1986 – A Secret Meeting
Several weeks had passed since Jonty and Paddy had visited and Jasper began to take stock of himself and Sophie. Clearly, they both loved each other deeply and he knew that, although Sophie would not say it, they were running out of time to start a family. His mother was pushing to get them down to Durban to become a grandparent, and he suspected that would be the case for the Mitchiesons too. He knew his mother was in regular contact with them in New Zealand, phones being reliable down South, unlike Zimbabwe. With the business going well and the bucks flowing in, Jasper was well on the way to being a wealthy person, both in local currency terms and, more importantly, in USD offshore. Tony Chapman had put them in touch with a financial company which specialized in offshore investments. JJ figured another couple of years would realise a lifelong income for them and he was beginning to see that he was, frighteningly, getting like his dad in his passion for academia. Although he had already lived considerably more than most people in the world in his 38 years, he still thought he would seek adventure for years to come. He did realize that his was a shared life and he had to accede to his wife’s wants as well. He decided they would start a family, but he would also be absolutely firm about the baby not being born here, especially Kariba. The climate was relentless and there were the dangers of the safari camp itself, malaria, sleeping sickness, bilharzia, and tick fever, so his line in the sand would be Durban for Sophie. He would pay for airline tickets for the Mitchiesons, and his parents would be only too delighted to host them. The Joubert millions would ensure the best environment possible. He was equally sure Sophie would rail against the Durban idea, but he knew that after some skirmishing, she would see the sense of it. The only problem remaining was to get the courage up to tell her. He turned his mind to another potential pressing problem, involving one of the Hurungwe elephant herds. His main contact in Parks and Wildlife, Willie Du Preez, who was based in Kariba, had asked him to drop in next time he came to into town, so he went in with Sophie on her daily post run and got her to drop him off.
He greeted Willie, “Howzit, whats up?”
Willie got him a cup of coffee and said, “It may be nothing, but I’m not so sure. You know Marta and her group, have you seen her in the last two weeks?” Marta was the biggest matriarch elephant in the region and her herd included some eight sisters, three youngsters and a calf from this season. “She should have been near Chirundu at this time, but even the Inn has not had them coming to the swimming pool.”
Some tourists had been fascinated when they were sitting having Sundowners at the Inn one evening, and Marta and her group came through and found a new drinking hole – the swimming pool. It had become a feature for visitors ever since.
Jasper shook his head and said, ‘No, but I have been more in Charara in the past few days. Anyway, she may have found a decent patch of vegetation and stayed on it.”
“Well, maybe you can have a look, or even Henry when he goes down next, and let me know.”
“OK, we’ll let you know.“
At that point Sophie came in and said “Hi, you all done honey?” Willie offered her a cup of coffee, but she declined, and they said their goodbyes and left for home. In the bakkie she asked Jasper what Willie wanted.
“He’s missing a herd of about a dozen elephants in Hurungwe, and he’s asked if Henry or myself can keep an eye out. He seems a bit concerned; I am not sure he is telling me everything.”
Then Sophie said, “You know, I was thinking we hadn’t seen jumbo on my last trip with the Osprey and those Americans; plenty buff, antelope, water buck, but no jumbo. Mind you, we don’t always see jumbo, but you know Arthur’s Creek, they are always there. By the way, Tony has sent a telex, and he is coming up to see us tonight,” she said, handing him a telex. Strange, thought Jasper, especially that he was driving. When they got home, he went to see Barnabas – he knew Henry would not be back till tomorrow – and asked him if he had noticed anything about the elephant around the lake.
“Boss hapana, nothing around Sanyati, hobhos plenty around Umi but cheeky.”
Jasper nodded, thanked Barnabas and asked him to keep an eye out and ear to the ground regarding elephant numbers or behaviour.
He went in and pulled his files on elephant patterns in Hurungwe, Charara, Sapi and began checking his notes. Just after 1500 hours he saw a Mercedes Estate coming up to the house and went out to meet Tony.
“Howzit,” he said to Tony, and quizzically looked at the elderly man who also got out of the car.
Sophie came out and said hi to Tony. “I was hoping you were bringing Chrissie.”
“Sorry not this time, but I will soon, I promise. Sophie, Ken and I need to talk to Jasper, I promise nothing bad, and certainly not to do with Osprey.”
“OK, but I don’t appreciate secrets.”
“Neither do I.” Jasper added icily.
Ken spoke for the first time, saying, “I apologise, Mrs Jackson, I am afraid it’s my request to meet your husband, and I would normally not allow you to be involved, so you can stay but please do not interrupt. You can speak to Jasper after.”
Sophie nodded and replied, “I’ll let you say your piece, it’s obviously important, at least to you. Now, tea or beers?”
They sat on the veranda, and when Francis had brought both beers and tea, Sophie said he could go off till dinnertime.
“Yes madam, how many for dinner?” he asked, but Sophie said she did not know yet.
