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October 6, 2014 12:52 AM   Subscribe

Inside Orania, South Africa's "whites only" town. In the sparsely populated Karoo desert in the heart of South Africa's Northern Cape, apartheid lives on.

Bizarrely, the town's existence is protected by South Africa's constitution through a clause that ensures the right to self-determination - introduced to reassure those unhappy about the transition to democracy.
posted by modernnomad (25 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
This really makes me think well of the new South Africa. If I were a black South African, I would drive to Orania and throw stones at their windows.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:04 AM on October 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't know how the racial attitudes are in these cities, but there are at least 10 cities in America that are 100% 'white'. (the list of 0% 'white' I assume are all on reservations).
posted by el io at 1:59 AM on October 6, 2014


To be fair, el io, the 100% and 0% places all have populations of less than 5000, so cities they aren't. On the other hand there are quite a few at 99% white or 2 to 3% white that are over 5000 people.
posted by Literaryhero at 2:04 AM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


[Folks, let's try to avoid the usual impulse to turn this into a discussion about the USA. Thanks.]
posted by taz at 2:17 AM on October 6, 2014 [41 favorites]




Just to put it in context Orania is considered pretty much a joke in SA even amongst the most pessimistic of the white population.
posted by PenDevil at 2:27 AM on October 6, 2014 [6 favorites]


The couple say they are still adjusting to Orania's "rules", which include getting permission from the town council before receiving visitors.

uhhh
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:15 AM on October 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


This is the part that jumped out at me -
The people do their own work from gardening to plumbing, bricklaying and waste-collection - jobs usually done by black labourers in the rest of the country.

"It takes some adjusting to. It is more difficult for some people because they are used to how things were done in South Africa, they are not used to manual labour," says Mr Strydom.
I haven't ever wanted to post that Bob The Angry Flower cartoon in a thread before.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:38 AM on October 6, 2014 [9 favorites]


Even before I clicked on the link, I thought, "This will probably turn out to be more of a burbclave than an actual town," and I seem to be right.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:47 AM on October 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


To be fair, Literaryhero, Orania has a population of like 1000.

One has to wonder about reporting today, Wikipedia would have told 'em it's "Boshoff" not "Boschoff".
posted by wrm at 5:03 AM on October 6, 2014


They have their own currency??
posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:13 AM on October 6, 2014


The people do their own work from gardening to plumbing, bricklaying and waste-collection - jobs usually done by black labourers in the rest of the country.

"It takes some adjusting to. It is more difficult for some people because they are used to how things were done in South Africa, they are not used to manual labour," says Mr Strydom.


This is actually a very interesting feature. One of the big features of apartheid that Rian Malan describes in My Traitor's Heart is how working class Afrikaaners could have significantly nicer lives because of Apartheid -black working class labor drove up their own income. The fact that this kind of perfect, Apartheid-esque separatism is making things tougher for them by stripping out the human remains of the prior system is an interesting little inversion.

(Also, My Traitor's Heart is a great read if you want to learn more about apartheid and its effects.)
posted by Going To Maine at 5:14 AM on October 6, 2014 [10 favorites]


I hope someone has done (or will do) a good history of what you could call "legacy" white-only places, where small groups try to hold on to segregation. There was that town in Brazil settled by white southerners from the US fleeing the lost Civil War, for example, and there are a few small places in the Caribbean that were originally entirely or almost entirely white, like Seaford Town. (At one point a decade or two ago there was supposedly an attempt to set up a white power encampment in one of those 99-plus percent white counties in Pennsylvania, but I suspect that was more bluster than reality.) Given a generation or two, Orania will fit perfectly into that list.

Bizarrely, the town's existence is protected by South Africa's constitution through a clause that ensures the right to self-determination - introduced to reassure those unhappy about the transition to democracy.

Honestly I think that's great. If people want to set up self-selected towns or communes and live only with their fellow religious people or a certain political view or even a specific race, then they should have that ability. It's easy to imagine ethical problems if a group managed to scale up from a small town to controlling larger pieces of elected government, but in reality the small enclaves I know of will never be anything other than small and marginalized.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:39 AM on October 6, 2014 [5 favorites]


They have their own currency??

'Whites-only' money for SA town.
posted by pracowity at 5:46 AM on October 6, 2014


Theunie Kruger moved from Johannesburg about a month ago after he was offered a job in Orania.

Mr Kruger says his two children are enjoying life in the countryside but he and his wife are preparing them for a world where there is not just one race or culture.

"There is no tertiary institution here for example. They need to be equipped to handle the outside world," says Mr Kruger.
I'm not clear why you'd move to an all-white enclave with your young children if you are not actually into the whole all-white enclave part of it. Though I suppose there's always the possibility of lying to reporters because you know that it sounds better.
posted by jeather at 5:57 AM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Honestly I think that's great. If people want to set up self-selected towns or communes and live only with their fellow religious people or a certain political view or even a specific race, then they should have that ability. It's easy to imagine ethical problems if a group managed to scale up from a small town to controlling larger pieces of elected government, but in reality the small enclaves I know of will never be anything other than small and marginalized.

