Orania, Northern Cape

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Aerial view of the town of Orania
Aerial view of the town of Orania
Orania is located in Northern Cape
 Orania shown within Northern Cape
Orania is located in South Africa
Orania (South Africa)
Orania is located in Africa
Orania (Africa)
Coordinates: 29°49′S 24°24′E / 29.817°S 24.400°E / -29.817; 24.400Coordinates: 29°49′S 24°24′E / 29.817°S 24.400°E / -29.817; 24.400
CountrySouth Africa
ProvinceNorthern Cape
DistrictPixley ka Seme
Named forOrange River
 • TypeRepresentative council
 • Total8.95 km2 (3.46 sq mi)
Elevation1,180 m (3,870 ft)
Population (2011)[1][3]
 • Total892
 • Estimate (2017)1,500[2]
 • Density100/km2 (260/sq mi)
Racial makeup (2011)[1]
 • Black African0.90%
 • Coloured1.90%
 • White97.20%
First languages (2011)[1]
 • Afrikaans98.4%
 • English1.6%
Time zoneUTC+2 (SAST)
Postal code (street)8752
PO box8752
Area code053

Orania is an Afrikaner town in South Africa located along the Orange River in the Karoo region of the Northern Cape province.[4] The town is split in two halves by the R369 road and lies halfway between Cape Town and Pretoria.[5][6]

The aim of the town is to create a stronghold for Afrikaans and the Afrikaner identity by keeping their language and culture alive. Anyone who defines themselves as an Afrikaner and identifies with Afrikaner ethnicity is welcome to live in Orania.[7]

Critics accuse the town authorities of rejecting the Rainbow Nation concept,[8] and trying to recreate pre-democratic South Africa within an enclave,[9] while residents contend the desire to preserve their linguistic and cultural heritage, and protect themselves from high crime levels is their motivation,[10][11] and they are seeking the right to self-determination as provided by the Constitution of South Africa.[4] The town's relations with the South African government are non-confrontational, and although opposed to the aspirations of the community,[12] it has recognised them as legitimate.[13]

The small community has a radio station and its own currency, the Ora.[14][15] The Diamond Fields Advertiser reported a population of 1,500 in July 2017.[2] More than 100 businesses are located in Orania as of 2013.[16] Due to its unusual nature, the town is often visited by journalists and documentary-makers.[15]

Ideology and purpose[edit]

According to its founders, the purpose of Orania is to create a town where the preservation of Afrikanerdom's cultural heritage is strictly observed and Afrikaner selfwerksaamheid ("self reliance") is an actual practice, not just an idea.[17] All jobs, from management to manual labour, are filled only by Afrikaners; non-Afrikaner workers are not permitted to work unless they have skills no resident has.[18]

Newcomers often say their desire to escape the violent crime prevalent in the rest of the country motivated their decision to move to Orania,[19] and many had been victims of crimes before,[4] while Orania residents claim the town is a secure environment and they have no need to lock their doors.[20]


Volkstaat model pursued by Avstig and Freedom Front[21]

The idea that white South Africans should concentrate in a limited region of South Africa was first circulated by the South African Bureau for Racial Affairs (SABRA) in 1966.[22][23] By the 1970s, the SABRA advocated the idea of transforming South Africa into a commonwealth, where population groups would develop parallel to each other.[23] May 1984 saw the establishment of the Afrikaner Volkswag, an organisation founded by Carel Boshoff, a right-wing academic, to put the ideas of the SABRA into practice.[23] Boshoff regarded contemporary plans of the white-minority government to retain control through limited reforms as doomed to fail.[24] Believing that black-majority rule could not be avoided, he supported the creation of a separate, smaller state for the Afrikaner nation instead.[24]

In 1988 Boshoff founded the Afrikaner-Vryheidstigting (Afrikaner Freedom Foundation) or Avstig.[23] At the time, mainstream right-wingers supported the bantustan policy, which allocated 13% of South Africa’s land area for black South Africans, while leaving the remaining 87% to whites.[25] The founding principles of the Avstig were based on the belief that since black majority rule was unavoidable, and white minority rule morally unjustifiable, Afrikaners would have to form their own nation, or volkstaat, in a smaller part of South Africa.[26] Orania was intended to be the basis of the volkstaat, which would come into existence once a large number of Afrikaners moved to Orania and other such 'growth points',[26] and would eventually include the towns of Prieska, Britstown, Carnarvon, Williston and Calvinia, reaching the west coast.[27]

