South Africa's last white stronghold | International

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Halfway between Pretoria, the capital of South Africa, and Cape Town, in the middle of the semi-desert plateau of Karoo (Northern Cape Province), after leaving the highway to enter secondary roads, poorly maintained, and one-way bridges, you reach the R369 road that divides the population of Orania in two, next to the Orange River, which is home to 2,000 people. There are no fences, no heavily guarded gate, not even the usual electrical security systems of white neighborhoods in South African cities. The road flanked by arid land changes radically and begins to be covered with plantations of walnut trees and neighborhoods with large houses or terraced houses, as you enter the town of Orania.

“We have made a study to count the trucks that respect the signal of stop That should force them to slow down. A few months ago a girl was run over, and if it hadn't been for the Orania medical team, she would have died because the ambulance arrived two hours later, ”laments Joost Strydom, executive director of the Orania Movement, which has 6,000 members worldwide. , with special support from South Tyrol (Italy), the Flemings in Belgium, the Netherlands, the South African diplomatic representation in Indonesia, the USA and Russia.

Strydom prudently drives a van in which he takes tourists and onlookers who come to know the phenomenon of the only South African town in which no non-Afrikaner can reside, speak the language and commune with the religious and conservative ideology of its origins, based on Calvinism. The Afrikaners or Boers, an ethnic group of Dutch origin, arrived in the middle of the 17th century at the Cape of Good Hope (Cape Town). They concentrated on South Africa and Namibia, and fought the British. Through the National Party, they remained in power for 40 years.

The "least racist" place

“Orania is the least racist place in South Africa,” says Cara, a twenty-year-old student who, like those who want to go to university, has had to leave the place she calls “true home”. It is a statement that is insistently repeated by anyone you start a conversation with. It is the need that, having decided to preserve their culture and identity by avoiding mixing in a country that officially recognizes 11 communities with their respective languages, they are not branded as racists. And far from being a mantra to defend themselves from preconceptions and prejudices, they respect those who are not like them, but they do not want to share their existence and daily life.

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Peter Bishoff, director of a Vocational Training center that trains a hundred students (of which only 10% have their families in Orania) in plumbing, electricity, construction and house care, compares the need to preserve the identity of each state of the European Union with the 11 minorities of the South African country. “We are a minority in the country and that is why we have created a place where we are the majority. It is the only way to protect ourselves and make our own decisions, we want to live in a place where we are the majority. It's like when the people of Madrid decide for themselves ”.

Construction workers build a new house in Orania on May 31YESHIEL PANCHIA

Thirty years after the birth of Orania, 2,000 people, with an average age of 32, build everything a community needs to live on 8,000 hectares (the forecast is that it can accommodate 30,000 people). They work with their own currency, the ora, which they change in their local bank, as long as the rands, the official South African currency, are giving benefits in an entity. But to understand this you have to go back to the last years of the apartheid. “When we proposed the idea of ​​a territory for Afrikaners, it was the moment of resistance and they could not consider taking a small part of the country. They controlled everything and were willing to fight to stay in power ”, explains Carel Boshoff, son of the founder of Orania, son-in-law of Hendrik Verwoerd, considered the“ architect of the apartheid”And current director of the Die Vryheidstigting research center (Fundación Libertad).

"What was called the soft transition, with the image of (Nelson) Mandela as a kind of global teddy bear making peace with everyone, made many people understand the revolutionary changes that occurred during the next decade," he says Boshoff to refer to the "racist policies" of President Thabo Mbeki through, for example, black economic empowerment, and now Cyril Ramaphosa with "the uncompensated appropriation of land."

Boshoff is moderately pleased to have shown that "with integrity and hard work" South Africans can take care of themselves, and assures that the problems of the African National Congress (ANC) with corruption have shown that "Orania is necessary and possible".

“Self-ownership, taking responsibility for your own future, not waiting for the Government or whoever to help you with your circumstances, but doing it yourself”, is the recipe that Gawie Snyman, independent mayor of Orania – does not allow the link to political parties in the elections—, proclaims from a large office in which he insists that it is easier for them to explain the reason for the existence of Orania to black journalists because they understand “the African tribalism on which it is based” .

The decision of three neighbors

Apart from the constant defensive attitude diminished by friendliness and extreme sympathy towards the outsider, no one doubts the pillars of Orania: a conservative religious society in which the defense of its cultural and linguistic identity is above any other approach. To be part of the community, you must present documentation proving that you do not have a criminal record or have used drugs. And it will be three residents of Orania, trained for this purpose, who give the last go-ahead before handing over the Verblyfsreg ("right to reside").

Gawie Snyman, Gawie Snyman, independent mayor of Orania, photographed on June 1
Gawie Snyman, Gawie Snyman, independent mayor of Orania, photographed on June 1YESHIEL PANCHIA

“In South Africa we are going towards federalism even if the ANC does not want it. They will not be able to control it, ”says Carel Boshoff, after analyzing the critical economic situation in the country that, in his opinion, is leading to an increasingly dysfunctional state. "Orania's strategy is non-confrontation, we are part of the solution, not the problem," he says, convinced that the next generations of Afrikaners will not have to answer for the country's historical ties with respect to the apartheid.

One of the contradictions that can be felt in Orania is on the top of a hill, on which you can see a territory whose population grows 10% a year and that without receiving anything from the State despite paying its taxes has a budget, from donations and local fees, which over the past five years amounted to 183 million rand (11.43 million euros). There, on the hill, the statues that nobody wants in the rest of South Africa have found a home. From Kruger, leader of the Boer resistance against the British, to Hendrik Verwoerd, who led the country from 1958 to 1966, or BJ Vorster, who held the same position until 1979 reinforcing racial segregation and promoting arrests and prison sentences like the chain perpetual Mandela.

"We mix when we leave Orania, but here we must preserve our culture and identity"

Magdaleen Kleynhans, Empress of Orania

"They are the past, for good and for bad, we do not deny them but our present and future is this figure, whom we call 'The Little Giant'. Small like us, but he rolls up his sleeves to work hard, ”says Strydom. This small giant, which appears on the flag and the badge, is the symbol of the effort in Orania. The next morning it is also Strydom who opens the door of the Verwoerd house museum, perhaps the place that most stirs the visitor's conscience. Inside, the paintings, busts, gifts, photographs and a huge flag of the South Africa of the apartheid they occupy a place that is filled with dust.

Magdaleen Kleynhans, a businesswoman who owns the Senbel call center that employs 60 people, has been in Orania for 11 years. “Here children live a life in freedom because they can walk everywhere, they have stability and they feel safe. They are proud of who they are because they know where they come from, ”he explains, categorically rejecting that when they go out to study abroad or when they travel to South Africa or abroad they feel misplaced. “We mix when we leave Orania, but here we must preserve our culture and identity. In Orania we learn to tolerate and morality is based on respect for others ”.

It is almost impossible that when you come across someone in Orania they will not greet you, it is a kind of connection to prevent anyone from breaking. At the public library, 86-year-old Elisa Elmarie also responds with spontaneous sympathy by showing that 60% of the 21,000 volumes she has are in English and 40% in Afrikaans. "As in any culture, love stories are, for example, those of (South African writer) Sarah du Pisanie, the most requested", and with a laugh she adds: "Here, in Orania, I feel safe."


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