AND THE LION AND THE LAMB LIE DOWN TOGETHER
RSM Struwig stood rigidly to attention. Sweat beaded on his forehead. He clenched his jaw. He felt like a delinquent schoolboy, summoned to the headmaster’s office.
Colonel Viljoen had been ranting for an hour already. The high-pitched nasal voice bored into RSM Struwig’s skull like a dentist’s drill. What really annoyed him was that despite his years of exemplary service to the army and his position as a senior warrant officer, the Colonel treated him as a troop caught sleeping on watch duty. The RSM controlled his anger with difficulty.
“I really don’t know why I trouble with you, Struwig. You disgraced this unit; you disgraced the army, for God’s sake. You should be court-marshalled for what you did last night. Why we even attempt to save your sorry backside is beyond me.”
“Because some of the shit will stick to your lily white hands,” thought RSM Struwig maliciously. He clenched his jaw even harder.
Colonel Viljoen’s phone interrupted him in mid-tirade. He picked it up with a scowl. “I said that I am not to be disturbed,” he shouted at his secretary.
His belligerent mood vanished miraculously. “Yes, put him through” he said. “Good morning General.” RSM Struwig could clearly hear someone shouting at Colonel Viljoen, from where he stood two metres away.
Colonel Viljoen blanched. He occasionally replied, “Ja Generaal” (Yes, General) or “Nee Generaal” (No, General) in a strangled voice. The shouting finally stopped. The click! when the phone was slammed down on the other side, was clearly audible to RSM Struwig.
Colonel Viljoen drew an unsteady breath. He glared at RSM Struwig and picked up the phone once more. “Alida, please send the Adjutant to my office” he asked his secretary. The now-quiet Colonel stared icily at the RSM, while they waited.
Two minutes later, the Adjutant, Major Celliers, poked his head round the door. “You’re looking for me Colonel?” he asked.
“Take this idiot to his office. Post a guard on his door. He does not leave and he sees nobody,” hissed Colonel Viljoen. See to it that his telephone line is blocked. He does not make calls and he does not receive calls. Are we clear on this, Major?”
“Absolutely, Colonel. I’ll see to it personally.”
“I have been summoned to VHK (Verdedigingshoofkwartier – Defence Headquarters). Be ready to start arranging a few courts marshal on very short notice. Your orders will come directly from the Chief of the Defence Force’s office. I should return in a couple of hours.”
Major Celliers came to attention and saluted Colonel Viljoen. “Come, RSM,” he said as he left the office. RSM Struwig also saluted Colonel Viljoen. The colonel ignored the salute disgustedly.
Major Celliers entered RSM Struwig’s office and sat down behind his desk. “Close the door and sit down” he ordered the RSM.
“I am ordered around in my own office,” thought RSM Struwig bitterly, as he sat down on one of the two chairs in front of the desk.
“The manure really hit the fan this time, didn’t it, RSM?” Major Celliers enjoyed the RSM’s discomfiture. He had always resented the man’s crudeness and lack of common courtesy.
“What on earth happened? I still don’t get the long and the short of this whole unholy mess.”
“I tried to impose some discipline on the new recruits, Sir.” RSM Struwig’s dislike of the Adjutant was mutual. He regarded Major Celliers as a pompous ass that did not know his arse from his elbow when it came to training troops.
“By kicking them in the ribs and earning yourself the wrath of the President in the process? Forgive me if my insignificant little brain cannot grasp your logic, RSM. Please explain why you felt you had to assault a troop in front of the whole camp to improve his discipline.”
“When I came aware of the situation, the whole peleton were in open defiance of their corporal. I had to put a stop to their little mutiny there and then.”
“I agree, RSM, we can never allow the troops to rebel against authority. It is a recipe for disaster, but don’t you agree that you went a bit too far?”
“Major, you know that one has to fight fire with fire. These troops had to be disciplined right away. That rebellious spirit had to be immediately crushed with maximum force. There can never be any doubt about who is in control. Without that, the whole indoctrination process would fall flat on its face. What would happen if these troops questioned orders under fire?”
“I do not question your reasons, RSM, only your method. One does not go around disciplining troops by kicking them half to death. You should keep a leash on that temper of yours.”
