taken his state payout. But last I heard was back in the Police somewhere else. His business ventures hadn’t worked out too well. Private enterprise is a lot more work than the civil service? He bought a bottle store and into a butcher shop. I suspected the butcher shop was a convenient outlet for certain of the local police poaching business? I did one day note many various wet & recently salted buck skins lying in a small courtyard at rear of the butcher shop. However, none of my business. Just wanted nothing to do with these thugs. It coincidental that the snotkop Soutie happened to employ over a hundred and fifty people on a floating casual basis for a large part of the year as we had scaled up the onion and vegetable production to try cope with our debt obligations. I also started a brewery on the farm so with an abundance of free food and beer as incentive as well as pocket money to spend end of each week the onion treadmill kept rolling with limited problems. At one point I did mention that if I saw anyone in that fuckers bottle store they wouldn’t be welcome back. I didn’t organise any boycott, but the message did get around. We drew staff from three locations and in a small town if a business like a bottle store loses the black customer base, or 90% + of the population, well... ? Well he organised a fire. I kid you not, a fire in a bottle store? Started apparently by his old mate the traffic cop? Who once worked for my father and was fired early one morning for abominable behavior with my father telling him he’s so useless maybe he should become a traffic cop... getting off track here but I don’t know if the insurance paid out on that one, not knowing where or how the fire started?

That came in the future. Right now we as a family were hounded. We could at times hear breathing and receiver clicking as third parties listened in on phone conversations. Easy on the old farm lines & phone system. Brent & I read a loose translation on a Fray Bentos bottle one breakfast referring to one of the ingredients as Billie Bifsmil. From that moment detective ‘Columbo’ Billie Lombard became Billie Bifsmil. Columbo was having another rerun on one of the channels and one of the hallmarks was how Columbo would strike up casual small talk conversation with the murderer and then as an afterthought as he’s already said his pleasant goodbyes throw in the gotcha question at the end which leads to Columbo solving the case.

Know it sounds silly but when you are under enormous stress trying to resurrect an insolvent business and now have the whole engine of the state working against you in some trumpet up criminal matter like a murder charge humor is a welcome relief. We had had a few of these encounters and one in particular I’ll never forget. Billie Lombard – detective Billie Bifsmil was once again at our house making small talk. He says his pleasant goodbyes and begins driving down the driveway. Stops and reverses back to which Brent says exactly what I’m thinking “here comes the Columbo question”. He leans out the window of his car and... well, Columbo himself in action. He was looking for my fathers clothing and shirt which they wanted to take back for testing but were so dirty and stained my mother had already disposed of.

Know it may seem silly to readers reading about silly triviality but one thing I’ve learned from experience is when you start being bullied & oppressed by someone or some group if you can find ways to reduce them even just mentally it helps greatly. It works at a subconscious level and bullies hate it. Oppressors hate their stature/authority diminished. The ANC activists worked on diminishing the stature of the National Party government and white South Africa in the minds of black South Africa which had far greater results than any arms struggle.

Ironically, it’s now (time of writing) the oppressive ANC which needs their stature diminished. They did learn well from their predecessors. When someone is looking down their nose at you and ranting at you with scorn find a pimple on their nose or the way they comb or dye their hair or even the way they’re carrying themselves or their clothes to study. Maybe some hair up the nose or in the ears. Study it critically. Shift your focus away from their scornful rant. How would a cartoonist draw them with a piggy face? And if you added horns or a bubbly nose & big ears? In what humorous way would Zapiro present them? That sort of thing. Let your imagination run wild at their expense. You remain in control of your mind and thoughts. It doesn’t matter if they’re a detective, Superintendent or runt from Murder & Robbery threatening to “take you for a drive/draav” “who’s not here for nothing hey” or whatever title they wield. If they’re out of line and pulling you down, ask yourself ‘can they walk on water?’ If not, then no need to worship...

Sad and angry at the same time. These types of people give police a bad image. I’m not anti police. Far from it. Police are very important in keeping society from disintegrating into a shit show. Scratch ‘civilised’ society and you’ll quickly see how thin the veneer of civilisation is.

Police are a line between order and chaos and deserve respect. This interrogation is reason why society needs an independent judiciary. You just cannot have people that have formed a bias acting as judge & jury. That’s a short cut to tyranny. When police are corrupt – that’s just bad news. These police weren’t necessarily corrupt. That’s just a statement made from general observation of society. But they were conducting a tunnel vision investigation based on a false premise and all confined by the same echo chamber. Both feeding on and reinforcing each other’s beliefs. They wanted to believe it, so it must be. With the obvious conclusion in their minds that I’m lying. You cannot argue with anyone that thinks like this let alone a group all with shared thoughts from that same echo chamber just mentioned.

