Athol Fugard: How can Zuma just sit and smile?

2015-02-18 11:39

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World renowned playwright Athol Fugard has taken a swipe at President Jacob Zuma during a book talk in Cape Town.

Fugard said he is dying to hear Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s take on Zuma’s state of the nation address last Thursday.

The 83-year-old literary star’s discussion of his play The Shadow of the Hummingbird at the Book Lounge yesterday, just down the road from Parliament, took a political turn when he told the audience: “Mr Zuma has made enough of a disaster of things as it is … How can he just sit and smile after what he’s done? Incredible.”

Fugard – born in Middelburg in the Eastern Cape – and his family lived in the United States where he taught playwriting, acting and directing at the University of California in San Diego until recently.

In 2012 they moved back to South Africa, which he considers his home.

“I want to believe that South Africa will reach a point in the future where the Julius Malemas will shake hands with the Eugène Terre’Blanches. Or let’s say, the Cyril Ramaphosas with the Eugène Terre’Blanches. Black Africa needs to realise that white people have as much right to be here, that we’re not interlopers,” he said.

He added: “And speaking of which, I am dying to hear Cyril Ramaphosa’s take on Sona last week. He’s been quiet.”

Fugard is best known for his anti-apartheid plays and continued insightful takes on inequality. His novel Tsotsi was made into an Academy Award-winning film by Gavin Hood in 2005.

The Shadow of the Hummingbird is largely autobiographical and inspired by Fugard’s relationship with his own grandson, Gavyn.

Fugard features in the play as Oupa, a retired South African teacher living in self-imposed exile in Southern California.

He told the audience yesterday: “The relationship with a grandchild, it is different to that with a child. It is a wonderful, liberating relationship. Gavyn taught me again how to play. That the world is full of dragons and that we have to slay them.”

Hunched over in a long-sleeved shirt and frayed khaki pants, Fugard spent a generous amount of time chatting to fans and signing books after the discussion.

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