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The BBC's Jane Standley
"They want somewhere where the Afrikaners can again roam free"
 real 28k

Saturday, 1 January, 2000, 13:42 GMT
Sorry, whites only

Milton and Orania resident Milton Nkosi encounters one of Orania's residents

The BBC's Milton Nkosi, a black South African, recently visited Orania, a whites-only community in his native land. He recalls his experience.

I grew up during the most cruel years of apartheid rule between the 1960s and the 1980s.

entry sign Orania: admission restricted
I recently visited, Orania, the whites-only small town.

Its founders believe that they have laid the foundation for a Volkstaat - a mini homeland for the white tribe of Africa, the Afrikaners.

I arrived in Orania on a Saturday afternoon, part of a three-person team, two of whom were white.

Admittedly, I expected to confront open racism from my fellow countrymen, who spent the last 50 years trying very hard - I mean very hard - to run away from people like me, black people.

Orania residents are determined to establish a new 'volkstaat Orania residents want to establish a new 'volkstaat'
To my surprise the opposite happened. I was warmly received by everybody.

I will not even mention how most of them were so nice and courteous to me simply because they thought I came from Britain.

Little did they know that I was one of the stone throwers during the anti-apartheid protests!

The Hendrik Verwoerd room

We were shown our rooms at the Herberg guest house.

Here I am right in the heart of Afrikanerdom, me, Milton Majaha Nkosi, born in South Africa's most populous black township, Soweto!
Milton Nkosi
A young, soft-spoken blonde woman, Janneke Steyn, opened the door to the first room.

She said: "This is the Hendrik Verwoerd room."

Those words sent shivers down my spine: Hendrik French Verwoerd was the architect of apartheid.

My mind was made up: "I am not sleeping in this room."

I thought: "Jesus Christ! Here I am right in the heart of Afrikanerdom, me, Milton Majaha Nkosi, born in South Africa's most populous black township, Soweto!

"Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that one day I would be standing right in the middle of the Karoo, in the Northern Cape province, being shown around my accommodation in a so-called Volkstaat."

betsie verwoed in wheelechair Betsie Verwoerd, widow of apartheid's architect
Believe it or not, I did - at the turn of the century, in 1999, in the new South Africa.

Luckily they had another room called the Blue room. I thought: "Now that is better!"

When the time came, I slept like a baby.

Going to church

The first event we covered was a church service of the combined Dutch Reformed Church denominations.

It was held in the local town hall on the small hill top under the hot African sun.

The temperature was about 40C (102F) in the shade.

As the members of the congregation gathered, an old woman in a wheelchair emerged from one of the cars.

Haunted by the past

It was Mrs Betsie Verwoerd, 98, the widow of Hendrik Verwoerd himself.

These included the Group Areas Act, Separate Amenities Act. He was also the architect of the Bantu education system: inferior to that offered to whites, it was designed to kill the brain rather than to develop it.

Professor Carel Beloff: Orania founder Professor Carel Beloff: Orania founder
I held my own mini-Truth and Reconciliation Commission during the church service.

I also came to understand, in real terms, where Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu had come from - even though I literally come from the same township as they do.

As ArchbishopTutu has said: "We are the rainbow people of God, we are free all of us, black and white together".

I came across many people in the 670-strong population of Orania. Among them was Orania's founder, Professor Carel Boshoff.

He is also Hendrik Verwoerd's son-in-law. The rest of his family was also there - a real dynasty in the future Volkstaat.

This place is going nowhere, there's no money coming in, no jobs, no future.
Orania resident

Uncertain future

The most emotionally moving meeting I had was after the church service.

I met a middle-aged woman who, after the interview, confided: "This place is going nowhere, there's no money coming in, no jobs, no future."

Orania children: future uncertain Orania children: future uncertain
She seemed to suggest that the future of the Afrikaner people was in the new South Africa and not outside it.

She is worried about her beautiful children who I had met earlier at the church service.

"I want good education for my children. I want them to go to a normal school in South Africa. Our children are being brain-washed day in and day out," she said with tears flooding her green eyes.

She spoke to me with both her hands on mine.

My last words to her were: "Thank you very much for your time. Please look after your children because they are the future and peace be with you always."

A few minutes later with her colleagues listening, all she could say then was, "Thank you too, I will and have a safe journey back ..."

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See also:
26 Dec 99 |  Africa
The birth and death of apartheid
28 Oct 98 |  Truth and Reconciliation
Seeking reconciliation: Timeline
28 Oct 98 |  Africa
Coming to terms with the past
29 Oct 98 |  Africa
Truth report accuses leading figures
01 Dec 97 |  Africa
A new role for Afrikaans
18 Jun 98 |  Africa
Terreblanche accepts bomb guilt

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