They toasted each other and Tony began to explain. Ken was from the Central Intelligence Organisation; later they would find out he was the lead man coordinating the nation’s involvement in a global effort to eliminate ivory poaching.
Jasper stopped him and asked, “Jonty is involved, isn’t he?”
Ken smiled and said Tony had called it right. Jonty had realized that his Frederick reference might be picked up by Jasper and contacted Tony to warn him. Ken now took over, explaining that Jonty was a link man between Zimbabwe and Zambian equivalent of CIO. He was, in fact, a high-ranking Special Branch Officer for the Zambians, tasked with ivory anti-poaching. The Zambians had discovered and subsequently confirmed through their informants that the point of despatch for any ivory would be via the Tazara railway terminus at Kapiri Mposhi. It would be transported to the port at end of the line in Dar es Salaam. Poached ivory, some 30 tonnes from Zaire, had already been brought to a Zambian bonded warehouse in Kapiri on behalf of two Korean gentlemen, Kim A and Kim B, with definite Chinese participation. They had been identified as two of the North Korean diplomatic staff in their Zimbabwe Mission, who were also accredited to Zambia. It was suspected the Chinese are pulling the strings. The Zambians had also discovered that both Kims had been active in commissioning known Zambian gangs for ivory in the Luangua Valley, and ivory from that source is also being taken to the bond set up by the Kims.
‘The common link is that our so-called friends, the North Koreans, had previously suggested, but are now demanding, ivory as payment for their support of the President in the Independence struggle, and whilst the President still believes in the ideology, he knows full well that the North Korean demands would sink the country in the world’s eyes. Zimbabwe has stocks of ivory which have been confiscated, but that has all been tagged and declared through the UN. We have information that the Kims have, for a couple of years now, targeted a senior Army officer, a brigadier, who in turn has recruited some ex-combatants to poach on his behalf. Army transport will be used to bring a cache of ivory to a disused camp near Chirundu, which you will know, to be containerised as diplomatic cargo. The army officer’s family have a transport business, and their trucks will be used to take the containers to the bond in Kapiri. Locals in Chirundu are already reporting that the disused camp is being guarded by what looks like army personnel, though we believe that is probably the ex-combatants.”
The President had personally charged Ken and the CIO to engineer a graceful solution which would not implicate Zimbabwe with the North Koreans, or any poachers. Ken went on to say that they would take care of the army officer and his gang themselves, but they had to first get round the Kims having the diplomatic immunity in Zimbabwe.
“Before I go any further, I need to ask you: can we count on your support regarding getting the evidence we need to get ourselves out from under the Korean yoke? I am not asking for any direct involvement in any terminations, but I am in need of your special skills in the bush. You will of course be rewarded by a grateful nation, probably anonymously.”
It was like a movie, but you just couldn’t write a script for it. Jasper stood up slowly, would have tapped out his pipe if he had one, and said of course he would help, and he would do so for the elephants. He asked, “What about Henry?”
“Ah, your partner; it’s up to you, I had not included him, partly out of respect for him, and I do not know him or anyone connected to him, whereas Tony is able to vouch for you.”
Sophie chipped in, “I will go and organise rooms for you and extra plates for dinner. I will stay out for now and make sure you are not bothered by any of the staff. I’ll send some more beers and snacks.” With that she was gone. Ken nodded appreciatively.
“I knew you were police, of course, but you never let on about the CIO/SB,” Jasper remarked to Tony.
“I wasn’t involved until 1977, and really, even if I had been tempted to confide, I wouldn’t wish to jeopardize our friendship. I only mentioned that I thought you may have been a Scout to Jonty when he approached me about some things to do with international law regarding the operation, enticement or even the meet and greet you guys were so good at.”
The beers, biltong and nuts came, and they got down to some discussion. Ken unfortunately believed that the elephants had already been killed, and if the 30 metric tonnes from Zaire were anything to go by, Hurungwe and Sapi may have lost 200+ elephants directly.
“We know that we have lost nearly that in Hwange, and that ivory is being brought here to Chirundu in small quantities. We also know that 2 road trucks have been withdrawn from service in four weeks’ time and 2 containers booked, so we assume that will be the date for transfer to Kapiri.”
Jasper asked, “Anything to suggest Korean involvement either here or in Hwange?”
“Oh yes; the Kims gave notice, as required if they travel 30 miles outside their Mission, and spent a week at a private lodge bordering Hwange, ostensibly game viewing and visiting Victoria Falls. They requested their brigadier for bodyguard, and I do expect them to apply for travel permits shortly to Chirundu, because they will need to supervise the diplomatic cargo through border-post and at the bond in Kapiri. The brigadier will no doubt accompany them to the border.”
For the time being Jasper decided to keep quiet about Willie Du Preez’s concerns, and Barnabes’ too, but he had to admit that Ken’s supposition that the elephants had been killed already was probably accurate. He was at a loss to comprehend the impact on any survivors in the herd and feared that there would be a lot of undisciplined teenagers left to fend for themselves. They were probably not targeted, because they had little tusk. How could this happen, and no bush telegraph!