Back to the interrogation. I could see that one had done some ‘training’. The taller thinner fairer one. Maybe even a criminology degree? Doesn’t matter. Probably some or other course that police do to ‘tell if someone is lying or not’. Those silly idiots ‘who’ve studied lying’ ‘so they know’ that give investigators false confidence in their ‘gut instincts’. Those that come out of training courses armed with how to fool themselves into thinking they can spot lies in order to reinforce their existing biases. Problem with that ‘training’ is going into an interrogation with a bullshit bias means anything that gets fed into that bias also comes out as bullshit. They may well have believed it murder? Don’t think they would have lied to the magistrate during the inquest if they didn’t believe it was murder? Pushed for a high court trial if they didn’t believe ‘moord’? They truly believed me a murderer otherwise wouldn’t have gone to such lengths?

Obviously they weren’t interested in a statement. They were pushing hard for a confession. Problem is I knew for a fact they were mistaken. Lying to me and lying to themselves. So, in my world what’s the point in arguing with someone or group of people that believe their own bullshit and lies? By now as described earlier they’re looking like Mickey Mouse with a bubble nose. Would he look sillier with a moustache or whiskers? My mind has wondered off to faraway places, mental and spiritual retreat. I didn’t realise at the time because I wasn’t trying to stare the guy down, was just studying him critically but realised when the ‘nice guy’ role player of the two started with the ‘you’re not lekker in die kop’ angle ‘jy moet ‘n kop doctor gaan sien’ a few times in both English, Afrikaans and a mix of both for emphasis that he was now out of his comfort zone. Maybe a reaction they hadn’t trained for in their ‘how to spot a lie course’ or some or other behavioural training? Who knows. That was my signal to go. Been waiting for an uncomfortable reaction. At some point a lawyer phoned them which to them confirmed their bias even more because I “got a lawyer just like that” as the runt clicks his fingers. Yeah, no, a society without an independent court system is screwed.

I wondered if humouring ourselves with silliness especially over the phone played a role in detective Billie Lombard’s behaviour at the Middelburg show nearly two years later and only about two weeks before the high court trial began: Billie Lombard started physically pushing and shoving me around insulting and taunting me saying things like “jy gaan tronk to boetie, jy gaan tronk toe” (you’re going to jail) “fokken soutie” hoping to get me to hit him – for, why do you think? (Precedent of behaviour before high court trail) It’s not easy walking away and not hitting the fat little prick back – but you’re charged in a high court murder trail beginning in two weeks' time...

Charged – Couldn’t make this shit up if you tried...

The phone rings. It’s someone from the magistrate’s court. I must go in to see the magistrate.

Elbe Botha sees me in her office rather than the court and informs me I’ve been charged with murder and will go on trail in the high court. Do I want to go to Port Elizabeth or Grahamstown?

Obviously I choose Grahamstown feeling there’s more chance of a fair trail and my Aunt and uncle live there. Bail was set at R100 and I’m to report to the magistrates court every Monday morning until a trail date is set. So, no going and finishing university. That’ll have to wait. Oh well, I’ll focus on farming. We have a business to rebuild. Focus and work we sure did. We raised some money by culling Springbuck and I started raising dairy calves with the help and guidance of Rudy Nel. I’ll be eternally grateful for. He was a young farmer with a mountain of calf raising experience. The idea being we could slowly build a cattle herd. I say we because we were a team (so I thought – unfortunately!) It was me doing the work carrying buckets of milk around and incentivising staff. Brent was not involved. He carried buckets one weekend when the staff were drunk and was less than helpful so it was easier to just do myself. Which me the ‘boy’ happily did. I had purpose. A goal. I wanted to build a cattle herd.

Being young and able and asked to come play some rugby for the local police club by a friend, I did. Until one game I kid you not one of the young detectives a Captain Niel Colyn starts asking questions about the case while we’re playing on the field. Befriending and fishing? ‘Come talk to me’, about what I’m thinking? Maybe he was just being friendly? A different place and time maybe. I liked the guy, but didn’t respond. Noted a few months later how hostile & aggressive he was towards me. Thinking back, it was a watershed moment. Up to that point I was still dismissive of the ‘few’ involved in the case and quite casual about it. This man was not someone to underestimate or dismiss because if Eben Olivier had roped him in as well then yeah, the whole fucking police station were working together it seemed? You get paranoid. Your life is on the line. You withdraw from society and pay more attention to your tongue.

