AFRICANGLOBE – The crowd jostled shoulder to shoulder outside the Afrikaans Protestant Church in Ventersdorp. Flat-haired tannies in sensible shoes tripped over each other for a better view.
The whine of bikes revving in the church parking lot wound higher and lower.
The wrinkles on old army uniforms pinched middle-aged men around their bellies.
Dirges moaned out of the wooden doors of the church.
No one else was allowed in. It was packed solid.
Only White supremacist Eugene Terre’Blanche’s corpse inside his coffin could still be accommodated.
Not far away South Africa’s national police commissioner Bheki Cele had arrived at Terre’Blanche’s house in town in his blue light convoy to deliver his condolences. But he was out-pipped at the celebrity post when, Moses-like, the real deal was already parting the sea of fans of the dead man in the crush outside the church.
It was Steve Hofmeyr, South Africa’s biggest-selling pop star, soap opera hero and notorious philanderer. His arrival in Ventersdorp on this bright, fascist morning had tipped his borderline Nazi status close to the edge. But he didn’t seem to mind. His sunglasses were too rock star to suggest he wanted to be incognito.
This was upfront. Hofmeyr had come to pay tribute to White supremacist Terre’Blanche. And the people in black, proudly wearing their AWB sew-ons, couldn’t have been more delighted. A rock star for their rock star.
But Hofmeyr doesn’t think his appearance at the funeral more than two years ago deserved as much attention as it got. He brushed it off.
“I think people underestimate how wide I see the Afrikaner – from far right to far left. It’s not just a small little group. It’s really massive.
“Terre’Blanche always tried to get me to join the AWB. But we only met after his prison stint at Rooigrond, and that’s when he told me: ‘I did wrong.’
“He had changed, he had found religion. I respect that. So when I walked into that church, I knew that’s what I was doing there.”
The trouble is, that was not the only example of Hofmeyr teetering on the edge of being an unredeemed White racist.
There were several others, including the threat he made to sing a song about “kaf*irs” (the Dutch word for nigg*r), if the judge in last year’s Julius Malema free speech trial had ruled in favour of the then-ANCYL president singing Dubul’ iBhunu (Shoot the Boer).
Frans Cronje, the deputy CEO of the Institute of Race Relations, was so unsettled that he wrote a letter to Hofmeyr in the newspapers.
“You are obviously ignorant of the fact that White people occupy a very privileged and controversial position in South Africa. Their long-term future… depends on the extent to which they can use that position to promote a more stable, just, and prosperous society.
“I tell you that if you think that we can fight racism with racism, then you are as much of a fool as you are racist.
“It shames me… You are in fact an embarrassment… and a disgrace.”
But Hofmeyr didn’t seem at all cowed. Before he appeared on Africa’s first roast – recorded last Tuesday and to be aired on Comedy Central on DStv on Monday night – he warned: “I can’t give any guarantees that I won’t get emotional” about race issues and Afrikaner issues.
Fortunately for Hofmeyr, the scriptwriters, roastmaster Trevor Noah and the roasters extracted no shouts or tears for the volk. In fact, they unwittingly gave his career a boost with a free ride on charges of racism. Instead, they went with a lame volley of jibes about his energetic sperm count.
The only moment at which Hofmeyr almost lost his nerve was in response to jokes about Boer hero and killer of Africans, Piet Retief from comedian John Vlismas.
Hofmeyr leapt up at last, like a blue streak in his turquoise suit, grabbed Vlismas’s script, crunched it in his hand and pushed it into the comedian’s open mouth.
The audience took a gasp, but all-too briefly. And that was that. Hofmeyr, the torchbearer who could be the most dangerous white man in SA, had got away with it.
That’s the thing about the White supremacist superstar. You want him to be stupid. You expect him to be stupid.
But he just isn’t.
In fact, Hofmeyr, as fans will see on the roast, won the night. From the moment he stepped off his throne on an oxwagon wheeled in with cheerleaders in tiny outfits, he was king. Nobody could touch him.
Yet Hofmeyr had given praise to comedians before the recording. He assumed they would be brave and savage him for his hate.
“The thing is, I could say the harshest things about Black people, but when I get out of my tour bus, they embrace me,” he explained, trying to set his record straight before the roast. “I think harsh things sometimes have to be said about each other. We should share the guilt for the situation, but we don’t even have a consensual conflict language. We don’t know how to speak to each other. We haven’t had the actual race debate because we’re looking for a mutually understandable way to do it.
“I don’t like fuelling prevailing propaganda. I don’t want the old South Africa back, but I know the [roasters] will nail me for being a stereotypical Afrikaner. That would be sad… such an oversimplification. I rely on comedians to inform us and make us see the complexity of the situation I’m in.”
Hofmeyr has indeed been in many “complex situations” before, and the roasters – including Vlismas, comedians David Kau and Casper de Vries, radio celebrity Anele Mdoda and soap star Robert Whitehead – certainly played on some of those. They dragged up the old, dirty stories, but Hofmeyr sat tight.
He’d expected nothing less.
When small-town waitress Noline Fourie had told him she was pregnant back in 1993, he wasn’t impressed.
“He didn’t want to accept it,” Fourie told reporters, “but he said there was nothing he could do about it. I asked Steve: ‘What now?’ And he said: ‘I’ll stand by you.’”
The couple had been together, on and off, for about eight years, and Fourie was delighted by the idea of having a love-child.
But that was the second time Hofmeyr would have to “stand by” a young woman.
The first one was Chantelle de Bruin from Nylstroom in 1988, and he insisted on a paternity test that time. His first child, Charissa, is now 24.
Hofmeyr’s connection with De Bruin would go sour when she claimed he was late on his maintenance payments.
That was in 2000, and by then, Hofmeyr already had three children with three different women. He would go on to have another two with his former wife, actress Natasha Sutherland.
His response to De Bruin’s court action was that he treated all his children “with equal luxury” even though he was not obliged to pay more than what the court had originally ordered.
That’s not where it ended. Hofmeyr grew so tired of fans approaching him about being a bad parent that he decided to embark on a R1 million defamation case against De Bruin. Hofmeyr was determined to take his case all the way to the Constitutional Court, saying “stupid” new laws affecting unmarried fathers prejudiced men.
Meanwhile, he punted his love as a father.
“Caring for my children is a great privilege. Even in months when I have absolutely no income, I make sure that my maintenance is paid,” he said.
It’s a long time since Hofmeyr – the biggest name in SA music – had no income, and that’s why the roast couldn’t really hurt him.
“These are sins, not crimes. I’ve got nothing to hide,” he said before the show. “I’ve left myself open to it, but I do distinguish between sins and crimes. Sure, I’m guilty of the former, but I’ve never stolen from anybody.
“I want to be honest.
“Right now, I’m trying to calm a new life out of my old reputation, but the media won’t allow you to do that. The roast could be very uncomfortable.
“My children will watch it one day. As it is, they get nailed at school for everything their father does, it’s not just fun and games.
“I have to go independent of the narrative out there. But for the roast, I’ll say anything. I have my armour. I’m used to those pokes about being a White, dumb Afrikaner, so I’ll be so ready for the roasters.
“I always tell my son, this is a braindead generation. In life, you’ve got to make the best of a difficult situation.”
And when it came to the roast, that exactly what he did.
By; Janet Smith