PETER HITCHENS: How China has created a new slave empire in Africa
By PETER HITCHENS
Narrow escape: Peter Hitchens
I think I am probably going to die any minute now. An inflamed, deceived mob of about 50 desperate men are crowding round the car, some trying to turn it over, others beating at it with large rocks, all yelling insults and curses.
They have just started to smash the windows. Next, they will pull us out and, well, let’s not think about that …
I am trying not to meet their eyes, but they are staring at me and my companions with rage and hatred such as I haven’t seen in a human face before. Those companions, Barbara Jones and Richard van Ryneveld, are – like me – quite helpless in the back seats.
If we get out, we will certainly be beaten to death. If we stay where we are, we will probably be beaten to death.
Our two African companions have – crazily in our view – got out of the car to try to reason with the crowd. It is clear to us that you might as well preach non-violence to a tornado.
At last, after what must have been about 40 seconds but that felt like half an hour, one of the pair saw sense, leapt back into the car and reversed wildly down the rocky, dusty path – leaving his friend behind.
By the grace of God we did not slither into the ditch, roll over or burst a tyre. Through the dust we churned up as we fled, we could see our would-be killers running with appalling speed to catch up. There was just time to make a crazy two-point turn which allowed us to go forwards and so out-distance them.
We had pretty much abandoned our other guide to whatever his fate might be (this was surprisingly easy to justify to myself at the time) when we saw that he had broken free and was running with Olympic swiftness, just ahead of pursuers half hidden by the dust.
We flung open a rear door so he could scramble in and, engine grinding, we veered off, bouncing painfully over the ruts and rocks.
We feared there would be another barricade to stop our escape, and it would all begin again. But there wasn’t, and we eventually realised we had got away, even the man whose idiocy nearly got us killed.
He told us it was us they wanted, not him, or he would never have escaped. We ought to be dead. We are not. It is an interesting feeling, not wholly unpleasant.
Why did they want to kill us? What was the reason for their fury? They thought that if I reported on their way of life they might lose their livings.
Livings? Dyings, more likely.