In practice though even small enclaves can have rather nasty consequences. See the 'Sundown Towns' of the United States which necessitated things like travel guides specifically made by and for black people telling them where they could safely travel and stay.

What kind of barrier do they actually impose? Do they turn away non-whites in need of emergency aid? Do they block through travel? There is a regional road that runs right through the middle of it. Do black people have to take a less direct route to avoid the town?

It's fucking awful and I am embarrassed by the BBC's timid coverage of this racist enclave.
posted by srboisvert at 6:34 AM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I hope someone has done (or will do) a good history of what you could call "legacy" white-only places, where small groups try to hold on to segregation.

Someone has done something pretty similar, Lost White Tribes by Riccardo Orizio.

I definitely would have liked to have heard more from the fellow who was ticked off that the country was "given away" for nothing. They had the army, after all! What did he think imagine as a fair deal? A divided country? You get that part and we, whites, get the other? I wonder what the lifespan of the town will be, once the "founders" pass on and the children generally leave for better opportunities or education.
posted by Atreides at 6:43 AM on October 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


Excellent use of French in the post title. Very subtle.
posted by Wolof at 6:48 AM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am embarrassed by the BBC's timid coverage of this racist enclave.

Yes, srboisvert, it's appalling. And this bit, among others, stuck out to me: "The Dutch, who arrived in 1652, took over land from local people and put them to work as farm workers."

Gee, that's called "theft" and "slavery", isn't it? And conveniently leaves out all the rape and murder. I wish people would stop trying to soften what actually happened with weasel words. The Dutch invaded, stole land from the people already there, and whoever they didn't kill they enslaved. That's what happened. And today, the descendants of those people are trying to dig in instead of face the truth of and the consequences of that history, which is even more appalling. The nerve of those people, seriously. Angry because they can't lord it up and exploit others anymore? "Given away for nothing"? That wasn't theirs to begin with? That's some balls, right there.

"Look, we killed a lot of you, and enslaved the rest of you, and stole this land from you fair and square, and we intend to keep it. Of course, if you do manage to take land and power back, we're going to have a hissy fit, because it's not fair that we can't keep what we stole from you and that we can't exploit you whenever we feel like it!"
posted by droplet at 7:08 AM on October 6, 2014 [16 favorites]


This is really sad on so many levels. Growing up the goings in in apartheid SA were always bizarre, and all the more so due to the support, not usually explicit, that they received from other corners of the globe, including the US. The whole business is sordid, a stain upon humanity and here we have some official recognition of an effort to perpetuate this mistake. It is painful even if it is considered a joke by most South Africans, white and black.
posted by caddis at 7:12 AM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


Great post, but I take issue with the title of the article:

It's isn't actually a whites-only town, it's an Afrikaner-only town. It's a good sight more restrictive than whites-only. I think that's a significant point; that it goes further than race v race, it's about a more selective conceptualization of ethnic purity that would exclude other whites, including presumably Dutch transplants.
posted by Poppa Bear at 7:13 AM on October 6, 2014 [12 favorites]


Good point, Poppa Bear. Moreso than Dutch transplants, the white people being deliberately excluded when you limit a place to "white Afrikaans" are the white South Africans of English descent. Among certain people, there's a lot of bad blood there still.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:26 AM on October 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


On the other hand there are quite a few at 99% white or 2 to 3% white that are over 5000 people.

Yeah, but a quick cruse through shows all of those places appear to have less than 30,000 people, and most have significantly less than 20,000. So, still, not even close to being a city. And at least 3 of the biggest "all-white" "cities" are ginormous retirement communities. Target marketing and all.

So...yeah. False outrage all around.
posted by kjs3 at 9:00 AM on October 6, 2014


I read (and really wish I had taken with me) the 1979 yearbook of South Africa. It was published by the South African government as a promotional piece to justify and promote the country and regime. There was tons of fascinating stuff in it, but the relevant part was a multi-page section concerning Afrikaans. The fact that it was the only Indo-European language that was native to Africa was a huge deal. Somehow, being the language of oppression without any roots in the area was a point of pride. The uniqueness of the language seemed to be used to justify its promotion, rather than another sign of the horrific situations that had been created.

Adding to what Poppa Bear said above, I think the Afrikaner only-aspect of this reflects the same point of view. It allows them to see themselves as a persecuted minority, rather than the recipients of stolen wealth.
posted by Hactar at 10:12 AM on October 6, 2014


I have met many a 4-year-old with more self-awareness than the interviewees of this article.
posted by duffell at 4:38 AM on October 11, 2014


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