from 2000

For fact's sake

transcript of Carte Blanche, M-Net, 12 November 2000

Producer: Sophia Phirippides

Presenter: Les Aupiais

Genre: Medical and Health

Pieter-Dirk Uys [on stage]: "Men and boys have got penises between their legs, hey? Ja, you must know the difference. This is a banana and this is a penis."

This performance has been seen by over 70 000 adolescents throughout the country. It is one man's attempt at getting through to an audience that has now been identified as being the group of people with the greatest risk of contracting HIV. Like many progressive anti-AIDS campaigners, Pieter-Dirk Uys believes that humour — combined with shock tactics — will help break through teenage ignorance, apathy and stubbornness.

Les: "The one thing that the younger kids found a little shocking was when you brought out your plastic penis..."

Pieter-Dirk Uys: "Well, good — because that's what it's all about. That thing goes into another thing, and if that thing isn't in a plastic bag, a gogga gets into you and you die. It is a shocking thing, but I am not going to take a banana to tell a child 'Put a condom on this, because this is a penis.' I would rather show them a toy, which looks like the real thing."

Pieter-Dirk Uys became famous by using satire and humour as a weapon against apartheid. Now he says he's using these weapons against a new kind of enemy.

Pieter-Dirk: "I have always been terribly concerned about what frightens people. In the past it was apartheid and we used humour to also put that into perspective and it worked, because we're still here and the politicians are either in jail, incontinent or in the wilderness."

Pieter-Dirk [on stage]: "Remember the struggle is not yet over. For the sake of our beautiful South Africa and your lives, always put your love in a plastic bag."

Most people were quite broadminded about the performance, but in some places the message wasn't as well-received. Here at Stellenbosch High School, both teachers and pupils lodged complaints. At the receiving end of these complaints was Mr Dawid van Emmenis, headmaster of the school. He says he became disturbed when he saw some of the younger girls walking out of Pieter-Dirk's presentation.

Dawid van Emmenis: "There was one or two or three that stood up and left the hall, and afterwards they said they were disgusted — especially by the language that was used."

Pupil 1: "I think he was vulgar and he presented it in a distasteful way."

These are some of the young Stellenbosch High School learners who saw the performance. They appeared to have mixed feelings about it.

Pupil 2: "He wanted to teach us to be aware of AIDS. But he still said, 'Enjoy sex. It's nice. Just use a condom.'"

Pupil 3: "I think it differs between the boys and girls, not just age group. Because many boys thought it was incredibly funny."

Pupil 1: "The whole thing was actually about AIDS, but he really didn't mention the emotional damage one can get."

As a result of the complaints, all the other schools in Stellenbosch cancelled with Pieter-Dirk. But this is not stopping him.

Pieter-Dirk: "Ja, I went to Stellenbosch High School. I was invited by some of the senior students — and I could sense a very specific Calvinist thing in the audience and it was just exactly where I was 40-years ago. The interesting thing is that the non-white young people in the audience reacted immediately, and white Afrikaans children reacted against that, going 'Shhh'. I didn't take the rubber thing out there, by the way. I didn't want to go there with them, it wasn't necessary."

The message that Pieter-Dirk says he is trying to convey is simple: AIDS is no longer an older person's disease. Statistically, every person who is now 15-years old stands a 50-percent chance of contracting HIV. Whether parents like it or not, more and more people are becoming sexually active at an ever younger age. These are the facts. It used to be the facts of life, now it's more like the facts of death. AIDS and HIV have changed the way that we look at sex in our modern age. There have got to be new ways of approaching this age-old subject.

Dr Ettienne Kok of Pretoria University Medical School is a sex therapist and educational psychologist. He believes that AIDS education should not exist in a vacuum, but it should be based on a solid foundation of what he calls proper sex education.

Dr Ettienne Kok: "To me there's a difference between sex information and sex education. When you educate it's always about norms and values, so this is the responsibility of adults. We as adults — with our experience — have to tell children, 'This is right. This is wrong. This is acceptable. This is unacceptable.' If you just inform people, you give them facts."

While the ideal may be to produce a holistic approach to sex education, Pieter-Dirk says that we cannot wait for educators to get their act together. It is a matter of urgency to talk about safer sex, even if it means challenging some taboos.

Pieter-Dirk [on stage]: "Okay boys, your turn. All of you must go and get your condoms, and go into your room, close your door and practice. You've got to do it properly — you don't have a second chance here. You can't have a second chance jumping out of an airplane with a parachute that doesn't work — so you must know what you are doing."

Les: "You seem so driven, you have a passion — almost an anger..."

Pieter-Dirk: "A huge anger — an anger at the carelessness around AIDS, the carelessness around education. I mean we grew up without sex. Now you've got to talk when the kids are nine-years old, because if they're ten they are already sexually active. I don't really have an alternative — I must do this."

