While it was still dark on the morning of 2nd March 2004, with all nine cats and eight dogs aboard into our two loaded vehicles, the police arrived at the gate to arrest me.
With them was a lawyer, Mr Otukile, crowing about how I was about to skip the country without paying my debts! Apparently, the previous day, a court order had been taken out against Bastion Construction by Otukile representing Tlou Walling, my brick supplier, for an unpaid account. They had come to get me the previous evening, at 19h00, according to the watchman I’d taken on to look after the property after we left for South Africa, but we were out to supper. If I had been home, Sheila pointed out, I’d have spent the night in the cells!
When Otukile had left, confident that I would be slapped in irons, I convinced the police to let me use my own vehicle to go to my other plot, which had my office and store room, to retrieve the documentation that would prove that I had paid Tlou Walling in full. They followed me there to ensure I didn’t do a bunk, then we went to the Courts where we thrashed it out in front of the Clerk of the Court. Otukile admitted that if he had known about this, he would not have let it get this far, but he still wanted me to pay his costs. The matter was then set to be settled before the Magistrate the next day at 08h30.
Nigel Rollo, our surveyor friend from Gaborone, had left a trailer with us after a field trip in Maun, which we would use to help cart some of our possessions down South. It was arranged that I return it on my way back to pick up my next load a week later. The licence disc he needed to send us was delayed for a day, so we would not be leaving until the Thursday, now, in any case.
Unsurprisingly, 08h30 Africa Time became 09h20 Real Time, before everyone got their act together. All concerned gathered to see the Magistrate, Ms Mogomotsi, in her Chambers. First, she listened to Otukile, who had not made himself popular by being late in the first place, then to me.
Summing up, she stated that, if it was up to her, costs would be due to the Plaintiff as they had been negligent in informing their lawyer that they had received payment, but that it was not up to her to proportion costs. That would be up to the High Court in Francistown, which would be Otukile’s next step if he wanted to pursue the matter, as he seemed intent on doing.
I phoned a decent local lawyer to handle it if anything transpired, now free to leave. Up at 04h00, we only got going at 08h00 due to settling the animals – the cats in a cage in Sheila’s Toyota Venture, the dogs in a cave among the furniture in my Nissan bakkie with access through a sliding rear window into the cab! Then we picked up our friend Pat Hagan’s daughter, Kirsty, who was getting a lift to her aunt’s home in Vryburg, SA.
After a night in Kang in the Kalahari, due to the need to get a new tyre for Sheila’s Venture, we headed for the border, just before which we let the dogs out. What a lot of pooping and peeing went on. We couldn’t risk it with the cats; they had sandboxes, but the Venture stank to high heaven.
Then, the border crossing was memorable.
Firstly, on the Botswana side, Kirsty’s residence permit was not accepted – a copy of her mother’s permit – until a senior official finally okayed it and earned himself a hug from Sheila. Then the South African Customs wanted to impound the Venture pending its clearance into SA and the paying of VAT. We did not have all the documentation to do this right there and then, it seemed.
Sheila throws a mean wobbly when she puts her mind to it. She told the Customs Official to not to forget to feed the cats as she set off down the road on foot. The Senior Officer pleaded for her to come back, and to calm down while he made a copy of all her documents and told her to get it sorted out at our nearest Customs Office when we arrived in Uniondale. He nearly got a hug, too, but apparently it is not the done thing to go hugging obliging Customs Officers.
After two or three more trips to Maun to fetch more stuff and settle business, I never heard anything further about the Tlou Walling affair.