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George Floyd’s Ghost Haunts South Africa’s Whites-Only Town

July 23rd, 2020
topic:Racism
by:Cyril Zenda
located in:South Africa
tags:apartheid, George Floyd, racism, rainbow

“If you think we will keep quiet, you are wrong! This madness must come to an end. It’s a betrayal of our call for a truly non-racial South Africa.” This was Panyaza Lesufi, a firebrand South African politician in late June in reference to Orania, a whites-only town in the middle of South Africa.

The town, in the country’s Northern Cape province was created during the last years of Apartheid as a ‘safe haven’ for Afrikaners, who are descendants of an European Dutch ethnic group that colonised South Africa in the 1600s. Afrikaners dominated South Africa for many decades and introduced the ruthless Apartheid system that was anchored on racial segregation.

“It’s now that that place must be liberated and all South Africans must be allowed to stay wherever they want to stay,” Lesufi, a senior member of South African’s ruling African National Congress party (ANC), went on to say at an event to remember one of the country’s liberation war heroes. “We don’t say we want to stay with them but you can’t have an institution that is established based on language or based on the colour of a skin.”

Town raises legal and moral eyebrows

The alleged aim of the town — which was established in 1991 — is to create a stronghold for the Afrikaner identity by keeping their language and culture alive. Built on 8,000 hectares of farmland that was registered as a private company shortly before white-minority rule ended in South Africa in 1994, the town has been the subject of intense debate for years as its continued existence raises both legal and moral eyebrows in a supposedly multi-racial nation.

With a population of nearly 2,000 people, the self-sufficient town of Orania has its own ‘president’, its own laws, its own flag, its own holidays and even its own currency called the Ora, among other distinctive symbols and emblems.

According to reports, prospective residents who apply to live in the town are thoroughly screened by the town council using very strict criteria, which include first and foremost being an ethnic Afrikaner.

‘Freedom of association’

Critics accuse the town’s authorities of spurning the ‘Rainbow Nation’ concept, and trying to recreate pre-democratic South Africa within an enclave, but in their defence, the residents of the town, who are also referred to as ‘Oranians’ – led by their ‘president’ Carel Boshoff IV – plead that they are not racists, but sincerely stand only for Afrikaner self-determination. They argue that the Constitution of South Africa allows freedom of cultural association, so their town is doing just for that. Section 235 of the Constitution specifically allows legislation that would establish a “territorial entity” for “any community sharing a common cultural and language heritage”.

“There are thousands of communities the size of Orania throughout South Africa that are only black, but nobody asks questions about that,” said Boshoff, who inherited the presidency from his now late father who went by the same name.

Although Orania’s population has been growing steadily from only 13 inhabitants at its formation in April 1991 to the current figure of about 2,000 people, this growth rate has, however, been a very big disappointment for the its architect, Boshoff (Sr), who had envisioned it booming to 60,000 inside the first 15 years.

A chorus of disapproval

Lesufi is not the only one who is fuming and stewing over the continued presence of “this madness” in South Africa. As a people that suffered from institutionalised racism that was Apartheid, in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd and the resultant Black Lives Matter protests, Orania evoked strong feelings among a cross-section of South Africans.

Former South African president, Nelson Mandela’s former spokesman, Carl Niehaus, weighed in on the debate saying, “Not keeping quiet is not good enough! Destroy the money, destroy the damn flag. Charge these white, #Orania ‘Boere’, for their racism, throw them in jail. If our laws are not strong enough on racism to do that, pass the necessary legislation. This nonsense cannot be tolerated.” Niehaus, a former political prisoner during the Apartheid era, is also a former spokesman of the ruling ANC party.

South African rapper Gigi Lamayne also asked how it was possible, 26 years into a democracy, for a place like Orania to existed in South Africa. “As we watch #JusticeForGeorgeFlyod #BlackLivesMatters #GeorgeFloyd #JusticeforCollinsKhosa, I wonder if we realise that it is now more than ever that we must assess the strength in our unity. How does Orania still exist?” she asked.

Model and socialite Babalwa Mneno added her voice to the flood of questions around Orania’s continued existence, by taking to Twitter to blame the ANC government of South Africa for doing nothing about the town: “This government HATES black ppl!!!!”

Another tweet came from Senzo Scholar, “Who puts this government in power? Sadly we did. I feel betrayed by My Beloved ANC. It hurts deeply”

Solomon Makgale, a black independent communication consultant thinks Orania exists because there is not enough anger against racism in South Africa. He suggested that the fact that the town had created its own currency showed that whites were trying to safeguard their own economic interests.

“Ora, as Orania’s currency is known, is a perfect example of how white businesses support each other, often to the exclusion of blacks,” Makgale said. “Ora is used to encourage the circulation of money among the racist town’s residents.”
The opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party has in the past said it plans to settle landless people in this controversial settlement.

Town a by-word for racism

Over the years, there has never been a short supply of expletives to describe the controversial town which is seen as “a culturally backward, racially intolerant, and separatist outpost.” It has attracted such uncharitable phrases as “one of [South Africa’s] strangest towns”; a “bastion of intolerance”; “the last pathetic holdout of the former ruling class of South Africa”; “a curious hangover from the vanished terrible past”; “the racist Camelot”; the “widely-ridiculed town”; “a media byword for racism and irredentism”; “a byword for unchecked racism; a metonym for all unreconstructed white South Africans and problematic race relations”, among others.

Pending court challenge

As for Lesufi, time for the existence of this white enclave in South Africa is up and he has started preparing a legal challenge against it.

“We are putting together a document to propose to the Constitutional Court to declare any agreement around Orania to be nullified. We’ve got a strong team and there is no way Orania can exist in our country. It does not fulfil the values of South Africa and those people that want to hide behind Orania will be exposed.”

The politician and his lawyers would seek to challenge the constitutional validity of the Accord on Afrikaner self-determination, a political accord that was signed by the Freedom Front, the African National Congress and the then National Party-led South African government on 23 April 1994 that recognised the right of the Afrikaner people on self-determination, in addition to sections of Section 235 Constitution that provides for protection of language and cultural heritage.

Until their protection by the Constitution and the political accord is nullified, ‘president’ Boshoff and his ‘Oranians’ will remain a rude reminder to South Africans of the harsh past that they would love to forget in a hurry.

Article written by:
CZ Photo
Cyril Zenda
Author
South Africa
“There are thousands of communities the size of Orania throughout South Africa that are only black, but nobody asks questions about that,” said Boshoff, who inherited the presidency from his now late father who went by the same name.
“It’s now that that place must be liberated and all South Africans must be allowed to stay wherever they want to stay."
Time for the existence of this white enclave in South Africa is up and a legal challenge against it has been started.