RSM Struwig nearly snorted derisively, but bit his tongue just in time.
“Granted, our little VIP should not have been here in the first place. He should have been posted to another Corps. Infantry training is not for the likes of him. Without him in the equation, we would have been able to salvage your career. Now that this whole mess has been escalated to God knows where, I think that you are headed for some disciplinary action yourself. It is a shame that you are dragging all of us down with you, but I suppose that we have to cope as best as we can.”
Major Celliers got up from behind the desk. “I can’t sit chatting with you all day, RSM. Some of us still have work to do. See to it that all your paperwork is up to date. It will make matters a bit easier for your successor. Remember, the Colonel ordered your phone cut off and you are not to leave this office. So; no calls to the Old Boys Network and no interfering with the investigation. Do you understand, RSM?” Without waiting for an answer, the Adjutant left the office. The door slammed loudly behind his back.
RSM Struwig was finally alone. He was still dazed by his sudden fall from grace. Barely twelve hours ago, he was one of the most respected disciplinarians in Training Command and at the pinnacle of a career that spanned nearly thirty years. Now, he was a failure – worse than a failure – a perceived criminal. What he could not comprehend, was that he served the army to the best of his ability. If it were not for that snot-nosed relative of the President, none of this would have happened. RSM Struwig abhorred favouritism in any form. He had worked so hard to get to where he was now, and it all came crashing down on him in a couple of hours.
He remembered his childhood. His early years were filled with love and happiness. His father was the most important person in his life. He had always modeled his life on what he believed his father would have wanted.
Piet Struwig’s father was an underground electrician at Wes-Driefontein mine, outside Carletonville. Wes-Driefontein is one of the deepest gold mines in the world. The family stayed in a mine house, about three kilometres from Number Three Shaft, where Piet’s father worked. He was eight years old when an underground rock fall killed his father and six other miners. Piet's happy childhood was brought to an abrupt end on that day.
Luckily, Piet’s mother found employment in the mine’s admin offices and the family could stay on in the mine house. Her salary was considerably smaller than what her husband had earned. Mrs. Struwig battled to provide for Piet and his two younger sisters. There was no money for luxuries, but they never went hungry. Anna Struwig taught her children the value of hard work and doing a job to the best of their ability.
Piet Struwig left school at the age of sixteen. He would have liked to complete his high school career, but felt honour-bound to help his mother support their family. He joined the army two days after his sixteenth birthday. He rose through the ranks slowly, but steadily. He kept his nose clean and took his mother's advice to heart to always do anything he did to the best of his ability. At the age of fifty-two he was at the pinnacle of his career. He could look forward to a care-free retirement in eight years' time, and now this!
RSM Struwig's temper flared up once more. He hated all forms of nepotism. If he had to come up through the ranks, why should the politicians' friends and families be treated differently? Why should Private Nel's life be handed to him on a silver platter? Just because he is related to the Bothas? And this nonsense of not allowed to discipline a troop properly? Where did that come from? The fat piece of shit was malingering, it was as clear as daylight. No, the brass were out to get him. They were never comfortable with honest, hard working people in their midst. But he would be buggered if he would let them fuck up his career. He had been screwed over too many times in the past to let them get away with it once more. With his anger boiling over, RSM Struwig nearly drove his balled fist through the prefabricated wall of his office.
COPYRIGHT © 2010 CHRISTIAAN BOOYSE.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. CHRISTIAAN BOOYSE'S WORK IS FULLY PROTECTED UNDER THE UNITED STATES COPYRIGHT LAWS © 17 USC § § 101, 102(a), 302(a). ALL RIGHTS RESERVERED. PLACING OR POSTING THIS STORY ON ANY WEBSITE, OR DISTRIBUTION OF THIS WORK IN ANY WAY (PARTS OR WHOLE) WITHOUT THE EXPLICIT CONSENT OF THE AUTHOR IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED. ANY AND ALL COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENTS WILL BE PROSECUTED TO THE FULLEST EXTENT OF THE LAW. ANY AND ALL COMMERCIAL USE EXCEPTING EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS REQUIRES THE AUTHOR'S WRITTEN CONSENT.
THIS AUTHOR MAY BE CONTACTED AT: