Review: Evita Bezuidenhout and The Kaktus of Separate Development
– Benn Van Der Westhuizen, What’s on in Cape Town, 29 June 2017
The secret to Evita Bezuidenhout’s 22 years of enduring and controversial popularity?
Making hard work appear effortless. As we’ve mentioned before, age has imbued a more
sensible and faintly muted political softening of the grand dame of South African
satire. And with Evita Bezuidenhout and the Kaktus of Separate Development, she’s
back in top form, ready to roll with another hilarious foray into our cultural spectrum.
Theatre on the Bay’s intimate and cosy stage evokes a much more exclusive and tailor-made
mood to this show, and Pieter-Dirk Uys is still as incredibly sharp-witted and tenacious
as ever, bubbling with barbed lines even when off-script.
The production kicks off with a ravishing Evita drawing in chuckles without the utterance
of a single word. Dressed to the nines with not a hair out of place, she makes her
stumbling entry stepping through Theatre on the Bay’s shimmery curtains and… under
a ladder. For those not familiar with the old-wives superstition, walking underneath
an open ladder is akin to blasphemy. What a perfect promise to the rest of the evening.
The Kaktus of Separate Development’s comedy topic du jour is updated with a tenacious
rampage into the likes of Julius Malema and Jacob Zuma. But it doesn’t stop there.
Uys gradually works his way from Nelson Mandela (how neatly he kept his small cell)
to Thabo Mbeki (taking a piercing stab at his brick-thick and overcompensating autobiography).
The trouble with Uys’ Evita is that we are all in glee when the mockery is aimed
at our enemies, and at those we regard objectively as ludicrous. But the true test,
surely, is if we still laugh when it is directed at those we put on a saintly pedestal.
Satire executed masterfully is one that is accessible to everyone, regardless of
political leanings or fandom. With this production, Uys attacks everyone evenhandedly
and with the brazen self-confidence to occasionally attack himself. He implicitly
details Evita’s turncoat ways by explaining how she was hoodwinked by the National
Party, and her weathering optimism for the country and ties to the ANC. As he bemoans
the dubious origin of the Afrikaner, it seems Uys is still fiercely — even tiringly
Evita’s Afrikaner tannie-style anecdotes are generally more successful than her jokes.
The gossipy one about a hilarious elevator encounter with a groping male proves an
audience favourite. Unable to recall the mystery man’s identity, she notes that he
was orange haired. And her matter-of-fact recollection of casually bumping into a
wide-eyed Jessie Duarte in the foyer of Luthuli House, has us laughing away like
I used to think satirical comedy was a medium accessible to all, but of late it seems
audience members are perhaps somewhat complacent towards the current state of political
affairs. On the night of the performance I attended, there was a large number of
people who appeared either to be blasé or silently offended and disappointed. Yet
the entire experience ended up being eerily cathartic. More than anything, this was
a stark reminder of the value of live performance.
In an internet-obsessed society where everyone is an analyst, comedian, and PR executive,
my sense is that people are sick of hearing about Zuma, Trump, Brexit and the usual
band of misfits. Luckily Uys brims with a rare tactful creativity, weaving current
affairs into Evita’s brand of comedy to drive the point home. Uys is well aware that
in 2017, it is simply not enough just to tell some cute jokes for cheap laughs. There
must be some moral depth to it all.
With Evita Bezuidenhout and The Kaktus of Separate Development, Pieter-Dirk Uys presents
a production that is as tightly woven as Afrikaner correctness, but brilliantly disrespectful
and laced with a moral twist to fit into our contemporary vernacular.
Evita Bezuidenhout and The Kaktus of Separate Development runs at Theatre On The
Bay from 20 June to 1 July 2017
MORDANT satire, insightful political comment, brilliant topicality and whimsical,
but intelligent humour — all the elements that have endeared Pieter-Dirk Uys to audiences
for decades are abundantly present in this latest offering from the comedian in the
guise of his alter ego, Tannie Evita.
The show amounts to a potted history of South Africa as seen from a perspective that
eschews the traditional chronicles of events, from the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck
to these shores in 1652, through successive invasions, the Great Trek, apartheid,
and liberation, to end in the murkiness of contemporary politics and state capture.
The context of this invigorating narrative is an imbizo organised by Tannie Evita
at Theatre on the Bay, which lends authenticity to the exercise while giving Uys
scope for some gentle harassment of selected members of the audience.
Part one of the two hour-long monologue, aptly described by Uys as “Queen Lear”,
has the performer in all the glory of a faux leopard ensemble with bling as he/she
deals with non-delivery of equipment for the event.
A Malema doll abandoned on a ladder is joined by a Tutu doll as the lady talks non-stop
on every conceivable topic, from fake news to bobotie, carpeting in Parliament, Donald
Trump, the relative weight and merit of books by Mandela, Mbeki and Zuma, toilet
paper from Zimbabwe, Jessie Duarte, bad diets, and the British Royal Family.
The fluent script is punctuated by a barb-a-minute until, exhausted, the speaker
shoos the audience off to refreshments at interval.
Part two brings the new version of this country’s history as the imbizo finally gets
under way — and a very alternative one it turns out to be.
All the long-accepted “facts” of South Africa’s evolution since the mid-17th century
are turned inside out, identities questioned (it seems Maria was Van Riebeeck’s mother,
not his wife); the Battle of Blood River was actually a jolly braaivleis misrepresented
in classrooms as a violent event; and state capture is nothing new as Paul Kruger
did it first. And just when this all starts to seem a little silly, the harshness
of present reality is brought into the equation, to sobering effect.
Uys prefaces the second section of the show with a statement in the style of recovering
alcoholics at an AA meeting (“Hi, my name is Evita and I’m a racist”), and by the
end of the exercise, proclaims, “Hi, my name is Evita and I’m a South African”. Mirroring
this reform are two cactus plants, the one representing the past and the other, the
present — with muted hope for the future.
Satire makes way for philosophy as pleas to respect our hard-won freedom and act
with energy take centre stage; our roots, history and culture are precious, whatever
our racial origins.
With its light and shade carefully balanced, its quirkiness countered by serious
issues, and its relentless pace, Evita Bezuidenhout and the Kaktus of Separate Development
has Uys at his ebullient best to entertain his audience while exercising its collective
Scene It: Tannie Evita is bringing political satire sass back
– Barbara Loots, Theatre Scene Cape Town, 26 June 2017
Tannie Evita, the alter ego of iconic satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys, is a well-known theatrical
face that made a name for herself ruffling political feathers before the dawn of
democracy already. She is still at it and now back at Theatre on the Bay to continue
shining a follow-spot on the politically dubious in her latest offering, Evita Bezuidenhout
ant the Kaktus of Separate Development.
The risk with political satire is that it needs to be ever updated to remain relevant,
to not leave audiences feeling that they have heard it all before. It is the type
of comedy that cannot afford to become stale in either substance or presentation.
During the first half of the show, Tannie Evita is her well-known quirky self, setting
the historic scene of her kitchen crossing from NP to ANC and the reasons behind
it. You laugh occasionally but are initially left wondering whether this show is
but a nostalgic nod to the best of Tannie Evita?
Then you take your seat again after interval and a full set and tempo change greets
you with Tannie Evita even donning a new glam look too. The dramatic punch of the
stark contrast is clear: even if the landscape changes you must still be ever aware
of your political surroundings to spot the devils hiding in the often purposefully
repackaged, and potentially fake news, details.
From a theatrical entertainment perspective, the new material understandably shines
brighter than the nostalgic opening scene walk down memory lane, because it takes
you by surprise. The impact of the satirical balance between the familiar and the
new material will come down to the subjective preference of every audience, depending
on their life experience and backgrounds. The contrast can however be comedically
justified when viewed in the context of the post-interval opening line... one which
I don't dare give away. However, you can be assured that this Tannie, she will make
you think, and think again!
In that turn of scene moment you realise, this Tannie is bringing freedom of speech
sass back. She invites you to partake in a very entertaining Imbizo, explaining the
influence of alternate facts on South Africa from the perspective of diamond ownership
and the reconciliatory power of koeksisters, while also highlighting why you should
never let go of your inquisitive nature by being too gullible a follower of history
as (you think) you know it.
This show is a tongue-in-cheek intellectual commentary that in a public service setting
makes you flinch and giggle simultaneously, as Tannie Evita ridicules both the past
and the present, the Van Riebeecks and the Trumps, by shining a follow-spot on some
crucial truths. She delights in unashamedly peeling away at the layers of privilege
and prejudice in a take-no-prisoners manner... even if you are perhaps an American
or a Brit seeking refuge on South Africa’s sunny shores. At her Imbizo, no country
has amnesty in its relations to South Africa, and the right audiences in that critical
yet humorously inclined mindset, will adore her for her charming honesty.
Highlighting both sides of the “politics of power” coin through local and international
affairs and ‘affairs’, Tannie Evita in an intriguing showcase of satire attempts
to persuade her audience to never underestimate the importance of civic duty if they
want to claim as their own the democratic dignity it guards.
Book your tickets at Computicket for an audience with the Tannie Evita at Theatre
on the Bay, as she dishes up both the nostalgic and the currently controversial in
her latest show,Evita Bezuidenhout ant the Kaktus of Separate Development, until
1 July 2017.
EVITA BEZUIDENHOUT & THE KAKTUS OF SEPARATE DEVELOPMENT
– Karen Rutter, Weekend Special, 24 June 2017
“Speaking Truth to Power”. It’s one of those popular expressions that tend to surface
when somebody challenges The System, puts it to The Man or, in the case of Mbuyiseni
Ndlozi needling Baleka Mbete, questions Madame Speaker.
But it actually has some serious muscle as a message. The Quaker community is credited
with coining the sentence as a non-violent challenge to social injustice way back
in the 1950s, and more recently it has been adopted by movements such as #BlackLivesMatter
and #SayHerName. In an article on the Huffington Post (the original website), on
this very expression, there seems to be agreement that it stands for courage, notably
the courage to stand up for one’s own convictions, and to not be cowed by supposed
Pieter-Dirk Uys has essentially been doing this for 45 years, 35 of them in a dress
and high heels. As one of few outspoken satirists in South Africa during the apartheid
years, he used his skill as a playwright, actor, comedian, newspaper columnist and
author to challenge the racist status quo. His send-ups of apartheid leaders such
as Pik and PW Botha were legendary; even Nelson Mandela became a fan, from his prison
Still challenging the status quo
Fast forward some two decades since the demise of apartheid, and Pieter-Dirk still
finds himself challenging the status quo, albeit from a different angle. Since 2000
he has travelled the country on a self-funded mission to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS
through awareness-entertainment, reaching nearly 2 million school children. And he
has never stopped being busy as a playwright and performer — only this time, the
new regime has had to take it on the chin.
Fair play — the role of a satirist is to use constructive social criticism to draw
attention to aspects of society. And lord knows we have had plenty of “aspects”,
most notably during President Zuma’s watch, to draw attention to. But this is what
is interesting about Pieter-Dirk’s latest solo show, Evita Bezuidenhout & the Kaktus
of Separate Development: while not steering away from obvious targets, he still radiates
a positive and upbeat belief in South Africa. At a time when the opposite feels like
the collective emotion of many — particularly those of Tannie Evita’s race and privilege
— he chooses to go for the good. Basically, if there is a message I came away from
after watching his show, it is that we fought for democracy, and it is our responsibility
to keep it. It’s no good moaning about things if one is not prepared to be part of
change. And democracy allows us to participate, to be that change.
First and second halves
The first half of the show opens with a Spartan set — a ladder, a shelf — the result
of a bungle with the ANC removal service, it would seem. But Tannie Evita manages
this with aplomb, regaling us with tales from her somewhat risqué past when she was
once man-handled by Donald Trump in a lift, made koeksisters for Jackie Onassis,
and discovered a secret stash in Jacob Zuma’s presidential office. Each tale provides
a platform for swift asides on politicians and personalities ranging from Juju Malema
(of course) to Thabo Mbeki. It’s funny stuff, of course, and very smart.
The second half reveals the now “properly” decorated set, complete with a large canvas
depicting the Battle of Blood River, a piano, and various artefacts including a toy
ox wagon and a pair of clogs. Tannie Evita has refreshed herself with a new frock,
and begins with an impromptu riff with the audience — a master class in thinking
on one’s feet. The rest of the show was a clever re-interpretation of the history
that so many of us were taught in school, starting with Jan van Riebeeck’s arrival
at the Cape. This is when the kaktus of the play’s title make its grand appearance
and, as the narrative moves forward, ultimately is replaced by a more representative
Zippy breath of fresh air
I don’t like it when reviewers repeat the jokes or punchlines of a show they have
seen, specifically if I have not been yet, as it kind of spoils things, so I won’t
do that here. But suffice it to say that there are some very, very hilarious comments,
including an aside about Saartjie Baartman, that had me guffawing. How I wish history
had been like this at school …
It’s a zippy second half, making for a very full programme in all. Pieter-Dirk is
on top form, as always, and his flair for speaking his particular style truth to
power (which involves big hair and false boobs) is a positive breathe of fresh air.
Just one comment, which is not a criticism but an observation – the whole evening
could actually have been split into two different shows, on different nights. Each
half has its own character, and can stand alone as it is. So you kind of get a bonus.
Just sayin’ …
What: Evita Bezuidenhout and the Kaktus of Separate Development
Where and when: Theatre on the Bay, 20 June to 1 July
Don’t cry for me Tannie Skattie — a point of view from Pieter-Dirk Uys
– Pieter-Dirk Uys, Cape Times, 23 June 2017
It was a time of scandal and corruption. The highest in the land were suspected of
criminal actions beyond their accepted political policies.
Millions upon millions of state funds were being secretly diverted into illegal operations.
A few chosen families were allowed into the inner sanctum of power, manipulating
contracts and tenders for their own benefits.
The public were left in the dark even though the samizdat of underground communication
was spreading the news far and wide. State capture was complete and so securely established
that a solution was virtually unthinkable.
It was 1978 and South Africa was stranded in its separate developments.
Back then, to hint at the happenings even in jest was not only illegal, it was impossible.
Nothing was funny about apartheid.
The small white audiences who ventured into fringe theatres to be entertained with
absurd and obscene politics, had very little real knowledge of the essence of the
satire. Censorship was everywhere. State radio was controlled and 90% of the local
facts were fabricated to enshrine government opinion.
Television had just started and that evil little box was hemmed in by countless rules,
confusing regulations and dour committees of Broeders on their moral high ground.
Political plays were easily banned on grounds of obscenity and blasphemy. It was
also illegal to wear women’s clothing. And so it was inevitable that a little star
from Bethlehem shone brightly. And an unexpected legend was born in that Free State
She had no name to start with. I had been given a weekly column in the Sunday Express
— 100 words reflecting the madness of our political minefields at R1 a word (maybe
that hasn't changed either?).
It was also the era of the so-called Information Scandal, where government policy
had been exposed as naked corruption. Ministers were exploiting their fiefdoms of
power like the demon warriors of Marvel comic-culture. How to expose these bizarre
doings in a satirical and entertaining way, and survive to cash the cheque was the
Once a month, in those 100 words, an invented tannie would be at the Waterkloof party
and whisper sweet nothings with a smile.
All the little details of sies and siestog burbled out of her reddened mouth, straight
into the column, bouncing into the minds of the readers and entering the public domain.
Eventually, the editor of the newspaper enviously asked how all that lethal gossip
could appear in the column, things he dare not even hint at in an editorial. "All
from the mouth of that Evita of Pretoria," he declared, giving her a name that would
stick for decades.
And so, after a year of 12 Sundays in the public eye, this woman could be focused
on as a flesh-and-Velcro character in my first satirical revue, Adapt or Dye. She
started the evening dressed like a boere tannie, with big picture hat and matching
bag, bra and broad smile. She was the wife of a Nationalist MP and so condemned her
white government with sweet, faint praise.
Her appearances should have only lasted the three weeks of the revue's run. But she
had appeared at the right time. 1981: people in opposition politics and the media
were tired of just the joke. They wanted the danger; to laugh at their fear and confront
it with ownership. Even her surname was a flippant answer to the question from a
Does this Tannie Evita have a surname? I saw a poster on the theatre wall advertising
a play starring the actress Aletta Bezuidenhout. ‘Bezuidenhout!’ I said confidently.
This Evita of Pretoria now had a surname (and I don't think Aletta will ever forgive
me). Evita survived the short run of a fringe revue and became known as “the most
famous white woman in South Africa”. She straddled the diplomatic world as the South
African Ambassador to the Black Homeland Republic of Bapetikosweti. She adapted after
April 27, 1994 and did not die. She cooked for Nelson Mandela, and today she is doing
the same for the ANC comrades in Luthuli House.
2017: It is a time of scandal and corruption. The highest in the land are suspected
of criminal actions beyond their accepted political policies. Billions upon billions
of state funds are being secretly diverted in corruption.
A chosen family is allowed into the inner sanctum of power, manipulating contracts
and tenders for its own benefit. The public is left in the dark, even though the
samizdat of social media is spreading the news far and wide.
State capture is complete and so securely established that a solution is virtually
unthinkable. And Evita Bezuidenhout is still there, no longer a doyenne in the National
Party, but now undoubtedly the most famous white woman in Luthuli House, ironically
in the same position as she was during the apartheid era.
As a member of the ANC she is part of the problem, and yet only as such can she hint
at the solution through her sweet condemnations of faint praise.
She has been a constant in the lives of most South Africans under the age of 60,
reflecting their long tiptoe to freedom through the minefields of apartheid, then
across the rolling lawns of the Mandela Mar-a-Lago of reconciliation and now into
the dark age of the Zumas.
Maybe once again, as in those other dark days, the clown can dance where victims
fear to tread. This legend in her own lunchtime, this icon who still is seen as an
aikona, this woman who actually doesn't exist?
But that doesn’t mean she's not real. Maybe the next president of South Africa, instead
of appointing Ms Bezuidenhout as the SA Ambassador to Mongolia, will allow Comrade
Evita to stay in her Luthuli House kitchen and from there start to clean the political
sandbox of power, a very messy, smelly, dirty reality, after all those fat cats had
the Saxonwold Diarrhea for far too long.
Theatre on the Bay presents Evita Bezuidenhout & the Kaktus of Separate Development
from June 22 to July 1 / Pieter-Dirk Uys in his one-man memoir The Echo of a Noise
July 4-15 / book at Computicket
How we took our kitchen staff for granted. We didn’t call them by that elegant name
either. They were aia and meid, boy and outa. I can remember us sitting around our
dining room table on our farm, Liefdesbodem, and discussing ‘the help’ while they
were in the room with us, quietly doing their jobs.
They worked; Madam and Master paid. They had a place to sleep and food. But they
slept on the cement floors and had no electricity. We encouraged them to go to the
local black NG Kerk and pray for their families, as we would pray in our white church
where they couldn’t set foot. It never seemed to diminish our Christianity; God was
white with blue eyes.
And so, when Helen Zille tweeted her comments about colonisation and the pros and
cons of colonialist developments in our country thanks to the influx of foreign talent,
my first reaction was surprise.
Why would anyone talk about those days? What did colonialism have to do with our
democracy, where everyone was free to stand up and be counted?
It was only when I met my friend Sophie for our monthly coffee in the parliamentary
dining room that I realised what a cluster bomb the premier of the Western Cape had
tossed into a crowded country. Sophie asked me what I thought. I reminded her how
the walls of this elegant room were once lined with portraits of colonial leaders,
the movers and shakers who had made South Africa; the stiff, impassive haughty stares
from British lords, generals, sirs and kings, who made way for the smirks of Boer
generals, NGK dominees, dokters and boere.
But now, Sophie and I were very aware of the bust of our first democratically elected
president outside in the concourse — Nelson Mandela’s statue surviving the onslaught
of paint, rotten oranges and what the lifted leg of a police dog had left on his
right cheek. Was the honeymoon at an end?
But Sophie is now an MP and sits on those important portfolio committees in the public
eye. For a while, our only hope. She was involved with the recent SABC investigation,
but it seems to have run up on the rocks of confusion and fake news. Will that dark
Hlaudi have a silver lining? I asked. She had no time for a smile.
For 20 minutes in a low voice, for obvious reasons, she tried to steer my prejudices
into the safer haven of opinion. I am aware of what is cooking in the pots of power
behind closed doors. State capture is a small heading for a huge issue. Sophie, without
mentioning names, painted a garish panorama of failed parastals and successful corruptions.
The G-word wasn’t used, but the acrid smell of the lunch curry was a subtle reminder
that they, as a first family, could have supplanted the present portraits of the
former freedom fighters.
Sophie was angry, a side she had never shown me before in all the years. Now and
again, her excitement slipped into Xhosa. I lost some of the criminal details that
infect our political traffic cops, from ministers to directors-general.
She executed Eskom, Transnet, Prasa, the Hawks, SAA, the SABC, education, health,
welfare — and here her sarcastic embalming of Minister Dlamini even brought smiles
to the face of our Zimbabwean waitron. I sat in silence.
Not because I didn’t know enough of the details to agree or disagree; but because,
as a member of the ruling party, I have learnt to keep my face expressionless, or
to give a slight smile when a deep frown would be more honest.
I never thought I’d be a member of the ANC. But the impossible had become the ordinary.
The majority we had kept in their places are now in charge of the small spot I call
But my grandchildren challenged me. They are “born-frees” and have little idea of
what it was like under apartheid. In those days, I’d be responsible for taking their
freedom away from them.
After 23 years, people still know me as Evita Bezuidenhout, member of the National
Party; Tannie Evita who was the South Africa Ambassador in the Independent Homeland
Republic of Bapetikosweti. Ja, ek was. Yes, the most famous white woman in South
Africa who voted for apartheid, maybe the only white person still to admit it.
My three little black grandchildren (I call them Barack-Obama-beige) had asked me:
“Gogo? What are you going to do to protect democracy, so that one day when we need
to vote freely and fairly, democracy will be there in full working condition?” So,
obviously, I had to go back into active politics, to the only real political power
station — Luthuli House. I’ve been there for 18 months, a life-changing experience.
At first, Sophie laughed when I told her I was becoming a member. She whispered it
was like seeing Melania Trump as the First Lady of the USA.
How we both laughed at that unlikely nonsense 18 months ago. As we say in Afrikaans:
He who laughs last, laughs last! It was my turn to speak in a low key. Sophie listened
as I told her what I had learnt during the last extraordinary months: never underestimate
the fragility of democracy; never take freedom for granted.
Even as you read this, democratically elected governments are using democratically
accepted ways to destroy democracy. Look at Turkey! I don’t even want to point at
the USA, but I must. And Brexit is political polio that will lead the UK into paralysis
in business and pleasure.
And so we talked, me and Sophie, as we had been sharing our secrets and successes
since 1994, when she was allowed into Parliament as an MP of the ANC Government.
I am continuously delighted by her success on so many levels of leadership and commitments.
Then, over coffee and my koeksisters, still a favourite on the Parliamentary menu,
Sophie turned the clock back. She reminded me of those days at Liefdesbodem, when
she was my junior maid — die oulike meidtjie — not allowed to bake or stew, but in
the scullery peeling and chopping and mixing. It sounds like Downton Abbey, but it
wasn’t. Sophie reminded me how “downstairs’ always knew exactly what was happening
to us “upstairs”, because we always talked about our lives in front of the staff
- who listened intently.
I had to laugh. I am now in the same position in the Luthuli House kitchen where
my full-time job is cooking for reconciliation, no longer between Boer and Brit,
white and black, but faction and faction. I even do my own peeling, chopping and
And yes, I serve silently as one does in that position, and I have heard far more
than I should as a mere junior member of the ANC. So when people ask me what will
happen to South Africa in the future, all I say is: don’t panic. These things happen
in a young democracy. The December ANC Congress has all the accepted democratic means
to sideline an irritating energy - and then the Zuma problem can move to Dubai. I
always doubted that he would retire to those rondavels at Nkandla.
They will always remind me of a retirement village outside Hermanus. It was time
to say goodbye. I embraced my former black domestic supervisor and she kissed her
former Afrikaans Madam on both cheeks.
Life went on in the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa where I hope we all
remember where we come from, so we can celebrate where we are going.
Bezuidenhoudt and the Kaktus of Separate Development is at Theatre on the Bay from
June 20 to July 1, 2017.
Evita Bezuidenhout, or Tannie Evita as she is affectionately known, is back in a
new show at Pieter Toerien’s Theatre On The Bay. ‘Evita Bezuidenhout & The Kaktus
Of Separate Development’ can be seen at the Camps Bay venue from June 20 until July
Evita Bezuidenhout has been part of South Africa’s political sessions of Big Brother
since 1981. A former apartheid Ambassador in the Homeland of Bapetikosweti, she is
now in the kitchens of Luthuli House where she cooks for reconciliation. She has
always reminded us where we come from, so that we can celebrate where we are going.
But since her three grandchildren have started asking questions about the past, Tannie
Evita realises that while all the people of South Africa are now free to celebrate
their roots, their history and their culture, white South Africans still are rootless.
Especially the Afrikaner, whose official history was probably made up behind a desk
in Pretoria as propaganda.
Peter Tromp caught up with Evita Bezuidenhout, the “most famous white woman in the
African National Congress” on the eve of her latest opus.
How is Tannie Evita feeling on this beauteous day in the one and only Rainbow Nation?
EVITA BEZUIDENHOUT: I am happy to be in what can only be described as the most beautiful
country in the world, filled with the nicest people and led by an array of political
energies that defy description —meaning ‘moenie panic nie; alles sal regkom!’ (Don’t
panic, everything will resolve itself.)
Tell us about what audiences can look forward to with your new show, ‘Evita Bezuidenhout
and the Kaktus of Separate Development’. That is one long title, so is it correct
to assume you have a lot on your mind?
EVITA BEZUIDENHOUT: I will have a conversation with my audience about where we come
from and where we are going, with the accent on politically-incorrect phrases like
‘colonialism and tweets’, ‘racism and monkeys’ and the fact that if the people lead,
the government must follow. So let us lead by example and believe that there is light
at the end of the tunnel, even though that tunnel is curved.
Do you have any advice for people who might be growing demoralised by what the news
dishes out on a daily basis?
EVITA BEZUIDENHOUT: We cannot ignore the dire realities of corruption, carelessness,
arrogance and failure in most areas of government and society. But never ignore the
energy and hope in your children and grandchildren, who see the future as their personal
playground. Help them with education, commonsense and optimism. Their vote is the
key to the door of their future. Encourage them to become involved and opinionated.
What is in your handbag right this moment?
EVITA BEZUIDENHOUT: O liewe aarde, let me look: my Blackberry, my lipstick, a small
wallet with pictures of my grandchildren, a Xerox of my ID and driver’s licence,
the latest Zapiro cartoon of Minister Gigaba and most important, some R5 coins that
I can give to people who are waiting at robots for some help — with a smile.
What is your Rainbow Nation accessory of choice for the current political climate?
EVITA BEZUIDENHOUT: Not a visa to Australia.
Do you do social media and if yes, where can people find you?
EVITA BEZUIDENHOUT: My twitter handle is @TannieEvita. I have over 90000 followers,
all probably in the same prison outside Rustenburg. And every Sunday you can follow
a new episode on YouTube of my reality news-byte show called ‘Evita’s Free Speech’.
We are now at Episode 93.
Being the paragon of transparency that you are, I will trust you to disclose any
instances where you might have been compensated for your “impartial” opinions online.
EVITA BEZUIDENHOUT: I don’t tweet after a glass of Chardonnay, unlike others who
will remain nameless.
Regarding Pieter-Dirk Uys, our Theatrical Satirist In Chief…we believe you’re acquainted
— any ideas on what he has cooking at the moment, creatively speaking?
EVITA BEZUIDENHOUT: I don’t really have time for trivia. I believe he is doing a
one-man memoir called ‘The Echo Of A Noise’ that follows me at the Theatre on the
Bay from July 4. I won’t be seeing it as I have to go to Dubai to measure the new
curtains for Duduzane Zuma’s little flat.
* Book at Computicket, or by calling 021 438 3310.
Just when you thought that Pieter-Dirk Uys couldn’t get funnier or more topical,
or even sharper, along comes this.
The show, perhaps one of his most illustrious and finest productions, starts harmlessly
enough with a bewildered Mrs Bezuidenhout trying to get Gwede Mantashe on the phone,
(he ran out of airtime!) demanding to know why the stage has not been set and the
deliveries made for her appearance tonight. Her asides and throw-away lines are precious
and extremely funny. This is where her strength lies. In the jokes she throws away!
With Evita’s typical sly, acerbic wit, Uys uses his alter ego to poke fun at incompetence
in government, non-delivery of services and the general state of semi chaos currently
prevailing in the country. Best of all: he still succeeds in making us laugh at the
state our city and country are in, although it feels as if you are smiling through
But the biggest surprise comes in the second half of the show when a radiant Evita
on a handsomely made-up stage tackles a few holy cows (from which she makes splendid
comedic hamburgers) and other unlucky personalities are lashed by her sharp tongue.
But Uys’s success also lies in the fact that he takes out the whip on all of us,
no matter what your culture, skin colour, religious beliefs, language, or political
views. Nobody is spared the rod and you catch yourself laughing out loud, getting
a fistful of wit aimed at you particularly, knocking you out flat, and then continuing
as if nothing has happened.
If anything, Uys teaches us to laugh at ourselves and not take ourselves too seriously.
This is perhaps one of his most brilliant evocations of Evita Bezuidenhout’s view
of our country and of the world in general. At a time like this we need (and deserve!)
to laugh not only at her, but also at ourselves.
The stage design is beautiful, Uys’s improvisational skills are remarkable (as his
banter with those who don’t understand Afrikaans in die audience proved) and his
humour is priceless. This is an absolute treasure. If you are an Evita groupie like
I am, get yourselves over to Montecasino. The show is brilliant!
Evita Bezuidenhout and the Kaktus of Separate Development ****
Starring Pieter-Dirk Uys
At Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre until June 11.
A STEPLADDER REACHES up to the ceiling of the stage. The curtains are half closed.
There’s a “horrible little doll” representing Economic Freedom Front leader, Julius
Malema, and Evita Bezuidenhout, togged in flimsy leopard print and doek with a bag
full of goodies arrives for an Imbizo, cellphone at hand, a bag full of goodies under
her arm and a litany of rich and fantastic tales to regale us with, through the trajectory
of her own history and the murk of lies and fake facts which we’re fed all the time.
But who are “we” in the saga? The Montecasino audience is traditionally largely white.
The diatribe constructed, certainly in the first half of this production is extremely
white-focused, and you emerge at interval pondering the relevance of Evita, who has
been up until now, not only the most famous woman in South Africa, but largely a
legend in her own time — ask Archbishop Desmond Tutu — in the arena of political
Interspersed with everything, from a splaying out of fake news into fake history,
to jabs at everything from measles vaccinations to Donald Trump’s blatant sexism,
the work is beautifully written, top of the moment in political acuity and newsworthiness
and well-structured, but it does feel monumentally long — for you in the audience,
and for the 71-year-old performer on stage.
But then, as the second half opens, replete with enlarged reproductions of the kind
of prints and paintings that adorned classrooms under apartheid, a piano and some
other choice props, the piece’s pace heats up and the racial focus of the work comes
into astonishing relief. Evita, arguably the world’s queen of fake news, examines
the kak in historical cacti, and the repartee whirrs and flies with a mixture of
heady political and sexual references which take Mrs Bezuidenhout to a new level
A character constructed by Pieter-Dirk Uys, who we’ve seen on these stages with a
completely different frame of references but a few weeks ago, Evita is always a draw-card
for local audiences. All through apartheid, she had the temerity to hold up the crooked
and ugly mirror to South Africans. Now, at 71, she’s both suave and naive, politically
astute and believable. She’s the epitome of Afrikaans genteel manners all wrapped
up in a range of other subtleties and she’s the exactly appropriate vehicle for some
of the finest of insults towards South African leadership and history, and like any
good jester, carries with her a handbag of bold and brave tricks and jibes, and neither
Jacob Zuma nor Thabo Mbeki, Nelson Mandela nor Kgalema Mothlanthe escape unscathed.
Enfolding everything in the polite terms of an Afrikaans tannie who helps out in
the kitchen of Tuynhuys, the Presidential Residence in Cape Town, on a Tuesday, Evita
who is now a junior member of the ANC — she was during the 1980s, apartheid’s ambassador
to the fictional South African homeland, Bapetikosweti — is now a gogo in her own
right, and continues playing court jester with as much pizzazz and elegance as she’s
done for over twenty years. But today, her bite is even sharper, and her focus more
specifically honed. In considering her own racism, she will force you to ponder yours.
In considering how she is a non-black South African, she will make you think a little
deeper about what it takes to exist with authenticity in this topsy turvy world of
ours. And how the white Afrikaner’s relevance has evaporated.
You will laugh, but often it is a laughter spiced with savvy or even sadness, as
you acknowledge the bitter truths and historical projections that are within Evita’s
ambit, and that reflect on the brokenness of the context in which all South Africans
live and make sense of everything.
Evita Bezuidenhout and the Kaktus of Separate Development is written, directed
and performed by Pieter-Dirk Uys at the Pieter Toerien Theatre, Montecasino, Fourways,
until June 11.
For more than 35 years Pieter-Dirk Uys has scrutinised and satirised our society,
which is, of course, considerably and constantly changing.
I have seen him in many shows over the years, from his bitingly sharp digs at the
National Party and apartheid in the ‘80s and ’90s, when he frequently caught the
attention of the security police, to more recent times, when he had to put PW Botha’s
pointing finger and Piet Koornhof’s big ears into the back bin and find ways to portray
the new elite. He could take off Nelson Mandela’s voice to perfection.
His most noted personsa is, of course, Evita Bezuidenhout or Tannie Evita, hailed
widely as South Africa’s First Lady. She has acquired a varied family and a detailed
history, including serving as ambassador to the independent homeland of Bapetisosweti,
in the days when we had such things, of course.
