SA laughs all the way to the ballot box

"WHY DO all South Africans need bar-coded identity books? Nelson Mandela is sentimental. He was behind bars for 27 years. Now he wants everyone to have bars in their books."

In a five-week, stand-up roadshow, Evita Bezuidenhout, the drag queen persona of Afrikaner comedian Pieter-Dirk Uys, is putting smiles on South African faces ahead of the country's second democratic elections on 2 June. It is hard: democracy was more fun in 1994, when the country's most prominent political prisoner became president, a pariah state became a "rainbow nation" and, as Evita said, South Africa got a Y-front beach towel for a national flag.

This time there is political violence to control and real issues, such as housing, education, health care and crime, to address. Not to mention the tedious business of voter registration, with its obligatory bar codes.

"I am so pleased to see you all here tonight," says the overweight, overdone Evita, on stage at Johannesburg City Hall. "Two million other people were too scared to come in case their cars were stolen." You can't accuse her of not confronting the issues. "Have you all registered to vote?" she asks the racially mixed audience. "I know registration involves standing in a queue, and the white people have been getting whiter from standing in line. But black people stood in a queue for 360 years, and just look at how nice and smiling they became."

Before 1994, Evita was South Africa's (frequently banned) ambassador to the fictitious homeland of Bapetikosweti. Now a humorous feature of the New South Africa, the "godmother of the nation" appears with a sidekick, Basil Appollis, an "affirmative white" (mixed race) comedian who, she claims, "grew up in my kitchen, where his auntie was my cook".

The idea of Evita's Ballot Bus is to counter voter apathy. Despite a registration drive which has signed up 70 per cent of the country's estimated 22.8 million electorate, fewer people may vote this time because they know the ANC will win and Thabo Mbeki will replace President Mandela.

"If the ANC get the two-thirds majority they are after, we are back to the one-party state," says Evita, who, as part of her indabas (meetings), allows representatives of political groups 90 seconds to outline their programmes, then takes questions from the audience.

Of the 41 parties fighting the forthcoming election, seven turned up at Johannesburg City Hall last week, including the main players but also Kiss (slash tax to make the rand strong) and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance ("Isn't that a contradiction in terms?" asks Evita).

The election will not contain many laughs. Last week five ANC and United Democratic Movement activists were murdered in Western Cape townships, and rivalry between the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party frequently flares in KwaZulu-Natal. But Evita's weapon is laughter and her message to this country of 11 official languages is "vote, vouta, khatha, stem, tlhopha, kgetha".

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam