Uys was born in Cape Town on 28 September 1945, to Hannes Uys, a Calvinist Afrikaner father, and Helga Bassel, a Berlin-born Jewish mother. Hannes Uys, a fourth-generation South African of Dutch and Belgian Huguenot stock, was a musician and organist in his local church. Bassel was a German concert pianist, whom the Nazis expelled from the Reichsmusikkammer in 1935 as part of their campaign to root out Jewish artists. She later escaped to South Africa and managed to take her grand piano with her, with which she taught her daughter, Tessa Uys (b. 1948), now a concert pianist based in London. Bassel spoke little about her Jewish past to her children. It was only after her suicide that they discovered she was fully Jewish. Uys and his sister had an NG Kerk upbringing and their mother encouraged them to embrace Afrikaner culture.
[During Apartheid, there were some strange things in society that everyone accepted as normal and we laughed at it. Little did we realise we were watching Jewish things at work. There was/is an Afrikaan comedian who liked to dress as a woman … which I always found strange and uncomfortable, but he was funny and he appeared in the Mass Media often. Someone told me today, that he appeared on an Interview and then said that he is Jewish. I went and checked and indeed it seems he may be Jewish. If your MOTHER is Jewish, then by Jewish rules that means you are JEWISH. Jan]