“I’m scared he’ll find out where I am,” says Elaine* from a small town somewhere in the north of our country.
“I was married to a smuggler. He’s still smuggling. He’s also been involved in conspiracy to murder, car theft and other crimes. He had me in his power and held me emotionally captive with threats. I don’t want to be held captive like that anymore.”
Fortunately, she’s found a job in a liquor store after running away with nothing more than the clothes on her back.
“I got on a bus and slept on the streets for four nights; in the toilets at petrol stations.”
Elaine tracked down a school friend on Facebook and since has been living in the same town as her friend and her husband.
“They saved my life . . .”
Elaine and her future husband met in May 1985 at a popular dance club in Pretoria. His best friend was Elaine’s boyfriend at the time. “We fell in love and got married at the end of July 1985. He moved into my rented flat with a suitcase full of clothes.
“A few months after the wedding he lost his job. Then he got a job again, then he lost it again – this continued for years. He’d been a security guard, then he was the owner of a welding business.” After her father had died they moved in with her mom. He was still unable to keep a job.
After her father had died they moved in with her mom. He was still unable to keep a job.
“We had three children. As the kids got bigger he became more heavy-handed with them. Once he assaulted the eldest so badly that I called the police. They didn’t want to come.”
Apparently, they asked, “Is your son dead?” When she replied that he wasn’t they rang off. “Perhaps he had connections with the cops, I don’t know.”
He got involved in a car theft syndicate. “He’d tell me that he’d be working at night but that we’d be safe as someone would be near and watching the house.
“Then he’d disappear and only return the next day. Each time he’d say that he had to ‘steal’ a car for someone else so the person could claim insurance. Sometimes he’d even mention the client’s name. Then he’d tell me how he had to drive around the whole night while his contacts would tell him where he had to take the car.”
About two weeks after they got married he started talking about a certain José, ‘a short, chubby Portuguese with a dark skin. This man would remain part of our lives until the end.’
He even had a ring made that made him part of the gang, or ‘network’ as he called it. He often said that one of their two sons would one day take over his position and would then have to wear the ring.
In 2000, she was present when he planned to ‘take out’ a man from Witbank because he’d assaulted is wife. He said he was having the man watched and that he knew his movements.
“This stuck in my throat, but because I was so scared of José I couldn’t do anything except to pray. Two days before the murder was scheduled, he was ‘converted’ and drop the plan.
“His ‘conversion’ also changed the nature of our relationship – I was now taught that he would be responsible for making decisions. As an obedient wife, I was supposed to support him, because that’s what God expected of me. Then I’d be obedient to God.
“He testified in the church’s cell-group meetings and even in the church itself about his misdeeds ‘in the past’. Our marriage was often used in discussions – obviously as the ‘good marriage’.”
In 2006, he started working as a truck driver. Soon he took up a job at an international company that supposedly imported vegetables.
“I often went with on his trips and had to watch the daily bribery on our borders. He became one of three who’d transport special loads ‘for the boss’.
“These, it turned out, were contraband cigarettes. And gold. And liquor. AK47s. Cellphones. Electrical goods. He brought home R18 000 a week which he locked in a safe.
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