Segregation feels like a practice that has been relegated to a period long gone. With racial discourse becoming a salient topic of discussion globally, a magnifying glass has been placed on societies around the world. From the issue of plantation weddings in America to Britain attempting to defend their racist statues, South Africa has not been spared.
South Africa, a country still ravaged by the aftermath of Apartheid; from a racial wealth disparity to colonial edifices ingrained in their institutions, is also the home to Orania. A small city of only white people – specifically Afrikaners – thrives in the Northern Cape. Afrikaners are the descendants of the Dutch who first colonized South Africa along the Good Cape in the 17th and 18th centuries. They were mostly responsible for the mobilization and implantation of Apartheid in 1948. Orania embodies everything Apartheid stood for, Anna Verwoerd who along with her husband bought the land and “found” Orania, was the daughter of Hendrik Verwoerd, who has often been cited as the architect of apartheid. From its inception, Orania was built for the Afrikaners who still hold a candle for pre-1994 South Africa.
No-one likes to give up power. When it became apparent that a white minority rule would not last, many Afrikaners knew a reckoning would come for their opposition or indifference to the fall of Apartheid. The realization that their power would no longer hold the same value it did in a democratic South Africa had them running for a barren strip of land in the Northern Cape. They carved out a piece of South Africa that belonged to only people who looked, talked, and acted like them, thus disillusioning themselves into believing they still had their power.
At the end of Apartheid, affirmative action was a measure taken to close the wealth gap between people of color and white people. This initiative was seen as an act of war by the Afrikaners. These legislations passed by the South African government were seen as ‘reverse racism’ in the eyes of Joost Strydom, head of the Orania Movement. Yet statistics scream these fears are unfounded. White people make up 30% of the country’s population, yet they own 72% of the total farms according to the 2017 South African Department of Rural Development and Land Reform Audit.
In the small community on a hill, there are busts of revered historical figures; or to be more accurate, war criminals. These sculpted heads boast the legacies of former Afrikaner leaders such as Paul Kruger, Barry Hertzog, Hendrik Verwoerd, Daniel Malan, Hans Strijdom, and John Vorster. Each one of these men is responsible for the mass terrorism and displacement of Black South Africans during Apartheid.
Barry Hertzog implemented an economic regulation called Civilised Labour Policy, which involved replacing Black workers with white people. This improved the lives of many White people in South Africa but barred Black people from white-collar jobs and relegated them to be mine workers, domestic helpers, or farmhands. These racialized labor lines paved a way for the construction of the Apartheid state. Hendrik Verwoerd was famously known as being the architect of Apartheid for creating the unequal system that still reverberates in South African society today. John Vorster publicly supported the Nazi’s during WWII. These are the busts that are held as Afrikaner heroes.
In a world trying to move forward and heal from racial tension, a place like Orania which is so hell-bent on creating this utopia for themselves, makes me wonder if a truly peaceful world is possible. Although less than five thousand people live in Orania, there are people outside who still think the way they do.
Orania makes South Africa’s ‘rainbow nation’ dream unattainable, a mere aspiration they may never reach. I hope this is not the case.
The world is at odds, and through social media may feel like a cushion that things are changing – this is far from the truth. Hate, division, and social constructs create dissension amongst people in the world.
Race has never been more widely discussed in the 21st century than the time we are living in now. We are beginning to question, probe, and demand answers for what happens in this unjust system we continue to live in. Silence won’t be a fixture during this moment in history.
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