Satirist Uys launches new book in Bay

EXPRESSING concern about a society increasingly fearful to speak up, satirist Pieter Dirk Uys launched his book, Panorama, in Port Elizabeth yesterday.

Uys described his new novel as a "small story about small people" set against the backdrop of Table Mountain and Robben Island in Cape Town.

"In 1987 everybody in Cape Town pretended not to see Robben Island. Nobody knew what was going on there. By 2008 Robben Island had changed. It became an Olympus of democracy."

Today the island was an extraordinary celebration of life, Uys said, "a reminder of how unbelievably stupid those times were".

Uys said the book was a continuation, in another genre, of a play he had performed in Grahamstown in 1987. "To a great extent, both the play and book tell the story of ordinary people being chewed up by fear. It is still as true today as it was in 1987."

Uys said next year's elections would be of particular significance in South Africa's future.

"I am deeply, deeply concerned about the future of our country." People would be voting to defend their freedom of expression, he said.

The book is dedicated to his Grade 10 teacher. "Teachers should teach until they die in front of the class."

He said he had a soft spot for Port Elizabeth. "I have always loved coming here, even when we were smuggling banned people into the Opera House."

Speaking on Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality's politics, he said: "It is absurd and worrying but [the] Bay is also a region that produced some of the country's greatest leaders."

Uys is also in town for his latest show, An Audience with Pieter Dirk Eish, which will be on at the Vodacom Amphitheatre at the Boardwalk tonight.

The show has a unique format as Uys allows the audience to choose "a box" which determines which characters make an appearance. "It is a challenging show for me as an artist," he said.