Sep 15, 2010

Afrikaner: Zuma visits Enclave of Orania

A small enclave of 820 Afrikaners received a visit from South African President Jacob Zuma who toured the cultural outpost’s housing scheme and self-governing institutions.


Below is an article published by AFP:


South African President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday [14 September 2010] visited the all-white "independent" enclave of Orania, a presidential journey last made by liberation hero Nelson Mandela.

The isolated town on the edge of the Karoo desert only has 820 people but sees itself as a cultural outpost for Afrikaners, descendants of the first European settlers in South Africa.

Much of the rest of South Africa views the town as an oddity in the bush. A private company bought the dilapidated town from the government in December 1990, months after apartheid laws were scrapped and Mandela released from prison.

Mandela himself made the trek to Orania in 1995 to have tea with Betsie Verwoerd, the wife of apartheid prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd, in a gesture still remembered as a sign of racial reconciliation during a turbulent period.

Zuma arrived by helicopter early Tuesday and was greeted by schoolchildren decked out in the orange of their Dutch ancestors -- and of the apartheid-era flag, according to the Sapa news agency.

He stayed for two and a half hours, touring a housing scheme and skills training programme, and meeting with the town's founder Carel Boshoff IV and his son, Orania mayor Carel Boshoff V, according to Orania spokesman Jaco Kleynhans.

Zuma's tour of the city in a convoy of six black BMWs flanked by four police cars drew little interest from residents as he drove past on gravel streets. No one came to the road to see him pass by, Sapa reported.

The grey-haired Boshoff and Zuma have known each other for 20 years, he said. Zuma initiated the trip partly because Boshoff is ageing and in frail health, Kleynhans added.

"His feedback was that he had a very positive experience and that he wanted to engage with us further on the rights of Orania to exist as an independent community," he said.

Zuma's office announced the visit only on Monday [13 September 2010] and said little about the trip.

"The president indicated before last year's general election that he intended to visit Orania in order to determine how the Orania community manages independent development," Zuma's office said in a statement.

"The way in which local government is managed, as well as the model of locally generated economy, in particular stimulated President Zuma to express interest in visiting Orania," the statement added.

The town has a community bank and created its own currency -- the ora -- in 2004 which is used like a gift certificate or coupon. Children either self-learn and are tested on computers or attend normal schooling.

Afrikaans was the language of the whites-only apartheid government, but in democratic South Africa, some Afrikaners feel their culture is disappearing in a nation with 11 official languages.

The town says it wants self-determination within South Africa, but Ivor Jenkins, head of the Institute for Democracy in Africa, said Orania represents "an extremely marginal part of the Afrikaner community... purely a small community of people stuck somewhere."

While Mandela's visit was highlighted as an important symbol of reconciliation, Zuma's trip drew fairly little interest in South African media.

"Today it is a different message," Jenkins said. "There is less emphasis on reconciliation and more emphasis on 'Every single inch in our country forms part of our nation. No one is excluded from government's support'."