Inside Orania, South Africa’s whites-only town

Published in Odd and Fun on 22nd October 2017
Inside Orania, South Africa’s whites-only town

( CNN) Orania is not prime real estate by any stretch of the imagination.

The settlement west of the Orange River in Northern Cape, South Africa lies on arid and weather-beaten land; baked by the harsh summer sunshine and frigid through the dry winter. It’s farmable, but not easy, requiring strong backs and calloused hands.

Rising above the scrub the town’s symbol flutters atop a flagpole, a young boy rolling up his sleeves, preparing to knuckle down and transform this scenery. It’s a romanticized image for a romanticized notion: a place where Afrikaners can be Afrikaners. Tough, resourceful and inducing do; descendants of Dutch settlers and proud of it.

A remote farming township of approximately 1,300, Orania by this description is unremarkable. Except “its not”. Instead, the community has gained a notoriety beyond its modest means as a parochial enclave within the Rainbow Nation, where the dream of an Afrikaner state is alive and well.

Orania, you might have guessed, is Afrikaner-only. And by extension, whites-only.

It’s also growing.

Culture, Inc.

Beginning life in 1990 during the last gasps of apartheid, the Afrikaner town was the brainchild of Carel Boshoff III. The son-in-law of H.F. Verwoerd, the designer of apartheid, he and a number of families bought an abandoned workers’ village with lofty ambitions that one day hundreds of thousands of Afrikaners might call it home.

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“There is only one genuinely Afrikaans-speaking university remaining of the 22 institutes for higher learning that there used to be, ” Hermann Giliomee, extraordinary professor of history at the University of Stellenbosch, tells Norman. The BBC also reported in 2015 that the university faced calls to drop-off Afrikaans.

In its embattled nation, Afrikaner history becomes hagiography. The efforts of the pioneering Voortrekkers, who traveled inland fleeing the British and fought against Zulus in the Battle of Blood River, are lionized by some present day Afrikaners, who identify with their struggle.

“We are the white tribe of Africa and I want my people to understand that we have as much right to be here, ” the Reverend Schalk Albertyn, once an anti-apartheid activist, tells Norman.

Gideon de Kock, curator of the Orania Museum, circa 2013.

A minority ruler, in the space of three decades, has reverted to a minority motion. And “a minority, ” writes Norman, “can always become a majority through isolation.”

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