Even Evita Bezuidenhout, with her stiffly set hair, lavish dresses and huge eyelashes,
has had to move with the times and now, she tells us, she makes koeksusters in the
kitchens at Luthuli House, after joining the ANC two years ago.
The Kaktus of Separate Development stars Evita, looking older naturally — Pieter-Dirk
has turned 80 — putting her own spin on our present, rather peculiar, circumstances.
Don’t let third-rate politicians with fourth-rate ideas get you down, she says, tackling
head-on the general miasma that overlies our society like volcanic ash.
She’s as sharp and perceptive as ever, tossing out witty asides you wish you could
remember, only to have them overlaid by the next. As an Afrikaner, a member of the
community which is now the most disadvantaged, she says, she slips in and out of
the language, which is often far more flexible and expressive than English. You don’t
need to be fluent, but you’ll miss out if you don’t speak any Afrikaans, which would
be a pity.
The show falls, deliberately, into two halves. In the first, Evita performs with
minimum props as the ANC has failed to deliver on time (appreciative laughter). When
I saw the show, they were naturally preoccupied with the NEC meeting. Pieter-Dirk
Uys has always been totally up-to-date with the news (and the fake news) and gives
his own wry and penetrating analysis. He does not spare the barbs, sticking them
into everyone, including Donald Trump (not difficult), everyone except Arch Tutu
Did we ever stop to think, he asks, where we would be today if Mandela had come out
of Pollsmoor Prison angry? How many would have died? Instead, we have a second chance,
but what are we doing with it?
The second half frames Tannie Evita with everything including a piano — and at last
the cactus, a round, spiky ball that has, according to her, haunted South Africa
since the days of Jan van Riebeeck. She gives a hilarious and irreverent history
lesson which convulsed those of us educated in the old regime, where I was bored
to tears by doing Jan van Riebeeck and the Great Trek every year in junior school.
In contrast, my Born Free daughter was all at sea. She had vaguely heard of Jan,
didn’t know when he’d landed, had never heard of the French, German and English settlers,
knew something about slavery, but had heard of the Voortrekkers and Boer War only
from us, her parents. She can, however, tell you all about apartheid. She did history
for matric. Thus, is history rewritten by those in ascendancy.
Weaving through the spiky material, which is delivered with an honesty that had the
audience gasping, Pieter-Dirk subtly expounds his message. And, yes, there is one.
Democracy first. Democracy always, Democracy forever.
Move on, he urges, stop trying to hammer the stubborn square of the past into the
round hole of the future. After all, we are all South Africans — except those in
the audience who were Zimbabweans. Shame.
The Kaktus of Separate Development with Pieter-Dirk Uys is at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino
Theatre until June 11, then moves to Cape Town’s Theatre on the Bay from June 20
to July 1
Review: Evita Bezuidenhout and the Kaktus of Separate Development
– Ayanda Sky, TMTv-SA, 26 May 2017
Tannie Evita Bezuidenhout has graced Pieter Toerien's Montecasino Theatre & Studio
with her fabulously satirical self, this time, we are introduced to literature and
some controversial. . .gardening.
Evita Bezuidenhout's 'Kaktus of Separate Development' is lush with anecdotes that
only Tannie Evita could tell so well. Audiences are taken around the world as well
as back in time to the history that shaped South Africa. . .with some Evita spice
of course, because, you know, she's the best political chef South Africa and the
world ever did see.
With the latest satirical pricks, to the latest political scandals blossoming around
the world, Evita Bezuidenhout turns the mirror to South Africa with a subtle reflexivity
that will light you up with laughter but break your heart all at the same time.
Thank you to BUZ Publicity & Media for inviting TMTvSA, and catch 'Evita Bezuidenhout
and the Kaktus of Separate Development' at Pieter Toerien in Montecasino until 11th
EVITA BEZUIDENHOUT AND THE KAKTUS OF SEPARATE DEVELOPMENT
It started in 1995 as the first show at Evita se Perron in Darling.
Every Sunday Tannie Evita peeled the onion of South African history, exposing the
lies and the fantasies and delving deeper into where we were and where we are going.
Tannie Evita Praat Kaktus became the longest running show in South Africa.
At last it has left the Swartland to confront one of the most controversial issues
in our democracy: the real history of South Africa and the right to laugh at the
Today everyone is free to celebrate a story of survival — all except the Afrikaner.
While their history was the foundation to everyone’s story from 1652 to 1994, it
takes the most famous white woman in South Africa to bring out the truth and expose
the spin. Harry Potter and Indiana Jones would be envious.
Assisted by visual aids reflecting a familiar terrain of history, from the arrival
of a small Dutch ship called the Drommedaris to the coronation of a former political
prisoner called Madiba, Evita will take her audience on a unique great trek as she
follows the journey of the Kaktus of Separate Development (Kaktaceae Apartica) from
its arrival in 1652 to its reinvention in 1994 — right up to the headlines of today.
Not for the fainthearted who still believe that civilization arrived with Jan van