In The News
Trumpeting at the Walls of Democracy – and like Jericho we all fall down!
– Pieter-Dirk Uys, Daily Maverick, 10 November 2016
How could we have got it so wrong? The media with all their fingers in so many pies? The polls who swear by their perfect tone of whisper? How are we still cemented in the ancient belief that things will develop and end in a logical way, as they did last time? Those days ended on September 11, 2001 in the smouldering ruins of that great American Dream. And a female candidate spouting monologues that have a beginning, a middle and an end, makes no sense to the LCD. (That stands for Lowest Common Denominator) I have always believed that in an upside-down society the LCD floats on top.
Enter Donald J. Trump. A glossy one-dimensional cartoon straight out of a Batman saga, who knows his market. He tweets, he insults, he demeans, he lies, he cheats and then the postscript to that is what he can steal. He whispers like a pornographer into the ears of the deaf and the blind and his bad breath lets them realise that he is one of them, the great unwashed, the silent majority. The people who have the vote because that is what democracy has given them. The people who have possibly never used that vote before, because their world was being discussed in the staff room of politics while they were all still in detention as the dunces of the class.
Donald Trump treated the campaign and us, the audience, as the reality show that it was, and being the veteran winner and eternal survivor, will be in the Oval Office in January 2017. Politics will never be the same again. Nor will satire. The glorious bloodbath of fun at the expense of the Orange Pussycat in cartoons and late-night TV shows (Trevor Noah especially) will lead to a renaissance of politically-dicey ribbing from the backrooms of snigger.
And I am totally inspired! Let me repeat it slowly for us all to savour: Donald J. Trump is to be the 45th President of the United States of America. For the next four years all I need to do is have my small orange kitty arranged on my head, wave my clenched fists around to indicate those small hands, purse my lips like a Lady Gaga on Botox, and never end a sentence.
Just say four words slowly, then pause; repeat the four words slowly. Then suddenly beam a smile that could make people think you’ve got your foreskin stuck in your zip. Point a finger at no one in the audience but as if you knew them. Nod your head, make your eyes sleepy and dreamy and drop your voice into a purr. Then start that half sentence all over again. It’s called doing a Trump. That means a performance with orange pussy on head, minimal words, few half-sentences and no content or context.
What a gift. The leader of the free world with the IQ of an artichoke. Truly, Goofy has left Disneyland and is moving into the West Wing.
What will the Donald do? He doesn’t have any idea of the national structures of supreme power. He’s been a one-man band with a gift for self-promotion and useful amnesia with repeated denials of “I never said that”. Behold his inauguration with his small hand on the Bible, which is more than likely the well-thumbed copy of The Valley of the Dolls from beside his bed. He will say in his Apprentice voice, not “Donald you’re fired”, but “I Donald J. Trump do hereby swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America, so help me God”. Then soon to insist: “No, I never said that. Ever said that. No, not once. Ever. Said. That.”
He could start his reign with a bang. On his first day in office (would that be January 21, 2017?) he could drop a nuclear bomb on North Korea. The rest of the world will sigh with relief as they have all wanted to do that same thing for ages but just didn’t have the balls. The Donald is all balls and will take full responsibility in half a sentence, which in a month’s time he can deny ever having said. Or he can just embrace the job and do what comes naturally. Sell the Trump Name to front countless projects in the name of the people –- Trump Drones, Trump FBI, Trump Pentagon, Game of Trumps. He can envelop himself in the shadow of Hillary, become part of the Wall Street Mafia, and allow all the business of the past corruptions to carry on as usual as long as he gets his fee and the percentage owed him as the leader of the free world. Lots of laughs in all that, I’d say.
It was a terribly long reality show, this American election. Could it have been 18 months? The analysis, the discussions, the primaries, the speeches, the accusations, the debates. Maybe that’s the only lesson we can learn. Subjecting our chosen ones to the gruelling discipline of finding answers to questions and delivering opinions on issues that affect the people. In our rainbow tuck shop there is never any of that. Our potential leaders refuse debates, discussions, arguments, even issues. They sit fatly on the party list and then settle grandly into the post of minister, usually in charge of the future of millions of young people without even knowing how to spell the word “category”, let alone pronounce it.
So watch him reinvent the top job in the world and sell time-shares in the Lincoln Bedroom. Watch Melania Trump take her place as the First Stepford Wife. Watch the Trumpettes backseat-drive their Dada’s government once helmed by veteran professionals. And watch the daily news of Agent Orange as he breaks wind in the palm of your hand. It will dissolve your flesh. Now that’s funny!
Friday Files — Tannie’s solution for our qualms
Gasant Abarder finds out that Tannie Evita Bezuidenhout has opinions — and solutions — for all our qualms: from the beleaguered Springboks, the plummeting rand, Tim Noakes and the student protests
– Gasant Abarder, Cape Argus, 4 November 2016
There’s an excited group of executives in the Mount Nelson Hotel’s lobby area. I move closer to see what the fuss is about. Most of the managers are unsurprisingly men and they’re listening intently.
It’s Tannie Evita Bezuidenhout holding court.
“Careful,” I say, “The media is here.”
There are nervous giggles all round, except from Tannie Evita who looks stately in an elegant dress and heels, not a hint of grey in her hair.
It took a lot to get this interview — chiefly having to listen to Pieter-Dirk Uys ramble on and on about himself so that I could get to Tannie! He clearly rides on Evita’s success.
“Ag, I’m so glad you gave him some attention. He’s so lonely out there because in a democracy there’s nothing to complain about, né?”
South Africans have been in for a rough time. But Tannie has the antidote. This week she has had young and old spellbound with her show, An Evening with Evita Bezuidenhout, which concludes on Sunday at Artscape.
As always, she isn’t shy to share her opinions, especially politics.
“It’s wonderful how people have created new words for old habits. In the old days we called state capture National Party policy. They say, the Guptas and R8 billion … the National Party spent that over a weekend.
“So I keep saying to people I’ve been there. Ek kom van daai ou laager and I saw with my own eyes what can actually happen when the public looks the other way. And that’s the thing we must never do now.
“Thanks to Thuli (Madonsela), she has shown us you don’t look the other way. My friend said: O, my liewe aarde, every time I read every newspaper — except of course the Cape Argus which is always very optimistic — I feel like I have to run to the Australian High Commission to get a visa to go and live in Australia.’
“I say: Maar my gits, skattie, you can live in Australia and watch your Vietnamese neighbours eat your dogs! It is nonsense.’
“I must tell you something else, we forget that democracy will never be perfect. Everybody’s fingerprints are on that silver chalice of freedom so all these things can be expected. But the problem is if the top of the tree is rotten then the roots also go. We are sitting in a situation… aai die arme ou Jacob!”
Tannie Evita has opinions — and solutions — for all our qualms: from the beleaguered Springboks, the plummeting rand, Tim Noakes, the student protests and tips for aspiring first ladies.
She is as astute as ever in her golden years. And if we listen carefully, there is wisdom in every pearl she offers.
“I must tell you and let me be very clear: I am a member of the ANC. I am not allowed to speak on behalf of the party, I am not allowed to have any opinions.
“I’m here in my personal capacity as a gogo and a citizen of South Africa.
“The rand is now a cent. Liewe aarde! It makes no sense! And the Springboks? It’s called service delivery: rugby teams must deliver and if there is rotten service delivery we must replace them with the people who can do the job. It doesn’t matter about colour. What about women being part of the Springbok rugby team, why must it always be men?
“A woman must just lift her T-shirt and all the men will fall over and then she can kick a goal, né? Take a hint from Donald Trump’s old notebook. I mean, daai ou skelmpie…
“But I am worried that symbols take over from common sense. Take the Cecil John Rhodes statue. In Darling in my little Perron, I’ve got Boerassic Park and these are places waiting for these statues.
“I’ve said to Mr Max Price (UCT vice-chancellor) and the people at Wits that they must send me the statues that the students don’t like.
“I don’t want those statues to be there to irritate the students. Who needs to look at a statue of Adolf Hitler in this day and age in Germany? They don’t have his statue there.
“But give me the statues because it’s part of history. Don’t destroy them. Put them into Boerassic Park with Jan van Riebeeck and Hendrik Verwoerd.
“I think there’s only one statue of Hendrik Verwoerd and that’s in Orania. It’s small. When Nelson Mandela stood next to it he looked down and said: I didn’t know he was so small!’ “
Tannie Evita is a veteran author of a number of books, including cookbooks like Bossie Sikelela and Kossie Sikelela.
She has noticed that another politician has released a tell-all book recently. When I mention Helen Zille’s Not Without A Fight, Tannie Evita raises her eyebrows and says: “Mamphela het so geskrik she lost her memory and didn’t know what she had promised. You must never kiss like that in public, especially powerful women. Dis baie gevaarlik.
“Good luck, Helen, you are standing in the queue in every bookshop because people don’t always want to read the truth. So if you tell the truth, you’re not going to sell too many copies.
“If you’ve added noughts for effect, you might get onto page 6 of one of the newspapers. If you prove that you are what you say, we will see you actually doing it in your job, né?
“She had a very good life. My liewe aarde, I never met her of course because anyone exposing the death of Steve Biko was a communist and a terrorist.
“I’ve always thought she was a good leader of a party. She was disciplined, she was an Angela Merkel, she was a Margaret Thatcher… not always necessary in this country.
“They said to me, why don’t you lead the party, and I said those days of madam-in-charge are over. I think the best thing she ever did was to actually step away from the leadership of the DA.
“I’ve got the book, it’s a very thick book and it’s in the car in case somebody hijacks me then I’ll throw the book at them. Dis ‘n doodgooi boek!”
But what to make of the Tannie’s beloved ANC? They’re misunderstood, says the Tannie, and there’s plenty to be optimistic about.
