IT IS WELL DESERVED
Many years ago, while wasting my father's money in pretence at study, I lived with a Portuguese lady who kept a boarding house in a western suburb of Johannesburg.
This lady not only boarded students, but also acted as interpreter and guide to the rich from Angola and Mozambique, which then were still Portuguese colonies. They stayed over while undergoing medical treatment in the city. Those days South Africa was still famous for its doctors and facilities.
At one time a young lady from Lorenzo Marques stayed for two weeks, occupied by day seeing various plastic surgeons and visiting the clinics. At night I entertained her, driving her around in my battered Volkswagen Beetle to the many famous and infamous night spots in Johannesburg,
When she had completed her medical holiday, she left me with an open invitation to visit any time when in Lorenzo Marques, her name, phone number and address printed very elaborately on a colored card.
Some months later a friend, his girlfriend, my then British girlfriend Doreen and I decided on a long weekend of relaxation in Lorenzo Marques. On the outskirts of the city was a very comfortable campsite where we pitched our tents. Not being familiar with the city, we could not find any decent night spots to visit during our first night.
Maria came to mind, and not thinking my situation through thoroughly, I suggested we call on her for some assistance. Being irresponsible youth, with no knowledge of protocol, we did not phone first but just pitched at her residence.
Warning bells should have sounded some when we stopped at the gate of the mansion, it was heavily guarded by military personnel. But we were not deterred, and asked for Maria. The sergeant in charge had a lengthy conversation on the intercom with somebody presumably in the house; the only word I understood was my name. Eventually we were let through. At the door we were met by a very pretty girl, whom I assumed was Maria's sister. I was very quickly and sternly corrected on my request to see her sister, Maria. This girl was not related, she was a personal maid.
After a lengthy wait in a reception room, being served wine and cookies, Maria made her entrance, as pretty as she was in Johannesburg. I had to keep a very cool head, Doreen and Maria, but I thought I had pulled it off. We chatted about the entertainment offered in the city and agreed that Maria would meet us at our campsite that evening, to show us what happened in Lorenzo Marques at night.
True to her word, in the early evening Maria showed up in a chauffeur driven Cadillac. We all piled in and hit Lorenzo Marques big time. From night spot to night spot we went, eating and drinking, dancing and watching some fantastic stage shows. The wine was plentiful, delicious and affordable.
In the early hours of the morning we were dropped off back at camp, I crawled into my sleeping bag totally ignorant of the iced stares coming my way, wholly unaware that Doreen was highly "pissed off" at me.
When I woke up later that morning due to a full bladder and an incredible thirst, I found Doreen still sitting staring into a low burning campfire, she never did go to bed. My head was throbbing, my body aching and I just did not feel like the avalanche of words hammering my ears. I did not dispute the wrongness of what ever it was that I had done, I just could not remember doing anything but dancing, drinking and laughing.
For my own safety, and to give our fellow campers some quiet to continue their sleep, I got into the battered Volkswagen and drove off. I took the tarmac road that lead past the northern beaches. After a distance the road became a gravel road, then a track, then just two wheel marks through deep sand.
Once again I was in trouble. There was no way I could turn the Beetle around without getting stuck. So I drove onwards. Coming around a bend I was suddenly confronted not only by a massive gate, but by a platoon of Mozambique soldiers pointing machine guns, screaming and waving at me. I hurriedly brought the Volkswagen to a stop, and was unceremoniously ripped from my car, slapped about, kicked, gun whipped and thrown to the ground. The car was roughly but thoroughly searched. My camera, found on the back seat, ripped apart.
I did not understand the language in which they were screaming, presumably Portuguese, except for interpreting the word "spion" as spy. My English and Afrikaans were not understood, so my captors continued the conversation with punches and kicks. I must have passed out, the wine of the night before did nothing to enhance my resistance to the soldiers caresses.
Pain woke me; I was trussed like a pig going for slaughter, lying at the feet of six soldiers in the back of truck bumping over a rough road. After what felt like a lifetime the truck came to a halt, and I was kicked out the back to fall heavily to the paving. I slowly opened my eyes; I really didn't want to see the flash of the gun bringing my end. On peeping through my eyelids I noticed buildings, very secure buildings. I was lying in the courtyard of the infamous Lorenzo Marques prison.
Two soldiers grabbed me by the feet and dragged me across the paving, my head playing a sort of drum solo on the cobbles. I was taken into what I assume was an interrogation room and made to sit on a metal upright chair. There I sat for hours on end with two soldiers on guard, being relieved by another two every few hours.
When I indicated that I needed a toilet urgently, my guards just laughed, held their noses and signaled that I should do what ever I had to do there where I sat.
By this time I certainly was not a happy man, I was in pain, exhausted, my clothes were torn, dirty, bloody and now wet also. After what felt like days, although it turned out that I was there for one night only, an obviously high ranking officer, as indicated by the brass on his shoulders, came in and sat down. I could cry, the man spoke English, and he spoke English well. He started questioning me:"What was I doing at their military camp? Who was I spying for?"
I did my best to clarify the circumstances that lead to me being in a place where I was not supposed to be. The officer did not seem to believe my explanation; he insisted that there must be some ulterior motive for me being so far from the tourist attractions his country had to offer. I started feeling desperate.
Suddenly the door to the room opened, and an officer of lower rank rushed in, holding my wallet and the colored card Maria had given me in his hands. A fast and furious discussion in Portuguese followed. The senior officer rushed out, while the younger one stood there staring at me.
After a short while the elder man was back, his whole demeanor towards me changed. He apologizes profusely, offered me food and drink, a shower, a clean soldier's uniform to replace my filthy, smelly rags and called for a medic to attend to my wounds. My ordeal was over.
A few hours later, after a shower, a good meal, with my wounds and bruises ointmented and plastered by a very sympathetic medic, I was lead out to the Cadillac of two nights before. Inside was a tearful Maria with her very stern looking father. On the way to drop me off at the camp, he explained:
Mozambique was at war with Frelimo, the liberation organization. The military forces could not take chances as it could cost many lives. He, as minister of the interior, would not have helped me if it wasn't for my friendship with Maria, and if it wasn't for the officer finding Maria's card in my wallet. He suggested that we go home, back to South Africa, as soon as possible. As soon as I got me Volkswagen back once the army had put it back together again.
Back in camp my friend and his girl was happy to see me. Doreen kept a stony silence. They had been worried as to what had happened to me, and about how they were to get back to Johannesburg without the Beetle.
Once they were satisfied their concerns were of the past, and that we would be on our way home very soon, my cuts, bruises and my slightly oversized army uniform got some mention, and lots of sympathy was expressed.
Except from Doreen, all I heard was a mumbled "It is well deserved!"