Orania, a little town on the banks of the Orange River. Officially it is situated in the province Northern Cape or more precise 190 km south west of Bloemfontein, on the banks of the Orange River, geo-position: 29.8159°S, 24.4082°E and 1108 m a.m.s.l..
It is a town with a difference, for a start it is not old and should thus not attract my attention. It is interesting because it is a town only occupied by Afrikaans people. To come and live here one has to accept the culture and speak the language, Afrikaans, a derivative of Dutch. I suppose if a black person accepts the culture and language he/she would also be allowed to live here. But somehow I don't think so and I am not sure how the town management would handle that. That non-Afrikaans people are accepted we could see for ourselves when we visited the Bavarian brewery and met Sepp Eckmaier and his wife. They had only recently come from Bavaria in Germany. He didn't want to speak English to us and only conversed in Afrikaans. Only later when I was looking at my pictures did I notice he was also an ambassador. The ambassador of South Tirol to Orania. South Tirol is a German speaking area in Italy, it was annexed from Austria at the end of WW1. There has been a strong push by the Italian governments to displace the German language. It even resulted in armed resistance during the 60th of the last century. There is thus some common interest here, how to maintain your culture and language faced by adversities from outside.
Back to Orania, it's a nice clean town, there are no loiterers or beggars at the robot (actually I can't remember seeing any robots there) and something very strange to us from the outside world, no burglar guards on the windows. Crime is apparently very low, and that despite there being no SAPS (South African Police Service) station. We actually went to the security office because we wanted to know how do they manage to keep SAPS out. I was told that they don't, when it comes to crime they will still call the SAPS to investigate and arrest. They, the security company, have a working relationship with the police.
I am running away here with my story. Let's have a look at the history of the place. There is a fair bit about the history of Orania in this website. The place started as a construction town, which had been established for building the irrigation canals to bring water from the Vanderkloof Dam. It started in 1963 and was referred to as Vluytjeskraal, which was the name of the farm, and in later literature it was referred to as Orania. The Department of Water affairs abandoned the construction town in 1989.
In December 1990 about 40 Afrikaner families under the leadership of Carel Boshoff bought the town at a cost of about R1.5 million. First occupation took place in April 1991 by about 13 inhabitants. Some people who still lived in the buildings were offered new houses in the surrounding towns and evicted. That was the beginning of the ups and downs history of Orania.
It is now a well established community of, we were told, about 3000 people with their own schools, churches, administration, industry and their own money. Yes, money! Well actually its coupons, the denomination is the Ora of which one Ora is directly exchangeable to one Rand. The coupons are issued by the local chamber of commerce. The currency can only be used in Orania and qualifies for a 10% discount. Looking at the bottle of honey, it is marked 63 Ora, if you pay using Rand it would be R70. But why do they do it? It makes them some money. When an Ora is issued it will be backed up by an equivalent value in Rand. The coupons have an expiry date at which they have to be handed in at the Orania Reserve Bank to be exchanged for the equivalent in Rand, well, not really, they get issued with new Oras. And here comes the trick, the 30 Ora shown in the picture are in my possession, never to be returned back to Orania, it's a souvenir. The 30 Ora will not be exchanged into Rands, the reserves at the Orania Bank will thus increase by R30. With many tourists doing this, i.e. taking a few notes back home, the gain for Orania could be fairly substantial. The picture shows the new central bank building still under construction.
There are a couple of monuments. Prominent on the top of Monument Hill is a number of busts arranged in a half circle. I made a point of noting who those people were. From left to right: BJ Vorster, JG Strijdom, DF Malan, HF Verwoerd, Paul Kruger. They were all, with the exeption of Paul Kruger, prime ministers of he union and later the republic of South Africa. But, there are some gaps, why no busts of Louis Botha, JC Smuts, PW Botha and FW de Klerk? Somebody familiar with the history of South Africa will be able to figure that one out. Louis Botha was the first prime minister of the Union. He had arranged himself so well with the British that he joined them when WW1 broke out. That was so much against the will of many Boers that it caused the rebellion of 1914. With Jan Smuts it was very similar at the outbreak of WW2. PW and FW are responsible for the political changes that lead to the hand-over to the ANC. And the empty base? I would think that one is reserved for MT Steyn, the last president of the Orange Free State.
And in the middle of all that is the little man rolling up his sleeves, ready to jump in and build Orania. He is the symbol of Orania and is also on their flag. His name is Klein Reus (small giant). A plaque on his base explains what Orania is actually all about, see frame on the right. It's in Afrikaans, I have to translate. Before attempting to translate this I have to do some word-clearing. What is meant by 'volkseie arbeid'? The best direct translation of the term under discussion is possibly 'own-folk labour. South African tradition is that the non-whites did all the menial tasks, i.e. house help, garden service, cleaning. In Orania, which is folk based, there are no non-whites to do these tasks, these services are performed by Afrikaners. For the average South African coming to Orania it is strange to see a building site with only whites (Afrikaners) working there, or to see a gang of road workers filling in pot holes, all Afrikaners. This is basically their underlying philosophy and this was also, as they see it, what was wrong with apartheid, the use of non-white labour. And, I remember also Verwoerd saw that when he said 'if you want apartheid then you must apply apartheid'. Here in Orania this is exactly what they are doing.
Now, having cleared this phrase there is no need to translate what is on the plaque. This is what it says, own-folk labour is essential to maintaining their freedom on their own piece of soil.
Also on this hill is the Irish monument, which I thought was a bit of an oddity for Orania. Originally the monument was erected in Brixton Johannesburg in 1975 to honour the Irish volunteers that were fighting in the Anglo Boer war (1899-1902) on the side of the Boers. This monument was threatened by urban development and had been partially demolished. The remaining structure, the three columns, were rescued and shipped to here to be re-erected in 2002.
That then concludes our short visit to Orania, a very interesting, enlightening and enjoyable visit. And I wish them success for the future.
Ref 1.: Standard Encyclopedia of Southern Africa, Nasou Limited, 1974