Remembering that first day of freedom: Pieter-Dirk Uys

2014-04-27 15:00

After April 27 1994, I was just another white man without a job. Suddenly, after decades of inspiration, I had nothing to say. Two decades of democracy later, and we got away with it!

There were no Nuremberg trials. None of us was hanged like Saddam Hussein for crimes against humanity. Nelson Mandela came out of the darkness and brought us light. He could have come out and spoken like Robert Mugabe. Instead, he reconciled a nation.

And what a relief! I was no longer just a white Afrikaner; I was now a South African. Who said life cannot start at 50?

How was I to make fun of President Nelson Mandela? But his great sense

of humour inspired me to make him laugh. The rainbow honeymoon exploded amid all those urban legends of impending chaos. Madiba was

almal se pêl. He led by example with generosity and graciousness.

I met him for the first time some months after he had completed his long walk to freedom. Emotions ran high. Tears flowed. He beamed and laughed. “Pieter! Where is Evita!” I just thought: “Oh God, I hope you know!”

He allowed Evita to interview him for her 1994 TV series. He treated her like a lady. “Thank you for giving us this valuable time, President Mandela,” I said through her eyelashes and lipstick.

“No, Pieter, I want to be on Evita’s show because I have a lot to say, and no one watches the news.” And he used the opportunity to deliver a pertinent 1995 New Years message to the police force being torn apart by violence and distrust. He used my nonsense to help lessen that sense of fear.

My disappointment is that the liberation movement he led has turned into a government almost as corrupt, inept and careless as the one I fought with such passion. Is it time to again use humour as a weapon of mass distraction?

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