HID­DEN GEM

Rooiberg ris­ing

go! Platteland - - FRONT PAGE - TEXT JO­HAN VAN ZYL PHO­TOS PETER VAN NOORD

What does a week­end – a re­ally good week­end – smell like? At Rooiberg – si­t­u­ated ei­ther 55km (via the R510) or 85km (via the R516 and R511) from Thabaz­imbi, or about 82km from Be­laBela via the R516 – Satur­day morn­ings smell like freshly flipped pan­cakes sprin­kled with a scan­dalous amount of cin­na­mon sugar.

And no, your nose isn’t play­ing tricks on you: out­side the en­trance of the Rooiberg One Stop, five en­er­getic golden oldies are work­ing hard be­hind the gas flames. It’s very clearly a labour of love for this team, all res­i­dents of Avond­srus se­cu­rity vil­lage, who have been do­ing this for don­key’s years. Cor Min­naar, orig­i­nally from Pre­to­ria, turns out the pan­cakes five at a time; his wife, Han­netjie, Lud­wig Uys and Jan­nie and Het­tie Baden­horst take turns to dust them with cin­na­mon sugar; then Han­netjie or Het­tie rolls them up. Each deca­dently sweet pan­cake is then handed to a cus­tomer on a square of bak­ing paper – with a “R5, please, and thank you!” to seal the deal.

“The pan­cakes are made in aid of the church,” says Han­netjie, who is soon in full-time ser­vice as trea­surer as the queue grows longer. “And, as be­fits good plat­te­land neigh­bours, the town’s NG and Her­vor­mde churches take turns to run the stand,” she says. “I think our recipe is the se­cret – I brought it with me from Pre­to­ria when we moved here 13, 14 years ago.”

Han­netjie smiles. They ended up in Rooiberg by pure chance, she says. “One week­end we came to visit Lee­upoort ( lee­upoort­na­tur­ere­serve.co.za), a hol­i­day re­sort about 20km from here, where the same friend who gave me the pan­cake recipe lived. Cor had for­got­ten to pack his undies, so our friend sug­gested we drive through to Rooiberg, as there was a shop here she thought might have some in stock.”

Un­der­wear wasn’t the only thing that awaited the Min­naars in Rooiberg. They also dis­cov­ered a com­pact home suit­able for their re­tire­ment – one of the 54 units in Avond­srus (where Plat­te­land spent the night).

“It’s a lovely lit­tle town,” says Han­netjie. “You can’t even re­ally say there’s a peace­ful vil­lage at­mos­phere be­cause, to me, it feels like you’re right in the Bushveld where noth­ing hap­pens: you sleep and read and eat and chat and sleep and read and eat and chat…

“To me, it feels like you’re right in the Bushveld where

noth­ing hap­pens: you sleep and read and eat and chat, and sleep and read and eat and chat…”

And when you’ve truly had enough, you can do as the city dwellers do and hang around at the mall. Can you be­lieve such a tiny place has two malls?”

TO SURBURBANITES and res­i­dents of the con­crete jun­gle the “shop­ping cen­tres” in Rooiberg would prob­a­bly seem like Men­lyn Mall or Tyger Val­ley Cen­tre at mid­night: the “orig­i­nal mall”, the Rooiberg One Stop, is in fact a Food­zone su­per­mar­ket with a com­pre­hen­sive hard­ware sec­tion and a bot­tle store; the sec­ond, “new” mall, Marula Hub, a stone’s throw away in Marula Street, opened the doors of its cof­fee shop at the end of 2014 and has since ex­panded to in­clude a range of lit­tle out­lets that sell sec­ond-hand clothes, home­ware (as well as CDs, VHS videos and cas­settes) and books. There’s a li­brary, too, where chil­dren spend time read­ing and lis­ten­ing to sto­ries in the after­noons, and, since July 2015, a cross be­tween a butch­ery and a deli >

that stocks, among other things, seven types of boere­wors as well as warthog ca­banossi, and a range of good wines. And last year the lat­est ad­di­tion to Marula was a small bak­ery.

Pre­to­ria fill­ing-sta­tion own­ers Deon and Natalie de Klerk bought the premises in 2013 when “goats, cat­tle and don­keys still did their busi­ness on the stoep”, put up a fence and started the ren­o­va­tion project. They re­fer to Marula Hub as a labour of love: “The motto is ‘For the love of Rooiberg’” – and to­day this com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment project em­ploys 18 lo­cal res­i­dents. Yet the De Klerks would rather sing the praises of their staff and the small town that is slowly ris­ing from the ashes, be­cause to them “build­ing bridges and de­mol­ish­ing walls come nat­u­rally”.

Natalie’s late fa­ther, who was a busi­ness­man and a leg­endary cat­tle farmer and abat­toir owner from Ham­man­skraal, bought two farms out­side Rooiberg at an auc­tion in the ’60s. One of the farms was later ex­pro­pri­ated by the gov­ern­ment, and Natalie in­her­ited the re­main­ing game and guest farm in 2010.

When she saw the state of the lo­cal school and, over time, heard about the num­ber of school­girls fall­ing preg­nant, as well as the shock­ing ma­tric pass rate, and how learn­ers bat­tled with read­ing, writ­ing and arith­metic, Natalie started a ren­o­va­tion project at the school and >

Small herds of cat­tle graz­ing is a com­mon sight in Rooiberg. We saw these cows and calves in the main street at the Marula Street in­ter­sec­tion, across from Rooiberg One Stop.

It’s Han­netjie Min­naar’s turn with the pinch-and-roll fork, as Lud­wig Uys is at the ready to dust cin­na­mon sugar over the next pan­cake.

If Cor Min­naar hadn’t for­got­ten to pack his un­der­pants all those years ago, he wouldn’t have be­come a Rooiberger who can keep an eye on five pan­cake pans at once to­day.

The cam­era causes Het­tie Baden­horst, for­merly from Tza­neen, to con­cen­trate in­tensely as she tames a pan­cake with their mod­i­fied fork. In the back­ground is her hus­band, Jan­nie.

Rooiberg One Stop is this for­mer tin-min­ing town’s old­est “mall” – a com­bi­na­tion su­per­mar­ket, hard­ware shop and bot­tle store. It hap­pens to be the first sig­nif­i­cant land­mark on the right-hand side of the road 17km af­ter you turned off the R516 from...

If you turn off at Rooiberg One Stop into Ko­raal Street and head for the quiet sub­urb, which the lo­cals call the “On­der­dorp”, you’ll get to a T-junc­tion lead­ing to Blinkblaar Street. On Sun­days, this is where you’ll find Swan­nie and Ma­ronika Swanepoel,...

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