“People don’t do their homework. I think the biggest mistake we’re making here is we don’t know who our leaders are. Everybody says, O, Jacob Zuma ja ja…’.
“He’s a very clever man. He’s not a Western leader, he’s a Zulu chief, né. He’s a Dingaan, he’s a Shaka. They didn’t take public protectors seriously, hulle het hul geëet, né, literally gebraai… en Piet Retief, maar hy was net die pudding.
“I’m looking very forward to this occasion, an evening with Evita Bezuidenhout in Artscape. I look forward to the people who say to me wherever I am, O, Tannie Evita we can’t come to your Perron because we are too busy and it’s too far and our car has been stolen.’
“Now you can come to Artscape. On Sunday I have two shows and that is wonderful because families can come together. What I want to do is just present to them all the realities… make them feel in charge of the things that frighten them.
“My dear, dear Marlene le Roux (Artscape chief executive)… die pragtige Marlene, die slim Marlene… she is the right CEO there because sy vat nie nonsens van enige kabouters nie.
“And of course she’s brought theatre, opera and ballet and all those wonderful things for people who weren’t allowed in the place in the old South Africa.”
Tannie Evita has a recipe to bring the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) into line. It’s all about eating right, connecting with the people and doing the right thing.
“I’m just an ordinary member of the African National Congress. But I will say to them, stick to my diet. It’s working and I’ve been doing it for a few months.
“It’s not banting en daai donner (Tim Noakes) is gedurend in my kombuis. I say do not come in here with the fat. It’s nonsense, nee wat, jou hart gaan staan met al daai braaivleis. Jy sien mos al die boere is dood.
“I have a very clever diet for the NEC but especially for the cabinet because if you look at a fat politician, you think of the thin voter, and the majority of voters are poorer and thinner than ever before.
“All Julius Malema has to do between now and the general election of 2019 is to promise the poor everything and anything and they will vote him into power democratically, mense.
“I look at Donald Trump and I’m grateful for Julius Malema, I must be honest. But do not underestimate the extreme cleverness of the EFF. Ek dink hulle is baie slim, cleverer than the other parties.”
“I would also say to the members of the NEC: Don’t follow the leader just because he pays your bills. You have got to stand up for what you believe in’.
“The reason I speak about all those things like HIV — and I didn’t want to talk about those things for years want ek was bang vir die goed — because when Thabo Mbeki said those things that HIV does not lead to Aids, everybody around him who knew better said nothing. And 380 000 people died, as my son De Kock tells me.
“To the NEC: Make yourself known to your constituents because people don’t know who is in the government.’
“And I say this more to the voters: Find out who you’ve put into power is delivering and if they don’t deliver, get their cellphone numbers and phone them at 3am for the next five years. Hou die donners wakker!’
“I’m in the ANC because I had to get to where the power is. The power is not in Parliament, it has become a DA parking garage or a playpen for the Teletubbies of the EFF.
“Luthuli House is the only power station that the ANC has built in the last 22 years. Ek is daar and let me tell you something, some people say Tannie Evita Bezuidenhout as a member of the ANC is like Angela Merkel as a credit bank manager.
“Of course, I know who the corrupt ones are and I send SMSes to people and say: Look, look, Guptas, oppas!’ There are thousands and thousands of members of the ANC who are not corrupt, who are not stealing. Most people I talk to have not thought about that.
“I say think about it because we are very lucky to be here. We could have been Syria, we could have been Libya. We are not, ons is nog hier.”
In her twilight years, Tannie Evita has many qualities our politicians can learn from. Being part of our country’s landscape for so long, she is keen to leave behind a lasting legacy.
“I hope they say that Tannie Evita Bezuidenhout went from one extreme to the other and she made the other as positive and as optimistic as the former one was negative and pessimistic. Tannie Evita stood up and showed that if the people lead, the government will follow.
“En sy het mooi bene.”
*Catch An Evening with Evita Bezuidenhout on Sunday at 3pm and 6.30pm at Artscape. Book at Computicket or call 021 421 7695.
** Gasant Abarder is the editor of the Cape Argus.
Review: An Evening with Evita Bezuidenhout
– Benn Van Der Westhuizen, What’s on in Cape Town, 4 November 2016
Evita Bezuidenhout is mellowing in her old age! It’s all cooing over her grandchildren now and discussing her rocky road to Damascus, while displaying a softer, more motherly side to her audiences. But don’t be fooled, she still refuses to give her usual line-up of political rascals an easy ride.
In a way An Evening with Evita Bezuidenhout is perhaps her most radical treatment yet of South Africa’s political imbroglio, by which I mean it is political comedy in the venerable vein: above the fray, and faintly facile. But if this style may seem unadventurous, rest assured, there are still plenty of good jokes in store. And what follows is an engaging hour and a half of narrative comedy, a hilarious yarn dealing mostly with her transition — along with fellow Afrikaners — into democracy. The comedian and satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys’ famed caricature proposes a wonderful mix of social comedy, satire and cautious optimism.
The setup is pretty familiar. Dressed to the nines in shimmering sequins and exuding her wonderfully affected mannerisms, Uys takes the stage brimming with enthusiasm as his Evita gushes over her position as the head cook at Luthuli House. It’s a swaggering introduction from a stand-up not known for his humility. Last night’s front row was filled with a host of foreign nationals who provided Uys with ample comic resources. He rails with razor-sharp wit while dishing out hilarious jabs against their country of origin — the US (Trump’s uncanny resemblance to a Halloween pumpkin), UK (how post-Brexit Britons will have to queue next to refugees for Schengen holiday visas), and Argentina (the terrible fate of the other Evita, “who sang and then died”). But Uys doesn’t need the unorthodox helping hand: this is a strong, swift production, which accrues added potency from its pacing and rarity. Now and then, Evita’s line of thinking deviates via less political topics: the adopted grandchildren and her dismay at changing drivers. But all roads lead back to patriotism, and Uys throws himself at that material even more vigorously than usual. As expected, he revisits some of the usual suspects such as Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, rounding them off with a garnishing of pasty, lumpen architects from the apartheid regime. But it’s essentially one quip after another about the omnishambles of our chaotic political governance, and the vanishing centre ground.
I cannot imagine any other setting than Artscape’s spacious stage for this production. The prestige befits an esteemed artist like Pieter-Dirk Uys. His ever-changing comic repertoire keeps him ahead of the curve. So it’s refreshing to see how he holds steadfast in our current era of political correctness.
This barbed and brilliant evening comes from a performer who understands that patriotism is about protecting the country you hold dear from the government you elect. And with this logic, Uys continues to cement his legitimacy in our current cultural and political sphere. An Evening with Evita Bezuidenhout is an involving and lively show, even if the ending reflects how tricky it can be to take comedy to such dour places — and bring it back again with an uproarious jolt.
An Evening with Evita Bezuidenhout runs at the Artscape Theatre from 1 to 6 November 2016.
SA’s favourite satirist wins ACT Lifetime Award
– Artslink, 27 October 2016
Since the 1960s, Pieter-Dirk Uys has been poking fun at the country’s past while finding hilarious ways to ensure it progresses positively.
The satirist, performer, author and social activist was recognised for his ample contributions to the arts at the 19th annual ACT Awards.
Sponsored by DALRO, this Theatre Lifetime Achievement Award was bestowed upon Uys at the glittering Sophiatown-themed Awards ceremony at Sun International’s The Maslow Hotel in Johannesburg.
“As an organisation that prides itself on protecting the rights and copyright of artists, playwrights and authors, DALRO is proud to sponsor an award that bestows such a distinguished honour on South African artists who have spent their lives contributing to our nation’s extensive cannon of theatrical work. It is through the work of such profound artists that South Africans can engage with a high calibre of artistry for generations to come,” says DALRO.
And Uys certainly is such an artist. Closely associated with both the Space Theatre in Cape Town and Johannesburg’s Market Theatre during the 1970s and 1980s, he has written and performed 20 plays and over 30 revues and one-man shows throughout South Africa and abroad.
Over the years Uys, and his celebrated character Evita Bezuidenhout, have received a bevy of Awards for both their theatrical work and their humanitarian efforts. Uys was awarded South Africa’s prestigious Truth and Reconciliation Award in 2001. He has received honorary degrees from Rhodes University (D.Litt.Hon. 1997), the University of Cape Town (D.Litt.Hon. 2003), the University of the Western Cape (D.Edu.Hon. 2003) and the University of the Witwatersrand (D.Litt.Hon. 2004). While Bezuidenhout proudly received the Living Legacy 2000 Award in San Diego, USA. In 2011, Uys was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Teddy Award at the Berlin International Film Festival, and in 2012 he received the FW de Klerk Goodwill Award.
His plays Paradise is Closing Down, Panorama, God’s Forgotten, Auditioning Angels, Faces in the Wall and Just Like Home have been performed internationally, and his one-man shows Adapt or Dye, One Man One Volt, You ANC Nothing Yet, Truth Omissions, Live from Boerassic Park, Dekaffirnated, Foreign Aids, Evita for President, and Elections & Erections have been presented in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Australia, the USA and Canada.
Recent successes include Desperate First Ladies and F.A.K. Songs and Other Struggle Anthems, which he has presented throughout South Africa and toured to Berlin, Holland and London. During 2012, Uys launched his latest one-man onslaught, Adapt or Fly, throughout South Africa and later toured it to Namibia, while in 2013 he added An Audience with Pieter-Dirk EISH! to his repertoire, and premiered a new Bambi Kellermann cabaret, 50 Shades of Bambi, at the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town.
Also an accomplished author in a variety of genres, Uys’ 2000 novel, Trekking to Teema, was South Africa’s first e-book, before being published as a hard copy. He has also written Evita Bezuidenhout’s biography, A Part Hate A Part Love, as well as a book based on his 12-part 1994 MNet television series, Funigalore, in which Evita Bezuidenhout, interviewed the new democratic government’s leaders, including Nelson Mandela.
Since 2000, Uys has been travelling around South Africa, visiting over 1.5 million school children, as well as prisons and reformatories, with a free AIDS-awareness entertainment show called For Facts Sake!. He has also released a corporate AIDS-information video, Having Sex with Pieter-Dirk Uys, as well as the family-friendly video, Survival Aids, and Just a Small Prick!, which tackle the fears surrounding testing for HIV.
Uys believes that without art the world would be a very different place. “Art is the oxygen; culture is the calcium,” he says, “without them any society would be without breath or movement.”
DALRO echoes this; “It is through the arts that our communities can actively engage with our heritage, identities and the myriad cultures that make up our diverse nation. The arts remain the most evocative, spiritual and personal way we as South Africans tackle ideas, conflict and change.”
Always up for a challenge, Uys believes that the highlight of his career is “survival in spite of all the pitfalls and dongas of life”. He believes that failure is essential to success; “without them, there is no eventual award,” he concludes.
The 19th annual ACT Awards was hosted by Sun International in association with the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) and is supported by the Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO), the Dramatic, Artistic and Literary Rights Organisation (DALRO), Media24 Books, the Nedbank Arts Affinity, JTI, Creative Feel, Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) and the Distell Foundation.
For more information about the Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) please visit www.act.org.za.
About the Arts & Culture Trust (ACT)
The Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) is South Africa’s premier independent arts funding and development agency. The primary aim of ACT is to increase the amount of funding available for arts and culture initiatives, and to apply these funds to innovative, sustainable projects that make a meaningful contribution to society. Through structured funding and development programmes, ACT provides support for all expressions of arts and culture, including literature, music, visual art, theatre and dance, and the support extends to festivals, community arts initiatives, arts management, arts education and arts administration. Follow ACT on Twitter or like the Trust’s Facebook page or visit the ACT website.
About the Dramatic, Artistic and Literary Organisation (DALRO)
DALRO is a multi-purpose copyright society that collects royalties for the use of copyright-protected works on behalf of authors and publishers, which it then distributes back to the correct copyright-owner. As a custodian of copyright and the protection of rightsholders’ works, DALRO’s main areas of administration are reprographic reproduction rights (photocopying from published editions), public performance rights (including stage rights for book musicals and dramas) and reproduction rights (whether for publishing or copying) in works of visual art. For more information, please visit www.dalro.co.za.
Evita Bezuidenhout on ANC, beloved country
– Evita Bezuidenhout, Cape Times, 27 October 2016
WHEN I became a member of the ANC twenty months ago, it was as if I had joined ISIS.
“How can you do that?” they asked.
A very simple answer: because I can. It’s a democracy we live in and that allows us choice.
I suppose seeing Evita Bezuidenhout as a member of the African National Congress is like seeing German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a Greek bank manager.
But when my grandchildren challenged me and said: “Gogo? What are you going to do to protect democracy, so that one day when we need to vote freely and fairly, democracy will still be there in full working condition?”
There was only one choice: I had to become involved in active politics again. Dive head-first into the intrigues of power, or as my son De Kock says: “The shock and awe of designer-democracy.”
As we all know Parliament is no longer the arena of debate and sensible compromise.
It’s now either a DA parking garage, or a playpen for the Teletubbies of the EFF.
So I have to be in Johannesburg at the headquarters of the ANC.
Yes, Luthuli House is without a doubt the one and only real power station that the ANC has built in the last 22 years.
I remember sitting outside that building in my car in a turmoil of indecision. How can I choose that party after those years of struggle against it?
Being a Libra the other side welled up in my emotion. We Voortrekker women crossed the Drakensberg barefoot. Ja-nee, Boer maak ‘n plan. So I got out of the car, kissed it goodbye and walked into the foyer of this Amandlian monument of nouveau-noir aspirations.
The foyer was empty. It must be tea time. I went to reception.
No one there. Maybe it’s lunchtime? I sat on a chair that wobbled. I think I saw a small mouse run across the floor. Then the lift door opened and Jessie Duarte came out. I was relieved because I know Jessie and like her, especially with her new hairstyle. She looked shocked. “Tannie Evita? What are you doing here? This is not Woolworths?” I said: “No, Jessie I am coming to join the ANC.”
“Why?” she gasped, “What have you heard?”
“Nothing,” I laughed. “I want to be a member. What must I do?”
“Do you have cash?” she asked. I nodded. “Ok, you’re in.”
It was a life-changing experience. Of course I walked in there with all the familiar prejudices that so many of us share. That everyone in the ANC is corrupt, that everyone is a crook, creaming off the top of the barrel, hitching up the questionable families prowling the perimeters of power.
Yes, we will easily find six names every day to fill the front page of the Citizen newspaper, but during my experiences at Luthuli House I have met so many comrades who are not corrupt, who are not toadies, who are not Noddy-dogs in the back window of the President’s blue-lighted BMW. They are working hard to keep this democracy more or less on track.
Otherwise we wouldn’t be here. Which means that not everyone is following Number One. Not all comrades shout Amandla! when the chain of power is pulled.
As a member of the ANC I may not speak on behalf of the party.
I may not insinuate or fabricate; I may not announce or even celebrate. So I write here purely in a personal capacity as a mere citizen of a beloved country and proud Gogo of my three grandchildren, who are not black, who are not white.
They are Barack Obama beige. No one knew what to do with me because with my Eurocentric face and fashion, I stick out a mile.
Like a vanilla ice cream among the rum-and-raison specials, or the chocolate-mocha surprise. Many cadres speak to me in Afrikaans and my isiXhosa is getting better by the month. My best phrase as taught me by Nelson Mandela while I cooked for him from 1994 to 1998 is walala wasala! It means: you snooze, you lose.
Does history repeat itself and turn tragedy into farce? The horrors of apartheid are hiding in the mists of fading memories. Those terrible things we did to each other in the name of politics are the tragedies of our past, but today there are those familiar farces of confusion, arrogance, carelessness and lost opportunities. That’s not a tragedy; that’s just bad government.
I only say this because I was there in those old days when we closed newspapers, banned words, imprisoned leaders, shot at children, lied to God and raided the piggy bank of the Treasury.
I love where we are today in this 22nd year of a democracy that no one ever thought would happen. Yes, maybe we whites got away with apartheid, but thank heavens for small mercies. The alternative would have been another Syria, Libya and/or Burundi.
The legacy of reconciliation and embrace, which we all could envelop ourselves in when the dark curtain of separate development parted and allowed us all to dance in the sunrise of hope, must not be allowed to be eclipsed by third-rate politicians with their fourth-rate excuses.
The National Party was also in constant war with itself.
The knives were out and stabbings were the aerobics of the day. Exactly what is happening now outside my Luthuli House kitchen.
But in the old days no one knew because we controlled everything.
We lobotomised generations to say Ja Baas and Ja Oom. Today everyone has a camera at their fingertips, so no one can hide anything negative from the positive.
Without articulating a list of names, we heard the Chief ANC Whip in Parliament remind us all that freedom of expression is still alive in the party. If he is muzzled, we need to expose those who curtailed his freedom of speech.
Our beleaguered Minister of Finance is doing his job, as well as he can with the hounds of the Nklandlaville howling in the full moon of Zumafication. Those dogs must be fed another diet. Their tails will wag again.
So it’s not impossible to fall in love with South Africa again. Politics is here today and gone tonight. Keep your eye on the muddy ball of policies, but focus on what matters. Your family, your life, your loves. We live in the most beautiful country in the world. We must keep this land strong and confident, not just for the sake of our children and our grandchildren, but also our Zimbabwean maid’s children. If the people lead, the government must follow.
- Don’t miss An Evening with Evita Bezuidenhout at the Artscape Theatre on Tuesday 1 and Wednesday 2 November at 20:00, Sunday 6 November at 15:00 and 18:30. Book at Computicket.
Also follow weekly episodes of Evita’s Free Speech on YouTube every Sunday. www.evita.co.za
Spotlight on: A Night with Evita Bezuidenhout
– Candice Bernstein, Sarafina Magazine, 25 October 2016
Evita Bezuidenhout, regarded as ‘the most famous white woman in South Africa,’ heads to the Artscape Theatre with her new show: An Evening with Evita Bezuidenhout. We sat down with her at the Mount Nelson to chat about the show, her grandchildren and of course, politics. More information about the show can be found at the bottom of the page.
Sarafina: I am very honoured to be here.
Let’s chat about the show that you are about to do.
I’m so excited. It’s going to be at the Artscape in the beginning of November. An Evening with Evita Bezuidenhout.
What can audiences expect?
They always know that I will tell them as close to the truth as I have researched. I will share with them my opinions and I will remind them where we come from so we can celebrate where we are going. They often say that history repeats itself and it takes tragedy and turns it into farce, I hope not. I don’t think history repeats itself in South Africa. I think it just rhymes. From Apartheid to tripartite. From Amandla to Nkandla. I would like people to bring their children. There’s an 8pm show on Wednesday the 3rd and Tuesday the 2nd, but on the Sunday, I have two shows, one at 3pm and one at 6:30pm in the evening so bring your family. Bring the children, it’s their future. The wonderful thing about me and what people know, is I have never in my life used bad language. I tell the truth but I don’t use bad language. So don’t be frightening of having to close your children’s ears. I mean what you hear on TV, my goodness me! Terrible language. But I look forward to that experience because I’ll be on a stage with an audience of people and it will be live so it’s from my mouth to your ears, or my mouth to your lawyer’s ear.
Do you ever get starstruck?
I do. I fall in love with people all the time. I look at them on television and I think ‘oh my goodness, what a fantastic man.” I’ve been in love with Desmond Tutu for a longtime but you must remember that in the old days we thought he was a communist but we were wrong, he’s an Anglican. Barack Obama! I think Michelle, ooh did you hear her speech just a few days ago about women and children after Donald Trump said all those horrible things? And I thought ‘at least that is the good news from this American election,” what she said because it’s an ugly election. I still find power makes me starstruck because I know how easy it is for those people to get what they want, like movie stars. So I do, I’m a bit naïve when it comes to that.
Going off of what you just mentioned with the election happening right now, I watched your latest Free Speech episode and I am so sorry that you experienced that horrible incident. Does this mean that you are rooting for Hillary Clinton?
I’m not rooting for anybody but I think Hillary is a better choice because at least she knows what she is doing. This other man, unfortunately represents a huge amount of people who will never know what they are doing but that’s the way the world is going. I think it was my son who said that “in an upside down society, the lowest common denominator floats up to the top.” The Clintons come with baggage, of course, because all politics is corrupt and all power is questioned but at least they know where the red button is and they won’t press it. Donald Trump will press it because he thinks he is changing TV stations.
Do you think that South Africa could benefit from a female president?
I think South African needs a president who knows what he or she is doing. A female president could be a very good idea but don’t just put a woman there because you feel you have to tick the box. I know that Barack and Michelle Obama are without a job after the 20th of January next year, why don’t they come and take over for 6 months so that we can clean the sandbox of politics. I said this to Cyril Ramaphosa the other day, I said “Cyril, Jacob Zuma is the big tomcat of politics. Everything he puts into the sandbox you have to clean up.” If there is going to be a change of power in South Africa, and they talk about Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, I like her very much but I don’t think she is the right person because she will keep Jacob Zuma protected and we don’t necessary want to protect people when they are out of office. I want to say to Jacob Zuma “Please take retirement for health reasons with full amnesty” because we don’t want to go through years and years of court cases. It’s boring. We’ve been there. Give him Nkandla as a present and we can name an airport after him, Upington Airport and then get him out of the way. That’s my point. We can’t move because the elephant is in the room and the elephant can’t fit through the door to get out so make the door bigger.
Don’t you think by rewarding him that is going to maybe encourage up-and-coming leaders to behave the same way?
No leader is going to behave in the same way. They are going to behave in different ways which we won’t find out till too late. That is because they are clever. Nobody is going to be Adolf Hitler anymore. Nobody is going to have Auschwitz anymore. But they are going to find ways of actually torturing people and bring Apartheid back in a different form. And education is one of those terrible things that maybe only certain people will be allowed to have, so it will be the separate development of education and we must prevent that. My grandchildren are the ones that say to me “Gogo, you must protect democracy so that we can use it one day when we have the vote.” Because they are still little born-frees.
You have 3 grandchildren right?
They are not black, they are not white, they are Barack Obama beige. I’ve got 3 little, well they are not so little but they are. They always throw the hashtags at me and I’ve got to make sense of the hashtags and I agree with most of them. Yes, the fees must fall but fall means disappear down a black-hole. Fees must be less but you can’t have free education. You don’t get free anything. Life is not free. The only thing you are free to do is to be human. That is your human right. That is the only right you have so we must sort out what the rights are and we can only sort it out when people read the bill of rights and the constitution. Nobody reads the constitution because nobody does their homework. I keep saying ‘gogga, find out.’
How are you able to remain so optimistic with everything that has been happening in the country over the course of your career?
Well pessimism is a no-go area. What do we do through pessimism? You go nowhere. You feel sick and you die unhappy and nobody even knows who you were. But optimism means, you know, I believe that things are always going to be better than we expect because there are more good people than bad people. Find the good people especially the ones in politics and tell them we are on your side. We spend too much time looking at the bad people who love the attention, who love being famous. With politics we still treat them like the royal family like we did under Apartheid. They are not. They are civil servants. We put them there. So they must do their job or they must get out of their job. I’m a member of the ANC and I am very proud to actually have put the cabinet on a diet. Look at them, they can fit on economy class seats on SAA. That’s a start, neh?
A big start. You have had such a great long career, how have you noticed women’s roles in society have changed in South Africa and where do you see this developing in the future?
