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Pieter-Dirk Uys

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Tribute at the State Memorial Service for Minister Kadar Asmal

– Pieter-Dirk Uys, City Hall, Cape Town, 30 June 2011


I always thank all politicians black and white, right and wrong for having given me a career for the last 38 years. Very few of them have been on my side: Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Nelson Mandela. Helen Suzman. Piet Koornhof. And Kadar Asmal.


In October 1996 the Minister of Water Affairs decided to make water sexy and invited me … no, invited the most famous white woman in South Africa, Mrs Evita Bezuidenhout, to join him in the Free State to rename the Verwoerd Dam. I flew up with her in the suitcase in the boot of the plane. It was a very small plane. This was in the good old days before ANC politicians had their own Boeings.


Evita Bezuidenhout arrived at the festivities in her Boere Baroque, wearing a hat, gloves and her NP rosette and met Minister Kadar Asmal. She cut the ribbon and declared the Verwoerd Dam to be forthwith known as the Gariep Dam. The Minister applauded. We both felt the ground under us shake as the Architect of Apartheid turned in his Pretoria grave.


Professor Asmal has been part of my chorus line since then. But how would I impersonate him on stage? Imagine Peter Sellars as Kadar Asmal. Easy. Funny. Provocative. Optimistic. Angry. Honest.


He came to see me do him.  


‘Only six minutes?’ he said. ‘Why does the Pik Botha sketch go on for eight?’


‘Because he has so much more to apologize for.’


President Jacob Zuma assured members of the ANC that they would get a free pass through the Pearly Gates. We know where Kadar Asmal is now. Heaven will never be the same again. He’s demanding more transparency. He is debating with the Angel Gabriel about the proposed Protection of Holy Information Bill and is frantically looking for a place to have a cigarette.


Thank you Minister Professor Doctor Friend for the inspiration, the support, the laughter and the passion. For too long people have said  I am starting to look like P W Botha. Now I hope they will say I look like Kadar Asmal.

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