South African Elections: Evita lives on to send up new regime: Raymond Whitaker meets the satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys and his 'chorus line' in Cape Town

AS election officials desperately try to bring the last voters and ballot papers together, who better to comment on South Africa's chaotic transition to democracy than the country's (self-proclaimed) most famous white woman, Evita Bezuidenhout?

The Independent Electoral Commission? 'I think they're doing wonderfully for a Third World organisation,' she coos. The new flag? 'How nice to have a Y-front beach towel]' What about the election result? 'If the left gets in, nothing will be right,' she predicts. 'If the right gets in, nothing will be left.' The audience at Cape Town's Dock Road theatre roars appreciatively.

Evita is the most famous creation of South Africa's leading satirist, Pieter-Dirk Uys, whose show, One Man One Volt, was pulled off television screens by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) on Sunday, 90 minutes before it was due to go out. The corporation said it had done so on legal advice, claiming that it might be seen as an attempt to influence voters. Uys, sitting in the theatre's cafe-bar before his performance, sees the cancellation as a reversion to old habits of censorship.

'The biggest insult was replacing me with Barry Manilow,' he says. He has refused to make changes sought by the SABC, which wants him to drop his final sketch - a savage monologue in which a Coloured (mixed-race) woman keeps denying she is a racist, while laying into Jews, the Portuguese and especially blacks. He doubts whether the show will ever be broadcast.

A short while later he is on stage with his 'chorus line' of imaginary characters and impressions. They include the Queen, who congratulates South Africa on its 'free and fair fraud', a Tory MP who puts a plastic bag over his head and emerges as Baroness Thatcher, and Nelson Mandela, who suggests that right-wingers' demands for an Afrikaner homeland and King Goodwill Zwelethini's desire for Zulu sovereignty should be solved by a time-share in Natal.

These are difficult times for satirists. Half the show has to be rewritten every night, and Uys says both Mr Mandela and President F W de Klerk are 'bloody hard' to capture.

Mr de Klerk is 'such a lawyer, he has no verbal mannerisms'. As for the ANC leader, 'How do you do a saint? It's like trying to do Mother Teresa - you put a tea-towel on your head and then what?' Uys has found the voice but not the look, so he performs his Mandela skit with his back to the audience.

The comic finds his edge blunted by his admiration for both men, and his excitement at what they have achieved. During the show he keeps breaking out of character to comment on South Africa's 'miracle'. Winnie Mandela is an easier target ('Come on baby, light my tyre'), and Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi are 'absolute gifts'.

But he refuses to do the right-wing militarist, Eugene Terre-Blanche, 'a third-rate loser who can't even draw a swastika properly. They should turn Robben Island into a Boerassic Park for him and his followers'.

Uys, a 'Jewish Afrikaner', has been battling the censors for more than two decades. He began doing one-man shows with nothing but a few props because they could be changed overnight whenever they were banned. Evita Bezuidenhout emerged from the chorus line as a means of saying the unsayable: in her role as South African ambassador to the fictional black homeland of Bapetikosweti, she sent up apartheid's lunacies so successfully that Uys received a death threat.

Though Evita has been all over the world - she was at the Edinburgh Festival last year, and leaves tomorrow for the Netherlands - Uys has talked about phasing her out. In the new South Africa, he imagined, she would be past her sell-by date.

But a recent performance has made him think again. 'I was asked to appear in front of Nelson Mandela and 20,000 ANC followers at a rally on the Cape Flats. It was a bit of a shock meeting him in a dress - me, I mean - but they all loved it. I had to sit there for three hours in Evita's Voortrekker costume. I thought, 'What am I doing here?' especially when I saw some comrades in balaclavas staring at me. But they called 'Madam, madam', and threw sweets to me. It seems Evita may be appointed South African ambassador to the Boer volkstaat.'

There could still be difficulties with the ANC's notoriously Stalinist cultural department. 'Political correctness is the biggest problem - the fear of giving offence, the danger that people will be persuaded not to attend. One has been approached and asked not to write about this or that, but when I ask their names they run away. I'm giving the new government 100 days before I start sending them up.'

Uys believes humour will be important in bridging South Africans 'from fear to acceptance'. 'I think you're so brave to come out,' Evita greets the packed audience. 'I thought you'd all be at home, grooming your Rottweilers and cleaning your guns.' As for the uncertain future, the show closes with the assurance: 'When the shit hits the fan, the fan won't be working.'

(Photograph omitted)

News
i100
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
The Prostate Cancer Foundation is returning all donations made by Redditors 'in honour' of Jennifer Lawrence and her naked photos
news

Website users raised funds after Jennifer Lawrence nude photo leak

News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
news

The Tardis-style house measures in at just 83 inches wide

News
advertising
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
News
i100
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
health
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Sport
England captain Wayne Rooney during training
FOOTBALLNew captain vows side will deliver against Norway for small crowd
News
peopleJustin Bieber charged with assault and dangerous driving after crashing quad bike into a minivan
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Sport
Radamel Falcao poses with his United shirt
FOOTBALLRadamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant in Colombia to Manchester United's star signing
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
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

Renewables Consultant

£28000 - £34000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Renewable...

Energy Procurement Consultant

£26000 - £34000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Pr...

Swimming Teacher/Coach

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to wo...

Teachers needed in Debenham

Competitive & Flexible: Randstad Education Cambridge: The JobRandstad Educatio...

Day In a Page

Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

‘We knew he was something special’

Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
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