Volkstaat (Afrikaans for "People's state") is a proposal for the establishment of a homeland for Afrikaners. Outside a possible use of force, the South African Constitution and International Legislation present certain possibilities for the establishment of such a state. The South African regime declared that they would not support a Volkstaat, but "would do everything they could to ensure the protection of the Afrikaner language and culture". What a fine job they are doing.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

In their tiny haven, Boers cling to their big Volkstaat dream

The lost tribe of apartheid, turning its back on the melting-pot of the new South Africa, now nurtures its dwindling traditions in the town of Orania, poulation just 600 - where no blacks may live or work. South African-born journalist JAN STURMANN, who now lives in the United States, pays a visit.

In a hot tin-roofed workshop, four young men, stripped to the waist, build coffins. With well practiced efficiency they produce 100 caskets a month, participants in a program to create work for unemployed Afrikaners. Most are sold to bury AIDS victims in the black communities surrounding the all-white private town of Orania. This town of 600, situated close to the geographic center of South Africa, was established in 1991, as a place where the soon-to-be outvoted Afrikaners, could rebuild a homeland or Boer volkstaat. Thirteen years on, despite bad press and the brunt of endless editorial cartoons (now framed on the wall of the local B+B), this town is thriving.

At an Orania guest house, I meet a retired couple from Nelspruit. They sit on the front porch, sip tea, and watch the sun set. She, with hair shaped into a black helmet, and eyes magnified behind thick glass, tells me: “Our children think we are mad coming here, but we have to find a safe place to live. The crime in Nelspruit is terrible, and getting worse. Four times they broke into our home. We have to chain our car to a tree so it won’t get dragged away. I can’t sleep anymore. The smallest noise and I wake up, have to go check. Our friends have been killed, women we know raped...” Her voice grows with hysteria, eyes wide with remembered fear. “It’s just terrible, terrible. Always locking doors, locking windows. We’re like prisoners in our own home. No one should have to live like this. I’m going mad, quite simply mad with fear.” Her husband tries to calm her. She takes a deep breath, strokes and strokes nonexistent wrinkles on her dress. “I just want to live in a place where I can sit peacefully in the garden again, leave the doors open, listen to the children play on the streets. Is that too much to ask?”

In an Orania packing shed, young Afrikaners with enviable tans and sun-bleached hair, pack melons for export to Europe. They wear the unofficial uniform of South African farm laborers everywhere - black rubber boots, blue overalls and threadbare tee-shirts. They came from towns like Newcastle and Kimberly where work, particularly for white Afrikaans males, or WAM’s, is scarce. Ten years of the New South Africa has pushed these young men to the bottom of the food-chain. Undereducated, white and often racist, their only hope lies in finding manual work at a place like Orania. So for $9/day they work where no blacks may; wielding shovels, swinging pick, harvesting melons, pruning 20,000 pecan trees. They hate it here, they love it here. The town folk, 51% of whom are university graduates, look down on them. There are too few young women, and extramarital sex is forbidden. They can’t get drunk, can’t play their music too loud. But they have work and shelter and earn just enough for food. Best of all they don’t have to rub sweaty shoulders with blacks. The bigotry is blatant, not hidden behind a veil of intellectual contortions: “A kaffir is a kaffir,” says Tiene Martines, 17. “He just stinks.”

In big vats of molasses, children at the Volk School Orania, cultivate microorganisms. This school, with a graduation rate of 100%, is regarded as a model of progressive education. A self-directed, computer-based learning system called KenWeb, was developed here, and is exported to home-schoolers around the world. Anna Boshoff, daughter of apartheid-era Prime Minister H.R. Verwoerd, is the principle of the school. The children treat her like a grandmother. One of her sons, Wynand Boshoff, is head teacher. A guest speaker demonstrates an earth building technique. Wynand takes off shoes and mixes mud with the students. Mrs. Boshoff explains how Effective Microorganisms, or EM, works: “ 80% of microorganisms have little known benefit, 10% are harmful, and 10% are vital to maintain an ecological balance. Conventional farming practices have upset this balance. Through a company in Japan we buy EM spores, which we cultivated in vats of molasses. The EM-rich liquid is then sold to local farmers. They feed it to their cattle, spray it on their crops, put it in the water. In time, animals get healthier, crops stronger, and balance is again restored to the land.” Maybe Orania is itself a big vat of molasses for the Boer people. A place in the semi-desert where they can preserve their own culture, and cultivate that which South Africa needs from the Boer to thrive.



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