Short True StoryFirst shift: 6pm to 10pm. With summer on its way at least we got to see a bit of the park in the daylight. In that dying light we saw two rhino, I turned the bakkie down a side road in order to get a bit closer. My guys seldom saw the creatures they were here to protect. The team was in a good mood and all took photos with their cell phones. It gets dark quickly in Africa, well in real Africa, not in Cape Town. We set of to do the normal, boring and totally ineffective routine. At Mvubu Dam my trio of Fat Ladies were on the dam wall, looking at us approaching and completely blocking the way. I’ll be damned, pun intentional, if the did not do an about face and show us a Hippo Browneye! This caused another welcome delay in our routine. Once they had passed I took the short cut passed Dean’s house and headed for the fence and the Rooiberg road. The toads were also out because of the approaching spring so now I was playing not only dodge the rabbit but also dodge the toad.
It was a good shift, I dropped the guys at the OP’s and did a fence patrol, deciding to leave Majuma for the second shift. We had no idea of the disaster that awaited us, putting 3 of my men in hospital and totalling our APU vechicle.
Second Shift: 2am to 6am
France and I discussed just the day before what a waste of time and fuel going down the sand road that passes Majuma’s outer perimeter. We did the inside and to get all the way to that road was a pain in the butt and another one of Dean’s ideas that were designed to, not secure the rhino, but make him look good. The area was patrolled by an outside unit of the area and to double up in one small area when we were so thin on the ground was just plain stupid. The team all agreed to this, but for whatever reason, Charles decided that we should go, I reasoned with him but he pulled his usual stunt and said he would report me to Dean, again. As it was a sort of standing instruction from my “colonel” I had to give in, Dean already did not like me much, even though I had not contradicted or questioned his operation undiplomatically so far. I never mentioned that I thought his “special force colonel” shit was just that, shit. At this point I still thought I could change things from the inside once my three months probation was up. And people say I am a cynic?
I then changed my plan for the shift, I would go to the gate on the sand road, check the locks from the outside and then hit Rooiberg, which I believed is where the shit would happen, when it happened. I left Mabula through the main gate just after 2am and was at the gate by around 2:45am. I got out to check the gate, Charles also got off the vehicle and wondered about. France stood next to the bakkie and had a smoke. The other three just sat on the back of bakkie. One of the things that show this Rhino War is NOTHING like a real war, with REAL soldiers. First I had taught this anti-poaching boys about vehicle drills and what they should do when we stop, but could not order them to do so, Mabula is shit scared of all the labour laws and Political Correctness, I am the only white oke in this APU other than Dean, I have to watch my P’s and Q’s. I did tell the guys after one bad incident in which they did not listen and put me in jeopardy that from that point I will insure my safety first. If the shit hit the fan this Mexican is a ghost. I thought that this would happen sooner or later, but from enemy fire, not this!
The Opel bakkie came speeding along the road. I took cover on the right and Charles, give him his due, and took cover just in front of our vehicle, which was parked well off to the left, on the verge, facing the way we would leave. Even though APU’s have not been openly attacked as yet, discretion is the greater part of valour, and remember, these people send us out … unarmed.
The Opel was travelling at a hell of a speed on this very bad road, but so far in a straight line and in the left lane. The road is twice the width of the tar road it leads to. Then, about 8 meters from mu vehicle it not only changed lanes but went to the far right. I could not believe this shit was happening, it slammed dead square into my bakkie. I remember thinking, that this was a very dumb way to attack us, as it looked as if the driver did this intentionally. I left cover and approached the wreck, three men were in the Opel’s can, all bleeding from head wounds, the windscreen was shattered, the front of the bakkie mangled. As I put my head closer to the open window the smell of alcohol hit me. Amos, Johannes and Joseph were staggering around, holding their lower backs, young France and Charles were speaking to them in their language. I got Charles to get them to all lie down and stay still. Not very compassionate person, I told the shits that when we stop they should all get out. Too lazy. I tried to convince them it was a good idea then to get out and take cover if a vehicle is coming. That was not part of their work, apparently.
I phone Dean, and the bullshit starts. He asks if my lights and hazards were on. Special Force Colonel kiss my arse. Of course they were not. Dean calls the Head Ranger, Ryno, now he is in shit because he was suppose to take me a month back to get a copy of my driver’s licence as my card was stolen. Dean arrives first, he checks out the scene and sends France down the road a bit with a flashlight, so other cars do not hit us. He makes a big show of approaching the Opel, hand on his 9mm, telling me this might be a trap. I say nothing. There are actually 4 guys, one is lying in the back.
It is a full moon and my bakkie is white. Dean gets on my case about having all the guys on the bakkie at once. I point out to him that on his orders, when we leave Mabula property late at night, we have to have the full team together. He then gets back to the fact that I did not have my hazard lights on. I have fuck all to say about that. It would cause a fight. Ryno arrives, he immediately does what Dean did not, goes to check on the injured personnel, when the lady from the Mabula office arrives with all the injury on duty paper work, at 4am in the morning, I question his sympathy too. At least I am straight up about my lack of it, I do not pretend because of possible consequences. I must admit, my head space at this time is not too good, seeing your guys taken out, even if they are idiots, is not good for you.
The police get there, I become a ghost, I do not like policemen very much. I watch as first Dean plays the main man, obviously not to well as Ryno takes over and sends Dean to take over France’s job. Finally someone decides that maybe they should speak to the driver and team leader of the APU. I have to come out. I give my statement and the licence is an issue.
More people arrive. One guy is from a Game Lodge up the road, one of his guys was in the Opel. Turns out that the Opel was taken from the local panel beating shop, without permission. Ambulances begin to arrive, the day shift corporal and Isaac speed in, a total cluster fuck. Eventually Corporal Johannes and Isaac bend the fender of our vehicle off the flat front wheels, no acacia thorn will fix these two. We asked Dean to use his bakkie to tow us, Ryno tells us to open the Lion Gate and tow it into Majuma.
Guess who has to open the gate?
From Chronicle of The Mexican Horse Thief yet to be published.