Strangers would approach me to ‘help’. ‘Come with me to see this or that advocate in Bloemfontein to just talk with him because he’s ‘really good’ in thick accent and he ‘got me off a murder charge just like this one and I really did do it, no really and he got me off... and I’m just trying to help... and I really did do it... Aren’t you part of the police? Yes, but I’m just trying to help?? And I really did do it and he really did get me off just come with me... Ag please I’m really only trying to help - In a thick guttural accent...

And then another fucker would try his luck with a different angle. This shit went on before and after being charged. Watching your back takes on a whole new meaning. Is this fucking Dutchmen pushing and shoving me around trying to pick a fight doing it for his own ego or a more sinister motive? I employ a new man asking for work repeatedly and think OK I’ll give him a go with stock work. A good man to but soon realise he’s reporting back to a ‘Lappies’ Labuschagne who was a plain clothes policeman. I had a little lekkerkry when I saw ‘Lappies’ back in uniform once the new black Superintendent was appointed.

Going through the docket of 43 state witnesses excluding another ‘expert’ state hitman I’ll get to later I noted that the charge was laid by John Hayes. A young constable maybe my age or a year older who had recently joined the police. A nice guy who I was friendly with. So, I asked him who had instructed him to lay the charge knowing full well it was Eben Olivier and Billie Lombard – on behalf of Kay Donian Die Winter Miskiet. He confirmed and I thought to myself the fucking cowards...

My Aunt Jill in Grahamstown took it upon herself to go and ask at Rhodes University where one would go for a second opinion on all this? They replied that they gave a basic course on ballistics and forensics but that we should go and see a professor Smith of pathology in Cape Town. My uncle Michael Arnold was a teacher and one of his old Latin pupils was an Advocate in Cape Town.

One of the problems with the justice system is accessibility for normal people. So, a good rule of thumb if you want to live a happy life is ‘bly weg van die hof en die hospitaal’ (stay away from courts and hospitals) I’ll add contentious and dishonest people as well as they lead to both. The high court you need an advocate and a lawyer. Now the average ‘good’ salary in Middelburg at the time was about R3k per month. I phone a few advocates and all were pricing themselves at well over R3k per hour. Most closer to and some over R4k/hour. One tells me his rate is R3,600 per hour but he’ll do it as a favour for R3,100 per hour. The whole engine of the state is working against you and they call this a justice system? I’m thinking more like an injustice system. There is legal aid which should cover some, but when looking at lawyer fees and other costs like transporting everyone around the country to & from the court including any expert witnesses, never mind the trail and consequences of injustice in that department, just the logistics and costs are daunting. Add that it’s shifting focus away from your business and livelihood... Justice system? Fair justice for the average person is near impossible. I’ll point out more of the injustice system when we get to trial.

For me to survive all this evil and meet the people I met there must have been divine guidance. Even Brent as anti religious as they come commented on those times and how did we survived?

How? From the dire finances and clashing with behemoth banks to fending off the engine of the state grinding us down. I do believe there was a bigger force than us at work. Little did I know, this was a mere taste of what lay ahead. The trauma I faced later, alone... this was just a prelude, a curtain raiser. Cannot emphasise enough the importance of avoiding contentious people. When Brent involved the most contentious people you could imagine into our lives – devastating. The people I met during this trail and their acts of kindness and guidance along with acts of kindness from a few Neighbours and other members of the community were small beacons I could think back to and hold onto during a time that felt as if I was alone swimming in a sea of evil – Satan uses people. “The devil made me do it” starts to not seem so far-fetched.

So, I go down to Cape Town to meet advocate Murray Bridgeman an old pupil of Michael Arnold who kindly said he would take the case for just the cost of legal aid. I met him along with Professor Smith and they grill me. After a whole afternoon of being questioned by these men Professor Smith said the states case was contrived nonsense. He said he didn’t do court work anymore and that we should speak with a Dr Van de Spuy who was then head of the trauma unit at Groote Schuur hospital. Home of the first ever human to human heart transplant. Dr Van de Spuy agreed to come see me and again I get grilled by Advocate Bridgeman and Dr Van de Spuy. He agreed this was nonsense and would come give evidence as an expert in trauma injuries including gun shot wounds in the case. I am eternally grateful to him. What stands out in my mind was that after he had been on the stand giving evidence and before going back to Cape Town he called me aside and gave some guidance. Warning me they’ll ask you the same question in a multitude of different ways. Don’t fall for that bullshit. Don’t even talk back to the advocate asking questions. Only give your answers back to the judge. Every time they ask a repeat question turn to the judge and say, “as I’ve just said” or “as I’ve said before” and repeat your answer word for word if necessary. This will frustrate the judge and the judge will force the prosecuting advocate to move on. Dr Van de Spuy had some courtroom experience. But not nearly as much as the state hitman a Professor Botha from Bloemfontein the state trotted out. We’ll come to him later.

"And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?"