It was noon when we landed at Polokwane, but only after calling the men Andy had sent to verify everything was safe. The men were part of the crew that had come with me to kill the Prince. It almost looked like they were riding in some of the vehicles that were used by the Prince’s bunch of derelicts.
They were! After we had killed the Prince, the Saudi investigators had instructed everything be placed in one of the aircraft hangars. After the investigation was completed, the Saudi’s – for the most part – went away.
There were far more important power plays happening in the kingdom than worrying about a petered out mine. That power play led to the decision to sell the property.
The two managers worked together to make the best out of what was left and that was tourist dollars that the tours into the animal refuge generated. It was enough money to support a few dozen individuals and keep enough rooms in the motel in good enough shape for the tour companies to keep sending groups.
We were driven around the airport, looking and inspecting. Then we were driven through a hell hole called the shanty town. It could never be called anything but a hell hole in its present condition.
Every building was dilapidated with some actually falling down. The conditions of many of them were so bad that a match and a gallon of gas was the best solution. Only a few were still occupied.
Women were carrying water in plastic jugs. At the end of every street there was a dung pit. The stench I remembered.
There had been one well for every couple hundred houses, now only one well was operational with a hand pump on it and there was a waiting line.
I had seen all I needed to see. A major change was coming following a bulldozer. It would be a slow process to get started and expensive but it was going to happen. The mines were the key.
The hotel manager was waiting behind the counter of the motel. The place was in better shape than when we were here last. JBG money was already at work.
Daudi Nkosi was the hotel manager. I recognized him from the previous visit and by the glance Vicky gave me, she did to. We went to a side room to meet while a messenger was sent to get Nassor Khumalo from the airport terminal.
Vicky and Marcy had the list that Lorrie and Jenny wanted discussed.
The electricity came in from a line from the south that ran between the two mines. This electricity was totally unreliable, off sometimes days at a time. There was an ancient generator in one of the airport hangars for backup when the power was interrupted.
It could have been from WW2 but I would bet it was a leftover from WW1. The voltage marked on the meter was 230 at 50 cycles meaning nothing of any consequence from the US would work. As small as it was, I wondered how it could power anything.
We would need a newer, better generator – possibly two of them – to be able to reliably make enough electricity to power all the expansion.
We went through the hotel list one item at a time after we looked in every room. The room where I killed the Prince was clean, not any trace of what happened there. Only the images that still made an occasional appearance in my dreams told the tale.
Then two new lists were started, one with things that needed to be addressed immediately and the other was the list with long term needs for the hotel.
Nassor had arrived midway through and joined in the inspection of the hotel and the final discussions for improvements there. After that, we went to the airport terminal.
I sent Jack, Axle and Ellison to go over the hangars, terminal and fuel farm. They knew what I was planning. While they were gone, we discussed the improvements that I knew were coming for sure; radar, runway extension, fuel farm expansion and more hangars.
We called it a day and retired to our rooms. Marcy, Vicky and I went into an in depth private discussion about what we had seen today. I was concerned about the cost of everything we had seen that needed doing.
“BJ, you are missing the obvious. You are thinking of construction costs at home – sixty dollars an hour and higher. Remember the minimum wage here is only one fifty eight. Materials are going to be priced accordingly. The costs are going to be one quarter of what we are used to,” Marcy said.
Marcy was right, I was thinking of costs at home and the high cost when we had sent Bob’s Construction to rebuild the embassy that had been attacked.
It did not make me feel any better. I saw nothing but an enormous task ahead, one I was wondering if it would be worthwhile attempting.
We had supper in the hotel restaurant. One of the hunting parties had returned and was eating there as well. It was buffet style and that gave me some confidence that the food would not be poisoned.
Several of the hunters came over to the table just as we were finishing.
“You are a long way from Washington or France – you must be lost,” one of them said.
“No, I’m not lost. Just inspecting our property and planning on improvements we are going to make,” I said.
“Am I to understand that you own this hotel?” he asked.
“The hotel and everything you can see – as far as you can see – in any direction you look from the roof,” I said.
“You do not recognize me, do you?” he asked.
“No I am afraid not,” I replied.
‘I’m Sam Brothers, my wife is Senator Ginger Brothers of Nevada,” he said.
“OK, you do a much better job than I do of staying out of the media,” I said.
“The Senator is not with you?” I asked.
“No, she prefers the Washington animals,” he said with a laugh.
“Animals they are; tell her I said hello. I may get to see her soon; I have to make several appearances in the Senate in a few weeks,” I said.
One of his buddies took a picture of him with the three of us that I was sure would be in the media before the end of the day.
After that we turned in. Andy had enough men that the plane could be guarded. I was happy about that.
At 0700 we had breakfast then one more meeting. The two managers came to us while we were eating and requested that we see a couple of men who used to manage the two mines. They thought they could supply helpful information about the mines.
Ranako Chetty and Ndale Jordaan were standing by the hotel counter when we met them and were introduced.
The two, Andy, a couple of security personnel went into the meeting room with the three of us and began the discussions.
“Mr. Nkosi indicated that you Mr. Chetty were the manager of the gold mine for decades and you Mr. Jordaan were manager of the diamond mine. I’m hoping that you may be able to fill us in on the history on the mines and the Saudi ownership, if you are willing to do that.”
