Michael Bleby, smh.com.au, June 1
It’s easy to miss Orania. Many people choose to avoid the small town nestled on the banks of the Orange River in central South Africa. But everyone knows of it. For Orania is the all-white Afrikaner town clinging on doggedly to the idea of separate societies.
Ten years after the end of apartheid, in a country that is 80 per cent black and led by a black president, this town doesn’t even allow black workers. The community, which openly laments the end of white minority rule in South Africa, says the country’s changes make a separate existence necessary.
“There is no chance of sustaining your culture when you’re only 10 per cent of the population,” said Frans de Klerk, a resident. “With the crime and affirmative action, Afrikaners are being pushed out.”
The diehard farming community of 500 people is committed to an Afrikaner homeland, and residents pledge not to bring in workers from outside. The privately-owned town was founded in 1991, when a small group led by Carel Boshoff, the son-in-law of apartheid architect Hendrik Verwoerd, bought the land from the Government.
Boshoff, 76, argues that Orania’s existence is not a testament to racism. A separate existence is necessary to preserve the 350-year-old Afrikaner nation, he says.
“It’s got nothing to do with racism. It’s a matter of a nation having its own freedom, just as different nations in Europe, without accusations of racism, exist in self-determination.”
The rest of the country tolerates Orania as a bad joke. Most Afrikaans-speaking South Africans say the town has nothing in common with them.
“It’s hillbilly stuff,” said Hannes Jooste, an advertising director in Johannesburg. “Every country in the world has its little pockets it’s embarrassed about.”
In 1995, then-president Nelson Mandela visited the town and had tea with Betsie, Verwoerd’s widow and Mr Boshoff’s mother-in-law. She was reportedly charmed by him, but even Mr Mandela wouldn’t be able to buy property in the town. Not that he would want to. Orania’s 3500 hectares are hard work to farm, work made harder by a refusal to hire cheap labour, common elsewhere in South Africa.
Now the town is taking its quest for independence a step further by introducing its own currency. A two-year project came to fruition last month when residents and visitors started using the “Ora” in the town’s shops.
“They’re trying to make a political issue out of what sounds like a shopping voucher,” said Chris Hart, a Johannesburg bank economist.
Orania launched the currency two days after the swearing-in of Thabo Mbeki as President, but the timing was a coincidence, Mr Boshoff insists.
Mysteriously, returns from the April 14 election showed that three votes for the African National Congress were cast in the town. Mr Boshoff quickly says they were the votes of electoral officials in the town on the day. “Those were civil servants, not members of the community,” he said.