There is virtually no comparison. In the old days we knew our place as Calvinist Afrikaans women, 3 steps behind your husband and sometimes they forgot and we said “I can’t stand next to you. I’ve got to stand behind you.” Nobody ever thought that a woman could become a politician. Nobody ever thought a woman could become a leader. Nobody thought. Nobody thought. Then things change, we said what about Queen Elizabeth the first? What about Queen Victoria? What about Golda Meir? And what about Margaret Thatcher? I will always have Margaret Thatcher there as an inspiration. I didn’t always understand what she said and what she did, but she did make me realise that hypocrisy is the vaseline of political intercourse. Then of course we have some wonderful women today in our democratic structure because of the equality of all before the law. I’ve always had a great admiration for Winnie Madikizela Mandela. She is 80. She looks beautiful, bit of botox maybe but then black doesn’t crack so you don’t notice the botox. She is an important voice in our politics because she is definitely a senior member of the ANC and has the right to criticise. But we have some important women who we don’t know through fame, all the wives of Afrikaaner politicians; Dr. Malan’s wife, Mr. Strijdom’s wife, Mr. Verwoed’s wife, Mr. Vorster’s wife, Mr. De Klerk’s wife. They kept their husbands relatively sane because those politicians had so much power. They could do anything and there was always the wife who at the end of the day would say ‘Ag papa, kom sit, kom sit. Let me get you a cup of tea and let’s listen to some nice music and calm down.’ Don’t forget, behind every powerful man is a very powerful woman who never says “I am important” and that is why she has power. I love the way that women use their femininity to seduce the world. Who was that wonderful woman, Gloria Steinem? Always, you know, you thought “oh she’s a movie star. She’s a model.” And she said “This is me. I don’t do it specially for you. I do it for me.” I keep saying to women “Don’t do it for anybody. Do it for yourself.” Women must lead. No, women must be free to choose what they want to do. To put a woman into politics just because she is a woman is an insult. I think that is really bad. It’s not a good idea at all.
I think now with what is happening in the world, especially with the U.S election, it’s showing younger women that they can aim for that. They can aim to be a leader.
I think it has become part of the alphabet of life compared to 20 years ago, compared to when I was a child, it was impossible. Hillary will do the job well. Hillary will keep the titanic floating. Donald Trump will…I don’t know. This is the frightening thing, we don’t know. But is that what people thought when Steve Jobs held up a little square and said “Guess what this is? It is a cellphone.” And we thought “No!” Is Donald Trump maybe where the world should go when we have become a reality TV show anyway? I don’t know. I think that is why the only answer to the question ‘what do we do?’ is ‘vote.’ That is it. Vote. If the majority of people want him, every democracy deserves the government they get. We have to educate people about what is wrong and about what is better and what is easy because easy is always dangerous. I think it’s going to be very difficult to choose anyway because we’ve got to do homework. We don’t do that. Nobody knows anything about Jacob Zuma. All white people say “oh he is so corrupt. He only has standard 3.” Look how far he’s got with standard 3! We taught him to read and write at the University of Robben Island, that helped and he’s got charm and he’s got charisma. Never underestimate politicians, each one has got charm and charisma.
I saw recently that you did a Youtube collaboration with Suzelle DIY.
Can we expect more collaborations between you and the up-and-coming personalities of South Africa?
I would love that! I didn’t know who Suzette, I mean Suzelle was. I didn’t understand. I got a phone call “Tannie Evita we want a recipe.” I thought they wanted a recipe from my book so I said “yes of course I’ll share it with you.” Maybe she wants me to show her how I make it? So she arrived and she was very sweet and she just kept talking, never stopped talking. She was like a chihuahua on tik. And then I suddenly realised that she was going to take 4 hours to make this rooibos tea rusk. Liewe aarde! I was a little bit confused but now that I’ve understood more, I thought she was very nice. And what a good idea because she speaks the language of the people and she doesn’t make people think it’s complicated to cook. That’s why my cookbook…oh I have one for you by the way.
Wow. Thank you!
My cookbook is really there for people who can’t cook, and especially men and they said “no we are frightened of cooking! We don’t even know where the kitchen is.” I said “well then follow the cat.” The cat will always go to the kitchen.
One of the questions that I ask everyone that I interview, and I think this would be a great place to end off, is who are some South African women in the arts that inspire you?
Women in the arts? Well you know Thuli is in the art of negotiation. Helen Zille in the art of politics. Mimi Coertse in the art of opera singing. Miriam Makeba in the art of beautiful struggle and culture. I think everything that is done well is an art. It’s not just theatre and music and films. Charlize Theron. Major. I love Charlize. Every time I see her she is so sweet. She always remembers that I said to her mother “take your daughter to New York because she can’t be a ballet dancer because she is too tall.” I helped her mother get a cheap flight to New York and I said to Charlize when I met her, she had this thick South African accent and I said ‘nee skat. You’ve got to sit in front of the television and watch soap operas and just speak with them and eventually you will develop an accent” and look, she’s done that. Clever and very important because she has led by example. She has adopted two little children, beautiful little boy and little girl, African-American and not out of guilt because she is a white Afrikaaner but because she loves children and children don’t have colour. Children are innocent like angels. Children must be protected and women are the first people to protect children. Every man must realise that if it wasn’t for women, he would not be there.
Thank you so much.
Thank you and good luck with Sarafina!
An Evening with Evita Bezuidenhout runs at the Artscape Theatre on Tuesday 1 November at 8:00pm, Wednesday 2 November at 8:00pm and on Sunday 6 November at 3:00pm and 6:30pm. Tickets cost R150 via 0214217695 or Computicket and 08619158000. Not suitable for those under the age of 14 and anyone without a sense of humour.
Please also note: Pieter-Dirk Uys returns to the Baxter Theatre with his acclaimed one man show The Echo of a Noise from 29 Nov – 17 Dec at 8:15pm nightly with booking via Computicket or 08619158000.