Yesterday’s showman

She came to strut her stuff at the Johannesburg Theatre in Braamfontein this week, using her quirky tales of years gone by to urge theatre-goers to go out and cast their votes on April 22. During the last election she did the same thing. And the one before that.

Her collection of campaign posters of political parties is impressive. One needs to be reminded of faces like Constand Viljoen to know why democracy is precious — there are some poster faces that should never grace any self-respecting lamp post again.

This time she is doing her rounds around the country interviewing politicos while promoting her new Evita’s People’s Party.

But when we meet her alter-ego, Pieter-Dirk Uys, we know it is a hoax because in Uys’s colour-coded diary there is no space for electoral politics. Rehearsals, travelling, fittings, media interviews and performances leave no room for queuing at the Independent Electoral Commission headquarters in the bad part of Pretoria to register your political party.

That means next election we are back here again. In downtown Johannesburg, listening to jokes about PW Botha and laughing at the incompetency of home affairs.

Maybe it is her age, because Uys admits to us that he turned 63 this year. That means he would, with ANC president Jacob Zuma, have retired already and happily live off state money for the rest of his living years. But, like Jacob Zuma, he will take the high road, entertaining audiences with song and dance until Jesus comes. Or, at least, it feels like that.

Evita is to me like the family member you don’t want to acknowledge, but whom you can’t disown.

Of course, I know her well. I’ve seen a few shows. I have even visited her charming theatre in Darling in the Western Cape. Twice.

But hearing how she scrounged around in Tuynhuys (allegedly helping Thabo Mbeki pack up after his disgraceful exit) at a time when the hub of politics is not in Cape Town’s National Assembly but in Johannesburg’s Luthuli House made me think that she should move on. Maybe take her son, De Kock, and her alleged black grandchildren on holiday and enjoy the spoils of apartheid. She is part of a generation that, for better or worse, is leaving the limelight to the young and the restless.

Uys tells us over morning coffee in Melville, Johannesburg, that he was surprised by being invited to FW de Klerk’s 70th birthday event at the colonial Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town.

His name-dropping extends to Madiba, De Klerk, Adriaan Vlok and Zanele Mbeki, who are all yesterday’s people.

In 2009 you’re no one in South Africa if you don’t have a few BEE types on your speed dial. And your own so-called grandchildren don’t count.

Uys admits to his dwindling popularity among his own kind — whom he describes as “decent Christian people”.

Half of his audience at Evita se Perron are foreigners — they go there straight after they’ve visited that other old apartheid relic, Robben Island.

Teachers bring their pupils to the Perron to teach them about apartheid, because proper books about this crime against humanity are few and mostly biased.

That is where Evita should go as well. An apartheid relic that did sterling work to keep the apartheid government on its toes and even helped bridge the gap between the Nats and the Comrades. But with age normally comes grace and the wisdom to know when enough is enough.

PW Botha wagged his finger and banned us in 1988 but we stood firm. We built a reputation for fearless journalism, then, and now. Through these last 35 years, the Mail & Guardian has always been on the right side of history.

These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

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