ORANIA, South Africa – You come because there have been stories.
Because around the World Cup the talk has been about peace and
togetherness and the vanquishing of old racial wounds in the hope that
the world’s arrival might stimulate new solutions. And you hear of a
place that wants none of that. A place where white and black can’t live
side-by-side in the rainbow nation. A place settled by the old South
Africa who couldn’t cope with the new South Africa.
On the surface, Orania seems like a normal village. It has a grocery
store, a gas station and a small bookstore that sells town T-shirts. A
woman at a desk in the bookstore smiles and asks you to sign a
guestbook. The primary language is Afrikaans, not English. The town’s
public relations director, a former physician named John Strydom, comes
out and shows a video. On the screen, children ride bicycles and the
narrator explains that “there is a place where children can still have
a comfortable childhood” and “residents can walk without looking over
And it is clear that without even mentioning the words, this is all about black and white.
Driving around Orania, Strydom points out all the sights: the new
houses built with bales of straw for insulation and solar panels on the
roofs, the radio station, the small but lavish hotel and gleaming spa
that overlook the river. He also explains the criteria for buying a
house in Orania: one must submit an application, promise to uphold the
Afrikaner culture and be approved by an administrative board.
“We can choose who lives here,” he says bluntly.
When asked if that was restricted by race he replied: “Most people
in South Africa wouldn’t want to come here if they are black.”
Just like a gated community, or a country club! See, it’s about the children, and about safety. And anyway, the blacks won’t WANT to come here, so it’s on them.
He picks his words carefully but the community’s philosophy spills out
nonetheless. Since the Afrikaner is white in heritage then the culture
that is preserved must be white as well. The people of Orania don’t
have anything against black people, he says, they just don’t share a
culture. And if they don’t share a culture then they shouldn’t be
Mostly Orania taps into white fear. Carel (IV) speaks a lot about
how black rule has forced Afrikaners out of work because of Affirmative
Action programs designed to get blacks jobs. An experienced white
engineer could suddenly become a technical assistant to an
inexperienced black employee, he says.
He also talks a lot about violence in other parts of South Africa.
It’s so funny, how the words sound repulsive when they’re used somewhere else. How many times a day do we hear them here?
It’s a great story. Read the whole thing.