Orania may serve as learning opportunity

A bronze statue of the Kleinreus (Little Giant), the symbol of Orania, is seen in front of busts of past Afrikaner leaders including apartheid leaders JBM Hertzog, Hendrik Verwoerd and DF Malan on a hill in Orania.

A bronze statue of the Kleinreus (Little Giant), the symbol of Orania, is seen in front of busts of past Afrikaner leaders including apartheid leaders JBM Hertzog, Hendrik Verwoerd and DF Malan on a hill in Orania.

Published Jun 29, 2024


Phil Craig

Since its inception in 1991, Orania has been the poster child for white supremacy and racial exclusion. Its mere existence is profoundly offensive to many, and it is the habitual punching bag of many a politician and social commentator.

This weekend was no different, with ActionSA attacking the ANC in a media release for even considering recognition of Orania, and EFF Julius Malema demanding RDP houses in Orania as a condition of the EFF joining the Government of National Unity.

I am delighted that Orania exists, although it is not a place I would choose to live. I enjoy multiculturalism and would feel that I was missing out on many of the best aspects of life in South Africa were I to isolate myself from people whose culture differed from mine. But Orania stands for something critically important, and the more offensive it becomes to our collective political sensitivities, the more essential it is.

Does South Africa belong equally to all?

When it comes to racism, South Africa is a world leader in hypocrisy. Our heritage, as the final outpost for constitutionally entrenched racial supremacy, leaves white South Africans permanently under the spotlight. For now perhaps, this is not entirely unreasonable. We made our bed, now we must lie in it. But the pendulum has swung too far and South Africa has become a hotbed of black or, at least, anti-white racism, and nothing exposes this better than Orania.

When did you last hear anyone describe Ulundi as a “blacks only” town, or for a political party to challenge the right of Zulu people to form a settlement and live together according to their culture?

Orania picks at a scab that South Africa would prefer to be left alone; Does South Africa belong equally to all who live it in, regardless of their race? The Constitution is unequivocal – yes it does. The reality is something else altogether. Governed exclusively since 1994 by black men, our past two presidents have resorted to the phrase “our people” to describe black Africans. This is no benign slip of the tongue. Polling commissioned by the Cape Independence Advocacy Group found that in the Western Cape, 69% of black residents thought South Africa belonged primarily to them, and that other races should behave as guests.

Afrikaners are inherently linked to Africa

Afrikaners have a long and proud heritage in this country which extends long before the days of apartheid. They are a people whose entire history is inseparable from Africa. They developed their language here, and they built many of the cities and institutions which play an integral role in our modern society. Historically, their conduct was no worse and arguably, considerably better than that of contemporary African leaders such as Shaka Zulu.

I am married to an Afrikaner and my children speak Afrikaans as their first language. I know first-hand why there is a deep seated and growing resentment towards a government that Afrikaners did not elect, do not like, which has proved itself to be grossly incompetent and corrupt and which actively discriminates against them on the basis of their race and culture.

Whatever the sins of the past, Afrikaners are entitled to live fulfilling and rewarding lives and to be able to work towards creating a better future for their children on the continent. For many, this is not their reality.

If you are an Afrikaner (and this holds true for all white South Africans), then there is a high probability that your children are not planning their future in Africa. “Afrika wil nie wit kinders hê nie (Africa doesn’t want white children).” Over the course of the next few generations, Afrikaners are facing possible extinction.

Self-determination a right

One saving grace exists. International law is explicitly clear. All peoples have a right to self-determination and that right cannot be taken away, not even by the state in which they live, nor by its constitution.

A deal between the ANC and the Freedom Front Plus in the Northern Cape in which the FF+ would support the ANC to allow it to retain power in the province in return for official recognition of Orania, got ActionSA hot under the collar. Tellingly and correctly, FF+ leader Pieter Groenewald pointed out in a TV interview that Afrikaners did not need the ANC’s permission to exercise their right to self-determination.

It is in this context that Orania becomes so important. It doesn’t matter whether you or I want to go live there. What matters is whether we are willing to accept that South Africa’s ethnic minorities, and in this case Afrikaners specifically, have exactly the same rights as everyone else.

If the answer is yes, then leave Orania in peace and allow its people to live their lives as they wish. They are not imposing themselves on anyone. If the answer is no, then Orania becomes even more important, because why should Afrikaners or anyone else accept the status of second-class citizens?

In its media release, ActionSA posits what will prevent the Nama and the Baralong claiming self-determination in the form of regional autonomy if Orania is tolerated. The question is: Why would anyone want to deny any group of people the right to live the way they choose simply because you (who are not part of that people and who don’t live in that region) think that your preferred solution is a better one?

It is somewhat ironic. Cape Independence, a cause to which I am committed, is often accused of having racial motives. The reality is the opposite. Cape Independence is an example of civic nationalism, that is a society based on a shared set of values rather than race or culture. As such, it is an alternative form of self-determination to Orania’s cultural exclusivity.

Lessons from Orania

Many of those most opposed to Orania have almost certainly never been there. I have, and what the people who live there have achieved is impressive. But I have one abiding memory that I hope will challenge many people’s pre-conceived notion of what Orania is all about.

A major road runs through Orania, splitting it in two. Orania has built a petrol station. The petrol attendants are exclusively white, the customers, many of whom perhaps don’t even realise they are in Orania, are black. This probably makes it virtually unique in SA. Who would have thought that given cultural freedom, white Afrikaners would choose to willingly serve black motorists?

Our unitary state is in the process of breaking up. The 2024 elections clearly demonstrated that different parts of South Africa and different cultural groups, want to make different choices about how they are governed.

The right of all peoples to self-determination will increasingly come to the fore, and Orania may serve as a learning opportunity for us all.

* Craig is the leader of the Referendum Party and a co-founder of the Cape Independence Advocacy Group. He supports the establishment of a prosperous and non-racial first-world country at Africa’s southern tip, The Cape of Good Hope.

Cape Times

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