“Mr. Nkosi tells us you have big plans for the area with improvements to the hotel, airport and the shanty town that was the company town. Is that correct?” Mr. Chetty asked.
“Yes we do. The shanty is going to be replaced with more modern housing. The final size will be determined by the number of employees. We want to promote the game refuge tours through our vacation division. That means the hotel will be renovated with a lot more staff.”
“The airport improvements will include radar, hangars and runway extension. We are going to bring in a security team – including aircraft – to keep ISIS and Al Qaeda from interfering with operations. We are also going to train some of our thousands of security people here; all this will depend on the mines being profitable,” I said.
“The Saudi’s bought the mines in 2009 from Acme mining, at the time the gold mine was the most productive nugget mine in all of Africa producing over five million ounces of gold yearly.”
“The diamond mine was also very productive, although the output was kept secret as to not upset diamond prices.”
“Two months after the Saudis bought the mines, the Prince and several members of the royal family came to pick up the gold and diamonds. Along with them came the killers you call Al Qaeda to protect the mines and town.”
“They went through the miners and selected thirty they said were criminals and infidels. They executed them in front of everyone to set an example. Their young girls and boys were taken back to Saudi Arabia for conversion. They never returned. Their wives and elders and other children were carried to the preserve and fed to the crocks.”
“Every couple of months the Prince would arrive and the same thing would happen.”
“The miners with wives and children started leaving in the dark of night, making the journey to the west to the villages there.”
“The only way we could get back at them was to stop the flow of gold and diamonds. We had no guns. We built a separator in the mine. In a few months the gold and diamonds were down to a trickle, almost nothing. The digging went on but the real gold was hidden in trenches within the mine,” Mr. Chetty said.
“What stopped Al Qaeda from going into the mines and finding the separator?” I asked.
“Mining is hard work and they are lazy; stealing instead of working. Mining is dangerous. A few arranged accidents and they never ventured in the mines again,” he said.
“No one tried to leave with some of the gold and diamonds?” I asked.
“If they caught you with even a pea sized piece of gold or a diamond your entire family would be killed very slowly with you being last. If you made it past them there was the South African Citizens Collective.”
“SACC was the enforcement arm of the socialist government. They are worse than Ai Qaeda and have free reign outside of the populated areas. They collect bribes, administer tax demands at will, make arrests, kill and torture as they please. As soon as things start happening here they will pay you a visit,” he said.
“You will have to point any infiltrators out to my security people; they will take care of them. They will have no problems feeding the gators. I pay no bribes and I will have no terrorists here nor will I support them in any way!” I said.
‘We understand – you sent that message when you killed the Prince and his companions,” Mr. Chetty said.
“What makes you think I killed the Prince?” I asked.
“Some of your men look familiar; you and Vicky are about the build and height of the women who were with them. We saw the way you handled yourself in France the other day. One of the hunters had the paper. It was you and you did the world a service by killing the Prince. I think the phrase is ‘justice administered’,” he said.
“So you are telling us that the mines will be profitable again to pay for all the improvements we want to make?” I asked.
“Yes and so much more,” he said.
“Will the miners come back?” I asked.
“Many will, steady work and pay will draw them back,” he said.
“What kind of pay is needed?” Marcy asked.
“The Saudi’s paid minimum and then cheated the miners out of time. To get the good miners back – the only ones I would allow – you are going to have to pay three US dollars,” he said.
“If the gold is there as you say, it will be no problem,” Marcy said.
The meeting went on for the rest of the day, putting plans in place. Logistics was going to be a bitch – logistics be-damned.
Mr. Chetty insisted we have a tour of the final processing buildings for the gold. It was the first time we had ever been in one. It looked like the workers just walked away. The molds for making ingots were neatly placed on metal tables.
I asked Mr. Chetty, “Why are there were two different sizes of molds?”
“The large ones are an international standard twelve kilo that we used before the Saudis took over. The smaller ones are the standard one kilo used in the domestic gold trade. We went to the smaller ones to cover the diminishing output.”
“The Prince didn’t realize the difference and accepted the explanation that the larger ingots he had been shown were for display only. He liked the one kilo because they could be easily carried to impress his friends,” he added.
The big crucibles were lined up in a row as well, the ladles neatly beside them. The cooling room with heavy steel doors and racks was waiting to go to work.
“How long will it take to go back into production?” Marcy asked.
“Sixty days to twenty five percent, six months to 100 percent. It depends on you getting the things we need,” he said.
After several calls to the office, it was decided to send more from the training class here for security. They would have to stay in the hotel for the time being.
The final decision was to set up the site structure and chain of command. Raymond Underhill was chosen and he accepted the temporary position of Director JBG South Africa Training Center.
Everything that the four managers wanted or needed to make this place work was to be coordinated through him. None of us wanted to deal with the calls from four separate managers there. Let one person be the go to guy and let him deal with it.
Back at the office more decisions would need to be made. A lot of decisions actually. We were going to leave all the security people there with the exception of Andy. I hoped they wouldn’t be needed. But if they were, they would be terribly shorthanded.
We stayed one last night in the motel, leaving in the morning.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.