Bitter Afrikaners go north to set up white-only territory

A 'Boer Republic' is being established this weekend just 50 miles east of Pretoria. Its founders - 200 Afrikaner families - say it is their right to go it alone. The blacks they evicted disagree. Now, the beleaguered whites once again circle the wagon trains.

Wind and heavy drizzle batter the headstone in the middle of the cemetery. In Afrikaans, T and B Steyn have inscribed "Here lies our dear Ella, born 12 January 1898, died 18 December 1901 in the concentration camp at Balmoral."

Around Ella's tiny grave are hundreds of others - mostly without stones - for the women and children who perished in the camp set up by the British during the Boer war just beyond the dirt road. More than 26,000 Afrikaners, mainly women and children, perished in such camps.

Apart from Ella, the bodies and names are largely unmatched and victims share the memorial engraved with their names at the entrance gate. The least fortunate are piled in mass graves at the far corner of the cemetery; history will never remember their names.

The concentration camps are etched on the consciousness of every Afrikaner, marking an episode of appalling victimisation of a people who would later become racial oppressors.

This weekend the graveyard finds itself at the heart of a new "Boer Republic" on land jointly purchased by 200 Afrikaner families from which black people will be banned. It will be governed by the old, austere, Calvinist principles which in the 19th century sent the fiercely independent Afrikaners trekking in wagon trains from the Cape into the wild interior to escape British rule.

Since the coming of black majority rule in 1994, deposed Afrikaners have begun to trek again, heading north into Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique, setting up farms and Boer-only communities. At home, 600 have trekked into the northern Karoo to found Orania, whose patron saint is Hendrik Verwoerd, the reviled architect of apartheid, and where blacks are so unwelcome that whites prefer to clean their own streets.

Balmoral is the most bizarre exercise in Afrikaner exclusivity so far. For these trekkers - shareholders in the new Boere Republiek Kooperatief Beperk (Boer Republic Co-operative Ltd) - have barely left the mainstream to circle the wagons. The republic - 470 acres of farmland - lies just off a main motorway, 50 miles east of Pretoria.

It is apt that the graveyard should lie at its centre, for once again Afrikaners feel victimised and under attack. "The intention of this regime is to destroy us," said Andries Campher, 53, a towering farmer with rough, shovel-sized hands, and one of the founders. "We just want to survive financially as a group, with our own identity still intact." The alternative, he insists, is annihilation.

Mr Campher complains about affirmative action for blacks and rising white unemployment. Christian values, he says, are being eroded in schools where educational standards are plummeting and Afrikaans is no longer spoken. To stop the rot Boers must build their own communities, businesses, homes and schools; and govern once again, albeit in a miniature kingdom.

Hopes have evaporated that the South African government will hand over land for a Volkstaat. And provided you are white and Afrikaner the Balmoral "republic" offers democracy. Every investor owns the same share and has an equal say in government. Although not all of the 200 investors will live on the land, some will begin laying the foundations for new homes this weekend. The group intends to buy more land later.

And land is the thorny issue. For the new republic has already evicted local black people. According to Mr Campher, farm workers employed by the previous owner were told that their labour was no longer needed. He claims they hung around for a while but eventually disappeared.

Blacks have told another story. One weeping woman says that the Boers conducted a campaign of terror and intimidation, forcing her off the land she was born on.

"That's rubbish," said Mr Campher. "They just moved on. I never spoke to them personally. They were nothing to me then and they are nothing to me now." New legislation which would have strengthened black workers' rights to tenure does not come into effect for another few months. In recent months farmers all over South Africa have been evicting blacks before the new laws are introduced. Mr Campher says he was well aware that the legislation was coming.

The African National Congress says that the Boer Republic Co-operative has operated lawfully. But the Pan Africanist Congress says the ANC is failing to grasp the land issue and is allowing Afrikaners to grab land as if it was still the 19th century.

Fritz Meyer, another "republic" founder, insists that the Afrikaner families are simply setting up a business and that racism plays no part. But the founders clearly feel they are the true defenders of the Volk. Yesterday, they petitioned the British High Commission in Pretoria for an apology for the concentration camp deaths. The vast majority of Afrikaners who are trying to find their place inside, not outside, the new South Africa are seen by some as traitors.

As Mr Campher conducted a tour of the cemetery, two middle-aged Afrikaners from nearby Witbank looked on. One rolled his eyes in disbelief. "This republic is just not viable," he said. His friend says the new South Africa is certainly tougher. Before the political changes he was never out of work. He has just spent six months unemployed.

But he has an interesting take on the old wagon metaphor. "It will do no good if the oxen pulling the wagon go in opposite directions," he said. "All South Africans must pull together now." He shrugged, without a hint of bitterness.

ERROR IN POPULATION

Three months ago South Africa was shocked to discover its population was only 38 million, four million less than previously thought. Calculations were apparently confused by the previous regime's over-estimate of black fertility rates.

Of the 38 million, 77 per cent are classified black, 12 per cent white, 9 per cent coloured (mixed race) and 2 per cent Asian. Roughly 60 per cent - 2.6 million - of white South Africans are Afrikaners, though their language Afrikaans is the third most spoken in the country after Zulu (22 per cent) and Xhosa (18 per cent).

Afrikaans is also far more common than English as a second language yet English, must to the ire of Afrikaners, is increasingly being adopted as the official "neutral" language of new South Africa.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project