Abdul Mills was a Coloured foreman with whom Adrian de Koning had worked in Francistown, Botswana. Abdul had been his own boss until Adie, an engineer, had been slotted in above him, and he resented it. He was about 30; short and fat with a hernia. He had an ingratiating type of cheerful demeanour and a belief that he was better at his work than he actually was. He was brilliant at excuses regarding work that should have been completed but was not.
While working in Francistown, Adie had an accident that nearly killed him. He had head injuries that had caused his brain to swell, but had recovered and returned to work. Both he and Abdul were transferred to the new works in Maun where Adie was in charge of all the paving works and public toilets to be built in the Mall.
On Thursday, 12th September 1991, Mark Warken collected me with the awful news that Adie had had another accident and we rushed to Maun Hospital. Another vehicle, in trying to overtake a truck, had hit Adie’s LDV head on. Adie’s jaw was broken, his teeth bent inwards, had cuts on his forehead, but otherwise seemed okay. But, because of his previous accident, John Riley had him flown to Cape Town to be checked over by the neurologist that had dealt with him previously.
The point of all this was the rumour that started to circulate about witchcraft and Abdul Mills. Ridiculous, of course…
A week later, having been given the okay, Adie was back in Maun. I suggested he see a witchdoctor, to which he reluctantly agreed. First, we needed to chat to Willie Phillips, a renowned hunter of mixed English, Koi-san parentage with the relevant connections.
Instead of me flying to South Africa for the long weekend closing September, my wife, Sheila, flew north, together with the road foreman’s wife and kids, and Joanne, Adie’s fiancée. After breakfast the next day, we all set off for Moremi Game Reserve, entering at South Gate, heading for Third Bridge where we all set up our tents. The “Third Bridge” itself was a pole affair with a pool alongside where we swam. (A German lass was reputed to have had half her buttock torn off by a crocodile, right there.)
While we were at the pool, a baboon got into my Land Rover and stole my fishing rod. July Riley, John’s wife, saw it and chased the thief until it abandoned the rod! Mess with Julie at your peril.
Based there for the weekend, we went on game drives to Mboma Island where the most intriguing and exciting sighting was a family group of 15 Cape Hunting dogs. There were six adults; the rest were pups of various ages; playing or lazing about. On to Lake Xaxanaka where we hired a boat and spent two hours in a bird-life wonderland of storks, cormorants, geese, ducks, spoonbills and skimmers.
We saw a lot of game, including elephant, which I shall not list, but no lions, that time. Nevertheless, the trip was wonderful, and Sheila’s first taste of the real Africa. And her first flight in a light plane. Naturally, I was begging her to join me in Maun, but the problem of her dairy herd and the farm was not easily dealt with. She flew out late on the Tuesday.
Later, Willie Phillips chatted to me about witchcraft and curses. He said they are only powerful if you do believe in them. I passed it on to Adie who said he did not believe in it. However, he was to have another serious head-on collision in Maun in the future.