The Town of Orania


Orania is a South African town located along the Orange River in the arid Karoo region of Northern Cape province.

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Orania is unique in that population consists entirely of people who self-identify as Afrikaners. The aim of the town is to create a stronghold for Afrikaans and the Afrikaner identity by keeping their language and culture alive. Anyone who defines themselves as an Afrikaner and identifies with Afrikaner ethnicity is welcome in Orania. In 2004 Orania introduced its own currency, the Ora. Seventy businesses are located in Orania.

Purpose

According to its founders, the purpose of Orania is to create a town where the preservation of Afrikanerdom's
cultural heritage is strictly observed and Afrikaner selfwerksaamheid ("self reliance") is an actual practice, not just an idea. All jobs, from management to manual labour, are filled by Afrikaners only; non-Afrikaner workers are not permitted. "We do not want to be governed by people who are not Afrikaners", said Potgieter, the previous chairman. "Our culture is being oppressed and our children are being brainwashed to speak English".

The town's ultimate objective is to create an Afrikaner majority in the north-western Cape, by encouraging the
construction of other such towns, with the eventual goal of an Afrikaner majority in the area and an independent Afrikaner state between Orania and the west coast; also known as a Volkstaat. Carel Boshoff, the founding father of Orania, had originally envisaged a population of 60,000 after 15 years. While Boshoff conceded that most Afrikaners might decide not move to the volkstaat, he thought that it is nevertheless essential Afrikaners have this option, since this will make them feel more secure, thereby reducing tensions in the rest of South Africa. In this regard he considered it as being analogous with Israel, which serves as a refuge for Jews from all over the world.

History

Orania has its origins in the late 1980s, when Carel Boshoff, a right-wing academic, founded the Afrikaner-Vryheidstigting (Afrikaner Freedom Foundation) or Avstig. At the time, mainstream right-wingers supported the bantustan policy, which allocated 13% of South Africa’s land area for black South Africans, while leaving the remaining 87% to whites. The founding principles of the Avstig were based on the belief that since black majority rule was unavoidable and white minority rule morally unjustifiable, Afrikaners would have to form their own nation, or volkstaat, in a smaller part of South Africa. Orania was intended to be the basis of the volkstaat, which would come into existence once a large number of Afrikaners moved to Orania and other such ‘growth points’.

Boshoff's plans excluded the area of traditional Boer republics in the Transvaal and the Free State, which encompass the economic heartland of South Africa and much of its natural resources, instead focussing on an economically underdeveloped and semi-desert area in the north-western Cape. Even proponents of the idea conceded that this model would demand significant economic sacrifices from Afrikaners who moved to the volkstaat. The model is based on the principle of ‘own labour’, requiring that all work in the volkstaat is performed by its citizens, including ploughing fields, collecting garbage and tending to gardens, which is traditionally performed by blacks in the rest of South Africa.

In December 1990, about 40 Afrikaner families, headed by Carel Boshoff, the son-in-law of former South African Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, bought the dilapidated town, which was a construction camp of builders of the Vanderkloof Dam on Orange River for around US$ 200,000. The town was bought from the Department of Water Orania, Northern Cape Affairs, which built the town for the workers building a canal network utilising the water in the Orange River, when the project was completed.

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In a conciliatory gesture, then-President Nelson Mandela, visited the town in 1995 to have tea with Betsie Verwoerd, widow of Hendrik Verwoerd. By 2003, Orania had grown to about 750 residents, and local amenities included a holiday resort on the Orange River, a home for senior citizens, two schools, a private hospital and a growing agricultural sector. In November 2005, around 60 Cape Coloured families lodged a land claim with the government, for around 483 hectares (1,190 acres) of land within the town. These families claimed to have lived in the town from 1965, when it was first constructed, up until 1991, when it was sold by the government. The claimants hold that they were forced to leave in 1991, when the town was converted into Orania, and that this constitutes a forced removal in terms of race. The community of Orania opposed the claim. The land claim was settled in December 2006 when the South African government agreed to pay the claimants R2.9 million in compensation.

Orania today

In June 2007, the Afrikaner enclave was visited by the Coloured community of Eersterust, outside Pretoria. The groups met to discuss community development and discussed methods of self-governance. According to visitors the reception was good, and they had "definitely learned from the experience" and experienced no racial tension. The community of Orania gave a donation to the community of Eersterust in support of their nursery school. In 2009, an African National Congress Youth League delegation visited the town. The leader Julius Malema praised the co-operation between residents: "they co-operate instead of working against each other". As of 2011[3], Orania is home to about 900 inhabitants, with around 10,000 registered supporters. Orania has three
residential areas Kleingeluk ("small happiness"), Grootdorp ("big town") and Orania Wes ("Orania West"). In Orania people from all levels of society perform their own manual labour.

On 14 September 2010 President Jacob Zuma visited Orania. He met with Orania founder Professor Carel Boshoff and his son, Orania mayor Carel Boshoff IV and other community leaders. After the meeting Zuma visited housing projects and several agricultural sites in Orania.

Orania and the Xhosa community of Mnyameni signed a cooperation agreement on 11 December 2012. The objective of the agreement is to assist in the development of own institutions and the transfer of knowledge between the communities in order to reduce their dependency on government initiatives for development.

Politics

On Thursday 5 June 1998, Mr. Valli Moosa (then Minister of Constitutional Development in the ANC government) stated in a parliamentary budget debate that, "The ideal of some Afrikaners to develop the North Western Cape as a home for the Afrikaner culture and language within the framework of the Constitution and the Charter of Human Rights is viewed by the government as a legitimate ideal." On 4 July 2007 the town of Orania and the Northern Cape government agreed that the question of Orania's self-government should be discussed at all government levels. In the recent South African general election, 2009, the community decisively voted for the Freedom Front Plus party. Debate surrounding a volkstaat returned to the mainstream media following the murder of AWB leader Eugene Terre'Blanche in April 2010. Boshoff claimed a symbolism of the murder for farm murders that he described as "nothing other than a state of war". Yet, he rejected an invitation to Terre'Blanche's funeral, "I'm not enamoured of him. He chose a path of confrontation, of conflict. We wanted another way." Political parties are not allowed in Orania's local elections.