It rained in the night and it was still overcast and drizzly when we awoke at Vluytjeskraal Caravan Park.
After enjoying a good cup of filter coffee and a rusk we decided to do the sensible thing. Who wants to cook in the rain – not us. And just before a real downpour began we walked across the footbridge to Aan-die-Oewer and had breakfast a their restaurant.
The rain really came down in buckets after we got back to our caravans. Alec and Cathy needed to go to town to do a bit of shopping and when they returned they reported that the dirt road was really slippery!
In the afternoon we took a tour of Orania. The information centre offers mini-bus tours free of charge several times a day. The following is my version of what I learned from the trip. I also did a bit of research on the internet. Wikipedia
The little town of Orania is situated along the Orange River in The Karoo region of The Northern Cape. It is a semi-autonomous Afrikaner town and if you wish to live there you have to apply and have an interview to ensure you will adhere to their customs. Their aim is to preserve the religion, language and culture of The Afrikaner. Anybody who defines themselves as an Afrikaner and identifies with these three pillars on which the community is built may live in Orania.
This is perfectly legal in terms of the Constitution of South Africa which has a clause to ensure the right to self-determination. Non residents are not allowed to work in Orania unless they offer a skill that the residents don’t have themselves. Thus they are completely self-sufficient, have their own commercial centre and industries, including their own very successful bank, medical centre, retirement village with frail care facility, two private schools and a technical college. It is also in the process of building its own university.
Residents of Orania reject the term ‘white’ but rather refer to themselves at The Third Afrikaner, a new generation of Afrikaner who understands the principle behind self-labour. In other words they are not concerned about the old South Africa but want to build a new future for the Afrikaner built on self-governance and own territory in peace with its neighbours. There is little crime in Orania and the residents say they don’t need to lock their doors and their children can play safely outdoors. It is a fact that in most parts of South Africa, crime is a serious problem. Of course there are plenty of small towns where crime is minimal but they are not exclusive, Afrikaaner run cities.
The first human occupation of Orania took place 30 000 years ago when the San people roamed the area. In the second half of the seventeenth century European hunters, Trekkers and Griquas arrived on the scene.
In the late 19th century many farmers moved seasonally back and forth across the Orange River to find good grazing for their cattle. One such place as called Vluytjekraal and this is the farm on which present day Orania is built. Sephanus Ockert Vermeulen purchased the farm in 1882.
In 1963, the Department of Water Affairs needed to accommodate workers who were building the irrigation canals connected to Vanderkloof Dam so they established the town Vluytjeskraal on this farm. They changed its name to Orania. When the project was completed the town fell into disrepair and Water Affairs completely abandoned Orania in 1989.
Carel Boshoff, the grandson of Hendrik Vervoerd and 40 other Afrikaner families bought Orania from the Department of Water Affairs in December 1990 and in April 1991 the first 13 people moved to the town. Although they have not experienced the growth they had hoped for, the town was soon repaired and more and more people moved from all over the country to live there. Today it has a population of about 2500.
The town is now privately owned by the Vluytjeskraal Aandeleblok company according to a framework known as ‘share block’ under South African law. This means that the home-owner only owns the building in which he lives. He does not get a title deed unless he has an agricultural property. Eight people are on the board of directors of this company and they also form the Village Council. These directors then elect a chairperson who is then also the mayor of the town.
Orania’s main source of revenue comes from farming of which there are various types. There are almond and pecan orchards the latter being the most prolific. The nuts are exported all over the world. The quality of life in Orania is higher than the national average but lower than most of South Africa’s white population. Residents of Orania can use a ‘currency’ called Ora which is actually more like a voucher. If the ora is used instead of the rand, a discount will be given.
It was interesting visiting Orania. Unfortunately I could not take photographs through the window of the vehicle as it was raining. The town was not what I expected. I imagined a walled city with houses build in a similar style with manicured gardens along straight, paved streets. Instead we found a haphazard of houses of all different and interesting styles. Some were grand and other quite simple. A few were made from straw and one even from polystyrene! The emphasis is on being green. Everybody is conservation conscious, they recycle, most have solar power or use whatever means they can to conserve resources. They look after the wildlife and environment. They are community conscious and there are things in place to help the destitute get back on their feet. Everybody has a job and everybody gives back to the community. All in Orania seems good and well but is it the right way to live? Personally I am against any kind of extremism. Personally I prefer living in a rainbow nation where I am aware of all cultures, where I can learn from others too. I like diversity. Why should we all be the same? Why can’t we live in mixed culture communities and be tolerant of each other? I don’t believe that the Afrikaner language, religion or culture are in any danger. It is very strong in South Africa and it will take a great deal to destroy it. But that’s me. If they feel the need to live exclusively then good luck to them.
It rained most of the day so in the evening we went back to Aan-die-Oewer Restaurant but this time we drove around with the car. To our surprise the restaurant was almost full but luckily we got the last unreserved table.
The service was good and the food amazing. If ever you find yourself travelling in the Northern Cape of South Africa, don’t give Orania a miss.