Pride of the Poggenpoel

There are three Poggenpoels in Pieter-Dirk Uys’s life: Evita Bezuidenhout, born Evangelie Poggenpoel in 1935, her sister Bambi Kellermann, born Sarie “Baby” Poggenpoel in 1938, and Ouma Ossewania Kakebeenia Poggenpoel, born during the Anglo-Boer War and the mother of both. There are no known fathers.

On May 31 1961 the Republic of South Africa was born. Fifty years later, in 2011, everything has changed. Or has it?

In Die Poggenpoels Praat, Uys presents two aspects of our history. Tannie Evita questions the truth behind the history of the Afrikaner and presents her eccentric revisionist alternative, while her mother furiously admits that she wasted her life believing the lie that apartheid was a gift from God.

Ouma Ossewania refuses to speak English, because of what they did to the Volk during the Boer War. Her grandson De Kock ­Bezuidenhout agreed to interview her in Afrikaans and has adapted his grandmother’s unprintable prejudices as follows:

My ouma lives in an old-age home in Darling. It’s the only one in South Africa that will take her; she’s a very difficult resident. She insists on having a braaivleis in her room. My mother pays the home in United States dollars, so they agree to turn a blind eye and just renovate after the act.

Ouma is somewhere between 100 and eternal life. I have always joked that after Dr Verwoerd kissed her lingeringly on Republic Day 1961, he left her with two distinct teeth marks and a bloodlust that has not dimmed through the years.

We sit in her cluttered room. It smells of Vicks and Doom. I ask her how old she feels.

“Sometimes I feel that I’m 12 again, my child.”

One of the first things I remember you telling me was that the English are our archenemies, the Catholics are the antiChrist and the Jews are all thieves, but you never mentioned the blacks.
No, the first thing I remember telling you was that I knew you were funny (snaaks) from the day you were born. There you lay in your cot sucking your big toe. I then knew you had plans.

You never seemed to mind that I was that way.
Listen, we Afrikaners never had words to describe such things. We did them, yes, but there were no words to describe them. But you’re still my favourite grandson.

So how did you feel when you found out Billie-Jeanne was going to marry a black man?

It nearly killed me! It was the most terrible thing. It was against the law in 1985. I went straight to the dominee. I said: “What am I going to do? My granddaughter is going to marry a kkk …” He looked shocked. “Marry a Catholic?” “No,” I said, “a kkkkkkk …” He gasped. “A Communist?” As I got the k-word out the lightning struck the cock off the steeple.

But you seem to get on with Leroy Makoeloeli?
The longer I know him, the less black he seems. He speaks Afrikaans to me and sings me songs in his language. I even let him kiss me goodbye. When I close my eyes, those big soft lips remind me of Dr Connie Mulder.

So it’s okay to marry a black? And if I want to marry my partner, Moff?
You must all do what you must do, De Kock. Life is too short to be frightened of making a mistake.

What was your biggest mistake, Ouma?

Believing what people told me, even though I felt inside that it didn’t sound right.

Like apartheid?
No, no. I never questioned that, because it was so convenient. We Afrikaners were the chosen race. God was one of us. I believed everything they said. Apartheid was just a word we gave to the way everyone thought. Look at the English. Their cursed language is like a whites-only sign. The Americans with their dollar sign? My biggest mistake was waiting for too long to speak as I think.

And when did you start speaking?

Waking up that morning after the election of April 27 1994. I went to sleep believing the world would end. The blacks (die k****rs) had taken over. The sun would never again shine. I prayed to the Lord. “Take me Lord,” I said. “Our time is over.” And then, when I opened my eyes, I saw golden light. I was in Heaven. But then I realised it was in my horrible (k*k) room at the old-age home. The communist sun had risen. The world had not ended. Then I realised that I had wasted my life believing that lie.

That apartheid was a gift from God?

I was now too old to do the things I should have done when I was your age. I was very angry (bef*k kwaad).

But is it true that you went and asked the black gardener to sleep with you?

Ja, old Johannes. I said: “Will you sleep with me to show me what I missed?” He said yes, but for R20. I said: “No, R10 and a packet of jelly babies?” He said: “That’s fine, ­miesies.”


He never turned up. They’d made him mayor.

And the cook went to Parliament?
I hope he stays out of the kitchen there.

Don’t worry. Mama (Evita) still runs the parliamentary kitchens.
What is it with that woman (teef)? She can never keep from sticking her nose into other people’s business. And what does she know about cooking? She’s always had servants doing ­everything for her.

You don’t like her, do you?
How can you say that? Sies, De Kock! Evita Bezuidenhout is your mother and I have to live with her fame and self-importance. But I don’t not like her. I just can’t stand her two-faced love for me (twee-gevreet naasteliefde) Everyone believes her when she talks about me with such love.

They think she showers me with gifts. She doesn’t even leave me money to buy sweets. I must get one of the maids to steal things from the Spar for me. Then I let her watch 7de Laan on our TV.

Did that maid convince you to vote for the ANC?

The vote is secret, so why should I tell you? But I must admit, Bella did influence me. She said if I vote for the ANC, she will steal me my favourite chocolate from the Spar every Tuesday. If I don’t vote for the ANC, I will have to steal my own sweets. So I voted ANC. Rather have a good maid than a good government.

So, are the English still our arch-­enemies?
Those damn Rednecks (donnerse Rooinekke). I will never forgive them for what they did to us during the Boer War. That is why I refuse to speak their language. I have even torn the labels off my pill bottles, because I won’t tolerate English in my medicine chest. But now I don’t know when to take the pills. I must take three for my tummy, two for my arthritis and one to sleep. So I take them all and snooze on the toilet. Just in case.

And the Jews?
I don’t like the Jews. They also speak with two tongues. Being anti-apartheid but voting Nationalist to make money. Apartheid would never have worked without the support of Anglo and Barlows and De Beers. All liberals make me sick. With their talk of bringing one man one vote to South Africa. And when we got it in 1994, they all left to go and live in Australia. I must laugh. Mandela now lives in their street in Houghton, while they have to live next to Vietnamese people who eat their dogs!

So who do you like, Ouma?

No sies, the Italians are oversexed, the French are snobs, the Germans are fat, the Dutch smell of old cheese and dog droppings (hondepoepjes). The Japanese just make me laugh. I think God was drunk when He made them. And as for those Americans? Serve them right with their own Malema in the White House. But no one can call me a racist, because I hate everyone equally.

Except the Afrikaners.
Especially the Afrikaners! Put three Afrikaners in a room together, two gang up on the third. And when he’s destroyed, they go for each other.

Why were there 127 branches of the Great Trek? Because there were 127 Afrikaners who couldn’t agree on anything. We made it so easy for the enemy to become our masters.

We’re 16 years into our democracy now. It can’t be all bad.

It was a struggle between amateurs, not a battle between gods. And now today’s government is starting the same k*k as the old regime. I wished we women were brave enough to stand up to those weak men and demand equality and leadership. I think our country would have been a better place today without a Malan, a Strydom, a Verwoerd, a Vorster and all those Bothas.

Will you vote in the municipal election on the 18th, Ouma…?

But she was already on her way to the toilet. I hope it wasn’t too late.

The presentation, in English and Afrikaans, takes place at the Mardi Gras Theatre, Carnival City Casino, until May 8. Book at Computicket.

Evita’s Blackbessie is to be published by Umuzi in May. It is a personal journal and backup to BlackBerry, Nokia and Samsung in preparation for when a solar tsunami burns all the satellites and nothing digital works.

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