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".

Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey fans rejoice, series five returns later this month
TV
Arts and Entertainment
booksExclusive extract from Howard Jacobson’s acclaimed new novel
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Development Manager

Salary/Rate: £32,000/annum: M&E Global Resources Ltd: Description/Main Duties ...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Application Support Analyst / Junior SQL Server DBA

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established professional services...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor