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Orania stays out of the way as Verwoerd’s grandson expects SA to drift further apart

In South Africa’s last Afrikaner-only town of Orania, local leaders warn that Wednesday’s general election could hasten what they see as the country’s inevitable drift apart.

The white separatist town, founded by members of the protestant Afrikaans-speaking minority as an enclave within post-apartheid South Africa, has kept itself to itself during the campaign.

Orania still not interested in assimilating into new South Africa

The 2,800-strong community is a dot on the map in a majority black nation of almost 60 million.

But Orania symbolises the determination of some rural Afrikaners to go their own way – an attitude that their leaders say could be strengthened if this week’s vote sees radical left parties enter government.

Wynand Boshoff, an MP and leader of the Afrikaner FF Plus party in Northern Cape, told AFP that the development of parallel Afrikaner structures could be seen as a “pre-emptive response” to what he sees as the marginalisation of his community.

“I think a process which is busy happening at the moment already is that Afrikaners are becoming all the more self-reliant,” he said, describing how white communities are trying to develop their own services, such as electricity.

Provincial leader of the Freedom Front Plus in the Northern Cape, Wynand Boshoff, poses for a portrait at his home in Orania, on 27 May 2024. Image: Marco Longari/AFP

According to opinion polls, the African National Congress (ANC) is on course to lose its absolute majority for the first time since the advent of post-apartheid democracy.

If this happens, the ANC may be obliged to form alliances with leftist firebrand Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) or former president Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto weSizwe (MK).

Malema has, in the past, pushed a hard line on redistributing white-owned land and Zuma’s speeches have focused on black economic empowerment and on denouncing European colonialism.

The centre-right opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has dubbed a possible tie-up between the ANC, EFF and MK a “Doomsday Coalition”, predicting chaos and corruption.

Separate future?

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ANC insists it is on course for a solo victory without EFF support and accuses the DA, led by white politician John Steenhuisen, of wanting to turn the clock back to the days of apartheid.

But this political ferment has failed to stir up Orania, whose white residents are more than ever convinced that their future is separate from the rest of the nation.

“And I actually expect it not to survive anyhow, because South Africa is an artificial union of quite divergent areas and populations,” Boshoff said.

In 1991, when apartheid was in its death throes, Afrikaners — descendants of 17th-century Dutch colonisers — bought up 8,000 hectares (19,000 acres) of land on the banks of the Orange River.

The privately-owned town has an autonomous status within Northern Cape province and has thrived — its population is now around 2,800 people, with new arrivals needing approval from the town.

This has led to accusations of racism.

Boshoff, the 53-year-old grandson of the assassinated apartheid-era prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd, says the town does not expect South Africa to “explode” but to drift apart.

Nevertheless, he warned that the election to fill the Cape Town parliament — 870 kilometres (540 miles) from Orania — could remind Afrikaners of the end of apartheid.

“It’s as if people don’t realise we lost the country 30 years ago. But if the EFF or MK becomes part of the government, then suddenly they will realise we lost it,” Boshoff said.

© Agence France-Presse

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