Ken broke across his thoughts. “If I am right, and in my business, I cannot afford to be wrong, their plan will be to travel in close proximity with the two containers to Kapiri. They will supervise the loading of the estimated six containers onto the Tazara rail, handing them over to the Chinese management before returning to Zimbabwe. Jonty’s people seem to think there is a small Chinese registered freighter due into Dar around that time, and it is certain that it is there to pick up the containers.”
Jasper voiced his assumption that the cargo would not be allowed to leave Dar es Salaam.
“Correct. I cannot give any detail because I don’t know; there’s no reason for me to know, and I can’t let it slip if I don’t know. I can make some guesses, as you can, but with the UN involved, they have to leave China an opportunity to condemn the poaching. It cuts China’s options if one of their ships is implicated.”
Jasper kept on inquiring, ‘That, then, begs another question – what happens to the Brigadier and the Koreans?”
Now Ken became a notch more serious and simply said, rather chillingly, “You do not need to worry about the Brigadier, but the Kims will be expelled and sent home in disgrace. The penalties for failure are severe and will probably include their families, poor buggers. They will be written off officially as rogue elements working for themselves.”
Jasper nodded and observed, “You seem to have this tied up, and so far I am no clearer what it is that you want me to do.”
“OK,” said Ken, “We need proof, evidence if you will, of Kim A and Kim B’s involvement throughout the whole chain, particularly here in Zimbabwe.” He came straight to the point, “I want you to go and find evidence of slaughter, photograph it, then find this Hurungwe camp; confirm it is the place and photograph what’s going on, how many people there are, and especially to be there when the Kims arrive, along with the Brigadier. I need pictorial evidence of the containers being loaded and sealed with Diplomatic tags.”
“What about the combatants?”
“Either you deal with it or you call us in.”
“Well, that’s to the point,” said Jasper. “I suppose I have never met you and I am on my own.” They all laughed and opened beers to seal the deal.
Sophie appeared and asked if they were finished, and it was Ken who said, “Not quite, but it does now involve you. I need your husband to go to Zambia and see Jonty to tie up with him, so I would suggest the two of you go up on a holiday. It needs to be next week at the latest.” Then, to Jasper, he said, “Tony has some toys for you which might be of use, contacts if you want, and if you can deal with him from now on, I’ll be grateful. I shall be keeping an eye out and for the record, only Tony knows who you and Henry are in relation to this case, and no-one else at this point needs to know about you at all.”
Sophie smiled and said that she might even get to like Ken for making good suggestions, but he told her that she had never met him. As for the staff, she had already put the story around that it was a couple of travel agents who had come wanting to do some deals on getting more clients. With that she showed Ken and Tony to their rooms, where the showers were, and said they had a couple of hours before dinner. Tony came back with a couple of cases which he put down with a clunk. He produced a camera and a set of lenses, which he described as being high resolution and capable of taking pictures at night without flash. Then he produced an SVD, complete with silencer, and a couple of CZ 75s, night vision binos, a satellite phone, a stock of tranquilizer darts, and military maps of the Hurungwe, Charara, Sapi, and Chiwore areas. Lastly, he repeated a call-sign and a number, should JJ need to contact him for anything. He seemed almost apologetic and began to explain, he had never abused his friendship, that at least being genuine. Jasper waved him away, saying he never would have thought that anyway, and that he was actually excited at the thought of action. He hated to admit it, but he did miss the thrill of the chase, the thought of being on the good guys team. Despite the fact that they had lost a war, with all the disappointment of that, there was nevertheless a magic about the adrenaline rush one got, knowing you could become at one with, indeed part of, the bush. The satisfaction came with from being like any policeman, upholding the societal laws for the good of that society, the bush. Being part of that grand scheme did bring home both the insignificance of an individual, but also the extent of care needed to maintain the equilibrium of life. Anything that threatened that equilibrium was clearly the enemy. As they chatted, Jasper was reminded that he needed to update his will and how to dispose of assets in the event of the unexpected. His plan was to relocate Sophie to his parents in Durban, at least until he had completed the business at hand. She already knew how to access the offshore funds. He was unsure if he would be welcome or safe from any backlash that may come about, irrespective of success or failure, so he reasoned that they may not be able to return to the safari business. Tony agreed and understood why Jasper was suspicious of what might be in the future, so came up with a plan that would seem to have been in place before the events about to unfold. He made provisions for Henry to take over the business on the basis of a fictional yearly payment, and respected certain bequests to Francis and Barnabas, plus a secure job for both. As Tony explained, he could fix it so that should Jasper want to pick up the reins again, he could; if not, the business would pass into Henry’s hands, with Tony’s company assisting with the management of the business, but not the actual running of it. He would have to talk to Henry when he got back.