Pieter-Dirk [on stage]: "A condom that has not been opened looks like this. It looks like an after-dinner mint that your aunty sat on."

Pieter-Dirk: "I don't want to suddenly run up there and scream the place down, because that's what they did to us all our lives — you know, 'Sies! Sies! Sies!'"

Like many schools Pieter-Dirk visited, Pelican Park High in Mitchell's Plain has no hall. He braved wind and sun to be there, and yet he is receiving no payment, or financial backing. Here his message had a very different response amongst children and parents alike.

Pupil: "The main thing is the way he addressed AIDS and things like that. It actually opened everybody's minds up."

Teacher: "You can't hide this away any more — we've got to realise that times have changed."

Parent: "I wasn't shocked, I was actually amazed, because at home we don't speak to our children like that, and as a Muslim, it's always a family thing. But here it was in the open and I learned a lot because I've got three more children at home — and when my son comes home today, I will have a chat with him."

The general consensus was that sex education in schools is very poor and this performance gave the children a forum for discussion.

Pupil 1: "And you know, it's really useful. They don't really tell you these things at high school."

Pupil 2: "I was shocked at the penis, but I think the children basically got the idea."

Pupil 3: "A lot of children in this school are sexually active — I'm not one of them — and I think that using a condom is important."But even in the conservative Stellenbosch environment some children found Pieter-Dirk's performance valuable.

Pupil 1: "Kids are not going to listen to statistics. They don't want to see statistics and graphs and why it is wrong. They need to be informed in an informal way — that's the way they talk. I was very comfortable with it."

Pupil 2: "I just think the problem was that it was a bit ambiguous. People perceived him differently from his intended message."

Dr Kok believes that the safe-sex message has to be taught within a moral and ethical context, rather than giving teenagers the perceived freedom that it is okay to have sex, as long as it is safe sex.

Dr Kok: "To me, and that's what I'm trying to explain to children, is don't come to the point where it's impossible or very difficult to say no. Know that there are different stages, so it's much easier to say stop the bus here before it's too late, and then you won't need the condom."

Pieter-Dirk [on stage]: "The bottom line is, the safest sex is no sex. You don't need to get AIDS because you just don't need to do this."

Pieter-Dirk: "I want to tell them, 'You have the right to decide. You have the right. You are protected by the constitution. Every woman has the right to say no.' The reaction I've had from young women is to say, 'Thank you. Thank you. I can now say you said I can say no and I don't have to do this. Because I don't want to do this'."

The safe sex message is clearly ambiguous, as some of the students seem to be getting mixed messages.

Pupil 1: "At one stage he asked the hall, 'Who has a condom here?' So actually he was saying, 'Do it, it's nice, just use a condom.'"

Pupil 2: "He also said that whenever we go out we should take a condom. So say I'm going out and I get a condom and my mother or my father find the thing — they'll kill me."

The concept of carrying condoms also posed a problem for the headmaster of the school.

Van Emmenis: "He said, 'Why don't you have condoms in your pockets? That's the one thing you must have in your pocket.' For me as an educator, it's a bit far-fetched. It's condoning sex before marriage for me."

Pieter-Dirk: "There has been criticism, especially from Afrikaans schools, that I encourage their children to have premarital sex. Oh, excuse me! Which planet are you coming from? I'm not encouraging anything, I'm saying 'Don't do it!'"

Dr Kok: "There are a lot of parents that would say if you give your daughter the pill, if you give them condoms, you actually condone what they do — or other people would say you stimulate children to go and experiment. That's not necessarily true."

As a sex therapist, Dr Kok agrees that protection should be made available, but only in conjunction with sound advice. So young people are given the tools to make informed decisions. But for Pieter-Dirk Uys, it all begins with overcoming the obstacle of ignorance.

Pieter-Dirk [on stage]: "And do you know I never knew what a blow job was? When I was your age I thought a blow job was a Volkswagen painted blue — O God, daar gaan 'n blou job."

Pieter-Dirk: "Look, it's not everyone's cup of tea. If you want me to come in ten-year's time I'll come again, and if they've found a cure for AIDS I'll do something else."

While Pieter-Dirk stands accused of being impolite, he points out that HIV is not a polite disease. Opinions may be divided over his irreverent style, but no one can deny the need for urgent work to be done in this arena.

Pieter-Dirk: "Evita goes out and earns the money for me. She does corporates, we do a showing at the Baxter of Fact's Sake, or subsidise. I can do it and I have been doing it all my life and it's the least I can do. My goodness, I've had such an enormously rich and wonderfully varied existence in this country and to be able to put something back is a great pleasure."


While every attempt has been made to ensure this transcript or summary is accurate, Carte Blanche or its agents cannot be held liable for any claims arising out of inaccuracies caused by human error or electronic fault. This transcript was typed from a transcription recording unit and not from an original script, so due to the possibility of mishearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, errors cannot be ruled out.