Blogs and Twitter have become the hot new breaking ground for news stories, so remember that you read this here first: today, Spag Blog can reveal that there has been an imposter in our political midst for much of the past year and that all of us, from the ACDP all the way down to Zuma, have been taken for suckers.
Julius Malema is not who he says he is, nor is he all he has been cracked up to be. Julius Malema doesn’t exist. He is a figment of the imagination of one of the country’s keenest minds. He is the culmination, in fact, of the extraordinary career of one of our greatest satirists and impersonators, but this time, rather than appear on stage in the guise of a PW Botha or a Thabo Mbeki, or his most famous alter ego, Tannie Evita Bezuidenhout, he decided to have one giant laugh at the South African political establishment and see if he could pull off the coup of his career: create a supposedly “real” political character who would say extraordinarily outrageous things.
So, for much of the past year, Pieter-Dirk Uys has been appearing in unexpected places — even, most recently, in Orania — in the guise of the bumptious, not overly bright supposed leader of the ANC Youth League. But every time we’ve listened to, shaken our heads at, been bewildered by or scornful of Malema, we’ve actually been witness to arguably the finest moment of Uys’s brilliant career. And, quite frankly, he’s been wondering how long it would take for all of us to latch on to his delightfully mischievous little stunt.
Spag Blog has thought — be honest, haven’t we all? — for some time that there was something about Malema that could not possibly ring true. Surely no one could really say all of those outlandish things and actually believe them, surely?
It was while subediting a story (for my day job) about Uys and his two new shows, MacBeki and Elections & Erections , that I thought, hang on … could it be? No. No no, surely not. But the thought stuck around and finally, this morning, I decided to phone him and risk the possibility of him thinking I’m a blithering idiot. It turns out I called on exactly the right day, because today was the day he had earmarked for making his announcement (which you’ll read in your morning newspapers tomorrow — another of the joys of blogging is not having to faff around waiting for the thing to be printed — you just go live).
“Of course it’s a hoax,” Pieter-Dirk told me on the phone today. “Darling, no one could be that stupid. I’ve been slapping on the blackface for months and wondering how long I could get away with it. But when the election date was announced I decided there’d have to be an end to it, so I’m coming clean today so that everyone can have a nice belly-laugh at their own expense — and of course it’s a great way to draw attention to the election. Vote on the 22nd, almal van julle — you get the government you vote for, after all!”
Having said that, Uys was quick to emphasise that the themes underlying his giant ruse were not at all funny. “The thing is, these fears are real. We as South Africans have become so accustomed to being ripped off and made to feel like fools that if someone like ‘Julius Malema’ were really to come along and say such outrageous things … well, I have proved, have I not, that pretty much everybody would believe it? I mean, you did.”
And I did. I could not deny it.
“I mean, consider the infamous ‘Malema’ injunction to ‘kill for Zuma’,” said Uys. “This rings redolently of dear Winnie’s call for necklacing in the 80s and I honestly didn’t think I’d get away with that one for more than a few hours. And I find it chilling that every South African who heard my alter ego say that line fell for it! What does that tell us about ourselves?”
But the show’s over — or is it?
“There will still be a life for ‘Julius’,” said the satirist. “From now on, obviously everyone will know he’s really me, but there will still be plenty of opportunity for me to use ‘him’ to pillory the system. I’m planning a new revue in which ‘Julius’ will be the star of the show — with a host of special guest stars of course.”
So, look out for “Julius Malema” any day now at a theatre near you — but not on any political stage.