ZULULAND LETTER: The day the police stormed our house

Exactly at 8am, on January the fifth 1994, the police stormed our house.

I don’t know what they used to open the front door, but there was a very loud bang and a lot of smoke.

Five officers were in my room before I even had time to get out of bed and the others took to the rest of the house, throwing cupboards open as far as they went.

It was chaos!

They missed the rest of my family by mere minutes, but that didn’t matter because they were there for me.

The first thing I told them was that I shot the neighbour’s poodle by accident the day before, and that if I knew the shotgun was loaded I would have at least opened the window before pulling the trigger when I saw the little fluff ball taking a dump on our lawn.

They told me to shut up because they’re not the SPCA and therefore don’t give a damn if I murder every dog in the street.

They said they were there for the bakkie-load of arms and munitions which got stolen from the army base where I was until two days prior.

‘I stole what?’

Umkhonto we Sizwe

SA’s first ever free and democratic election was due in less than four months and the entire country was on edge.

The paranoid stocked up on baked beans and bully beef and the dooms day preppers, like my dad, also kept loaded shotguns by the doors and windows.

That’s how the poodle died.

I had just finished my national service and was sitting at home, bored out of my mind, when I saw Snowy through the window – sniffing around on our front lawn – her back slightly arched.

I aimed at her, thinking how easy it would be to get rid of the pesky little mutt once and for all, and I was still thinking that when my ears started to zing.

Where there was a closed window milliseconds before, tatters of a curtain were moving slightly in the wind.

Snowy though, wasn’t moving at all.

Immediately after the shot went off most neighbours ran out into the street – the men looking like Sylvester Stallone in Rambo, First Blood, and the women like Brigitte Nielson in Red Sonja, but with meat cleavers instead of ginormous swords.

They were ready to defend their properties against Umkhonto we Sizwe.

I, to distract from the dead dog by our front door, also ran out into the street, ears aching terribly and half deaf;

‘Say what?

‘No, nothing!’

‘ANC what?

‘I mos just said I saw nothing!’

‘We found something!’

Those very same people must have run out again the next morning when they saw the police surrounding the house.

I wouldn’t know because I wasn’t allowed to leave the living room where I was being interrogated by two plain clothes officers.

All I could see, but mostly hear, was the hustle and bustle of what must have been at least 30 people turning the house upside down.

They even found Snowy where I buried her.

‘Captain we found something!’

False alarm! Just a dead poodle…’

It was at that point where I got annoyed.

After a year in the army and being yelled at by people in uniforms daily, I wasn’t intimidated, so I asked them to leave.

I knew what they were looking for and I also knew it wasn’t there.

I might have known who took it and also where it was hidden, but seeing that I had a two-day-dead dog to rebury and a front door to replace before my dad got home, I had my own problems to deal with.

Val van der Walt

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