Repo man, biker, farmer, dad

Eugène is in Stellenbosch repossessing a car.

He says he’s getting soft, now he’s a dad. This woman, he says, she has to take her kids to school every day. How how will she do that if I take her car?

So he drove over 300km to Stellenbosch from Klerksdorp in a cheaper car to swap out the new Renault Clio she was driving. Something he wouldn’t have done in his earlier years. He says he’s gotten soft since his son was born three years ago.

Eugène’s got a hearty laugh, loves to joke and tell stories. He makes friends easily and will strike up a conversation with anyone he meets. He’s a tough guy though, and I worry that if I tell the wrong kind of joke, or say something that offends him, the situation might turn quickly.

Repossessing cars is tough work, he says. He gets in scraps all the time, and has stab wound scars on both arms.

Standing at well over six feet with wide-set shoulders, he’s an imposing figure. He used to be a heavyweight boxer. But he’s friendly and polite. Loves brandy, beer and cigarettes. He smokes like someone who really loves smoking, cupping the cigarette in his hand between his thumb and index finger, and looking at it between puffs. He can talk non-stop about rugby, rattling off names of players in Kiwi and Aussie Super 15 sides as easily as the South African ones. He collects classic cars.

Eugène is unapologetically Afrikaans. He speaks English in a thick accent, and doesn’t slow it down when speaking to people who struggle with the language.

He merrily invites me to have a beer with him. “Last time I drank with one of you bastards was in London!”

When he’s not giving cash loans or buying and selling cars, Eugène is involved in several pubs, restaurants, and a rugby club. And he owns a farm, a private game park.

“I just bought another giraffe,” he says.

Because you can do that in South Africa. Just buy a giraffe.

And he’s breeding antelope, trying to get certain colours that hunters will pay more to shoot.

I’m sharing a beer with him at a local pub, when a kid screams past on a little 80cc motorbike, revving the hell out of it. Eugène swears at him in Afrikaans. I ask if he likes bikes. He tells me he rides a Harley Softail.

“I’m the national vice president of the Predators.” That’s a motorcycle club.

“But we’re more like a family club. We’re not like these…” he trails off.

His implication that there isn’t anything sinister about the club is contradicted later in the night. Two young black guys are in the middle of a square surrounded by bars, revving a stationary 400cc sports bike. Eugène walks up to them, grabs them both by the shoulder and pulls the seated guy up so he can look them both in the eye.

In Afrikaans he tells them to have some respect. Then he starts chatting to them. When he mentions the Predators, both of the guys look scared.

He buys me a steak and kidney pie and asks if I want to go to the beach. I agree, and we jump in the car. Five minutes into the 15-minute drive, Eugène gets distracted by a pub on the side of the road, and we go in to buy cigarettes.

Inside, there are a bunch of Nigerian guys watching football, and five middle-aged South Africans dancing and sucking each other’s faces. We stay for a beer and start joking around. We never make it to the beach.

The conversation turns to hunting, and one of the Nigerian guys says “I see a springbok, I shoot it, I eat it.”

The mood immediately turns sour. Eugène’s chin rises, he shows the whites of his eyes, he stands up straight and stares at the other guy.

Not in South Africa, says Eugène. Only South Africans kill springboks, not foreigners.

The Nigerian realises he’s in a tight spot, manages to talk himself out of it and makes himself scarce.

“Even with all the game park stuff I do, I never organised for a foreigner to shoot a Springbok.”

He tells me he once shot a stock thief in the knee.

I’m not racist, he says, I don’t care if you’re black, white, or purple, don’t mess with my livelihood.

At the end of the night, several brandies later, he tells me his wife has a second kid on the way. Says he wants to sell his shares in the loans business and stop being a repo man.

“I’m getting too old for this.”

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