All are watching – even in Orania
But no World Cup fever, flags or vuvuzelas
SOUTH Africa is in the grips of World Cup fever, but one spot seems to have remained immune to the hum of the vuvuzelas.
Welcome to Orania, where the banners, the flags and posters celebrating the national team, Bafana Bafana, are conspicuous by their absence.
The remote town with a population of about 700, lies in the parched Karoo region of the Northern Cape and is regarded as the last bastion of Afrikaner culture, or, as its inhabitants prefer to see it, the first building-block of a future Afrikaner homeland.
Here there is no immediate evidence of the patriotic fervour that other rural settlements are sharing with major cities like Johannesburg and Durban.
All this on a day on which Bafana took on Uruguay in their second match – a game they ended up losing 3-0.
It is also June 16, when South Africa annually commemorates National Youth Day in honour of several hundred black students killed in Soweto in 1976 during clashes with the apartheid authorities over the imposition of the Afrikaans language in their schools.
But in Orania, the only young people, or the only people for that matter, in view are white and they all speak Afrikaans. They include farmhands picking pecan nuts near the outskirts of town and builders working at the site of a new warehouse.
And then there is the ubiquitous white youth, sleeves rolled up, who appears against a backdrop of orange and blue – the traditional colours of Afrikaner culture. He’s on Orania’s flag, on posters and on placards.
John Strydom of the Orania Beweging (Movement), which runs the privately owned town, explains the concept: “We believe that if we don’t do our own manual work, then we are doomed as a (Afrikaner) people. The black people achieved their freedom through manual work.”
In apartheid times, whites by virtue of the colour of their skin were always guaranteed, at the very least, a job in a supervisory role over people of other races.
They never had to “get their hands dirty”, Strydom says.
“But there is now a harsh climate for white people in South Africa”, with most positions in the public sector that were once occupied by Afrikaners going to black people, says Strydom.
“Our people are finding it hard to adapt, but here in Orania they are being given a chance to learn how.”
Orania welcomes poor Afrikaners, but often can only afford to find employment for them on farms on a seasonal basis.
Many, mostly young men, stay in single quarters built from refurbished buildings where the town’s former black community once lived.
Most of the black people, along with the original white inhabitants of what was then a company town, left Orania when the water works project that employed them was completed.
The town was chosen by the founders of the Orania Beweging in 1991 for its demographics – a rare part of South Africa where whites were actually not outnumbered by other race groups.
The plan of apartheid’s architect, former prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd, was basically flawed, contended Orania’s founders.
“Control most of the country, and give bits of it to black people,” says Strydom referring to the doomed “Bantustan” or homeland policy, where areas like former Transkei and Bophuthatswana were given nominal independence from Pretoria.
South Africa became a non- racial democracy in 1994, and eventually Verwoerd’s widow Betsie moved to Orania to stay with her daughter who was married to one of Orania’s founders.
In an act of reconciliation, then freshly elected president, Nelson Mandela, visited her at home in 1995, five years before her death aged 98.
Strydom denies that Orania’s definition of an “Afrikaner” is racist, also noting that the town, though privately owned, is still governed by South African laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of colour.
But he admits that the required components of a (Calvinist) religion, a shared history and culture, mean that it can only be applied to whites.
“Nothing can stop other people from living here, they just wouldn’t like it,” he says.
As for sport, Orania’s inhabitants are, like most white South Africans, rugby fans.
But thanks to the World Cup, football seems to have made some headway into Orania, even if it takes a while to find some trace of it.
“We’re definitely watching Bafana Bafana on TV,” says local jeweller, Roelien de Klerk.
Perhaps even in Orania, a jeweller’s eye could not ignore the finer facets of the beautiful game. – Sapa-DPA