Connect to share and comment

World Cup: Is South Africa's white town racist?

Small all white Afrikaner town is not interested in soccer, which is viewed as a black man's sport.

Boshoff is the grandson of Hendrik Verwoerd, the former South African prime minister who is widely viewed as the politician who created apartheid. Boshoff said he sees a lot of positive in what has happened to the country over the past 20 years, including the extension of the right to vote to all South Africans, but he said the evolution has also been accompanied by an unfair marginalization and victimization of the Afrikaner community. Textbooks, for instance, are biased to showcase Afrikaners as a brutal people without highlighting their positive contributions to the country’s history, he said.

Orania has two schools where the teaching is done in Afrikaans. Cultural activities are organized year-round, and a hill overlooking the town features busts of Afrikaner icons. The town also has its own credit union and its own currency, the Ora, which ensures most of the residents’ money is spent locally.

Some Afrikaners come to Orania for work or the appeal of a virtually crime-free community, but most come for its ideals, Boshoff said. The town is currently home to more than 700 inhabitants and growing. It could eventually grow to host up to 30,000 residents, but for now Orania has as many people as it can accommodate, Boshoff said.

Prospective moves are reviewed by Orania authorities, and race is not a criterion for admission. But should a non-white family to apply for residency, “it would definitely create tensions,” Boshoff said, adding that the case hasn’t presented itself yet.

While Orania strives for separate and self-sustainable development, it does not mean it is cut off from the rest of the country entirely. Besides agriculture, tourism is a growing sector of the local economy with a hotel, campground, spa and guesthouses.

The town has also engaged repeatedly with South Africa’s government. Mandela visited Orania soon after he became president, and last year the town welcomed a delegation of the youth league of the African National Congress, the party in power. President Jacob Zuma, who has described Afrikaners as “the only white tribe” in Africa, has also praised Orania as a model for eradicating poverty in rural areas.

“We need that, the ‘getting-along,’ the mutual recognition,” Boshoff said.

Whether Orania’s engagement with the world will extend to it embracing the World Cup remains to be seen, but there is still a month of competition for interest to grow.

De Vos, himself a former rugby player at the provincial level, said he has already watched several World Cup games despite his moderate enthusiasm for the sport.

“Spain is my team,” he said. “They make an art of soccer.”