Archived 2004 Articles


Pieter-Dirk Uys

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Evita slams unregistered 'poeps'

– Pieter-Dirk Uys, The Star, 25 January 2004

Where else in the world would you find a group of active politicians gathered together in a once-notoriously seedy hotel, to have tea and cake with a middle-aged drag diva in the full glare of television cameras? And treating this apparition like Margaret Thatcher? And she treating them like Thatcher, handbagging them, finger wagging them, and them sheepishly saying: "Ja Tannie" like naughty schoolchildren?

Only in South Africa.

The once seedy hotel is now the gloriously restored Metropole Hotel in Long Street, Cape Town. The politicians at the fundraiser included the leader of the opposition, Tony Leon; Patricia de Lille of the newly formed Independent Democrats; and representatives of most of the major parliamentary players in our democracy. And the glamorous diva is the "most famous white woman in South Africa", Evita Bezuidenhout, truly a political farce to be reckoned with.

Sometime this year our third general election will take place. Our president knows the date, but he will only tell on February 11. So in the meantime we all prepare for something that, as yet, doesn't exist.

Very South African. We all know it will be the most important election in the history of our country. And that if potential voters are not registered by the end of today, they will not be allowed to vote.

This election can go two ways. It can be a reaffirmation of the democratic ideals enshrined in the constitution. Or it can lead to South Africa becoming a one-party state.

Another Zimbabwe? After nine years, some politicians have realised what restrictions have been placed on their ambitions by the constitution. They don't like it, even though some of them wrote it.

A two-thirds majority in parliament can change that constitution. No rule of law has prevented the president of Zimbabwe from cutting the social foot to fit his political shoe.

Optimism and hope in South Africa still waver under the onslaught of violence and crime, corruption and arrogance. And yet we are not another Congo, or a variation of the Middle East. We are still on track, with a young democracy that is gaining in confidence, in spite of unrealistic demands and fears. That's what happens when all citizens have the vote. The system is touched by human hands. Democracy is not perfect, but surely it is the only way through the minefield of ethnic and racial demands.

Everyone has a chance to make a cross and bear that cross. Until there is apathy. By Friday, 7 million South Africans voters had not yet registered to vote.

"No," said a young man on the radio chat show. "Why should I register? Why should I vote? To hell with them. It is my right not to vote."

Yes, it's your right to also jump off a cliff, lock yourself in a room for 10 years, or go and live in Australia.

How can all of us be motivated to make a contribution to a democratic future for all? How can we convince ourselves to vote in 2004 and so earn that sacred patriotic right to complain? Citizens are cynical because promises of 1994 and 1999 have not materialised.

We have forgotten how much good has happened in the lives of so many: fresh water, electricity, civil freedoms, houses and jobs. And Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is not yet president.

But basically we must be reminded of the fun of being one of the people. The excitement of having a vote — that individual key to the door of the future. The need to use that key. The urgency to focus on the potential leaders and make the right choices. If democracy enshrines choice, then choice must be the issue. To refuse to choose, is to allow the worst choices to win.

So just when we all thought politics couldn't be fun, Tannie Evita brought in the koeksisters and there was some jollity. In a small hotel in the Mother City, the icons and aikonas gathered, dipping their sweet koekies into steaming coffee, laughing at themselves and yet also sending a passionate message to the people.

"Register on Sunday. It is the last chance to be sure that your voice is heard!" If non-existent glamorous boere-divas like Evita's voice can be so clearly heard, imagine the power of the voice of real South Africans. So don't be a poep. Go register to make that cross to bear that cross!

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