Boshoff's plans excluded the area of traditional Boer republics in the Transvaal and the Free State, which encompass the economic heartland of South Africa and much of its natural resources, instead focusing on an economically underdeveloped and semi-desert area in the north-western Cape.[28][26] This desert state, Orandeë, because of its very inhospitableness would not be feared or coveted by the South African government.[29] Even proponents of the idea conceded that this model would demand significant economic sacrifices from Afrikaners who moved to the volkstaat.[26] The model is based on the principle of 'own labour', requiring that all work in the volkstaat be performed by its citizens, including ploughing fields, collecting garbage and tending gardens, which is traditionally performed by blacks in the rest of South Africa.[17][30]

The town's original objective was to create an Afrikaner majority in the northwestern Cape, by encouraging the construction of other such towns, with the eventual goal of an Afrikaner majority in the area and an independent Afrikaner state between Orania and the west coast. [28] Boshoff had originally envisaged a population of 60,000 after 15 years.[31] While he conceded that most Afrikaners might decide not to move to the volkstaat, he thought that it was essential Afrikaners have this option, since it would make them feel more secure, thereby reducing tensions in the rest of South Africa.[26]

Afrikanerstad concept[edit]

A policy shift was announced in 2014. Acknowledging that early growth expectations had not been met, the town's chief executive argued that Orania should employ its limited resources to grow into a 'city' of around 50,000 inhabitants, though the ultimate objective remains self-determination.[32] Urbanisation is deemed necessary to preserve cultural institutions, and deliver services to provide an adequate standard of living.[32]

Carel Boshoff IV rejected the word volkstaat, arguing that repeated use with no grounding in reality had led it to become an abstract term.[33] While regarding an Afrikaner nation as desirable, he felt the word carried too much baggage, connected to unrealistic and anachronistic expectations.[33] The vision of an Afrikanerstad was seen as a more effective way to achieve prosperity and decision-making power.[34] The shift met with some resistance, as the Orania Movement was seen as straying away from its original goal.[35]

External reception[edit]

SABC News crew interviewing Carel Boshoff, President of the Orania Movement

The community receives a lot of visits from local and international media organisations,[36] so that Oranians are constantly in contact with journalists.[37] The existence of Orania as a homogeneously Afrikaner town is controversial, and news sources portray it as a culturally backward, racially intolerant,[38] and separatist place.[39]

In 1994 the Los Angeles Times described it as "one of [South Africa's] strangest towns" and "a bastion of intolerance".[40] A year later the Chicago Tribune saw it as "the last pathetic holdout of the former ruling class of South Africa", continuing that "the Afrikaners who once forced blacks to live apart from the rest of society are now living in their own prison".[41] Bill Keller dubbed Orania "the racist Camelot".[42] People from neighboring black communities feel that they are not welcome to visit the town, even to buy in local shops or to use petrol stations.[43]

A Mail & Guardian article describes it as a "widely ridiculed town" and a "media byword for racism and irredentism".[44] An article in The Independent similarly notes that residents of Orania have a reputation for being racists, and that the town attracts plenty of negative press.[45]

Benjamin Pogrund described Orania as a "curious hangover from the vanished terrible past".[46] Eve Fairbanks, former staff writer for The New Republic, sees Orania as an attempt to show that Afrikaner culture can be redeemed from its traditional exploitation of black labor.[47]

One commentator noted the diverging perceptions of the town between white liberals and blacks: the former see it as a "pathetic outpost of embittered racists", refusing to live in equality with black South Africans; the latter see it as a 1950s-style fantasy shielding locals from declining white privilege.[48] Orania was deemed to lack privilege, however, as residents have no domestic workers and few material luxuries; white suburbs in the rest of South Africa, with their high levels of segregation and heavy use of domestic labour, were felt to more closely resemble the apartheid era than Orania did.[48] Along similar lines, Orania was also seen as "one of the few places in South Africa... where class is not determined by skin colour".[49] Another journalist found comparisons of Orania to the apartheid system inappropriate, as town authorities do not seek to exploit or subjugate blacks, but simply demand separation.[50] In its obituary of Orania's founder Carel Boshoff, Foreign Policy magazine agreed with Boshoff's proposition that the position of white South Africans as a privileged class dependent on black labour is untenable.[51]

Andrew Kenny, a regular contributor to The Citizen newspaper, argued that a private community like Orania should be allowed to choose its residents.[52] The executive director of the South African Free Market Foundation, Leon Louw, has also written an article questioning the perception that the town is a refuge for racial bigots.[53]

Orania is mentioned in one of the leaked American diplomatic cables, relating details of a 2004 visit to the town, where it is described as a "sleepy country town with few signs of growth or vitality".[54]

Afrikaner reception[edit]

Production of a documentary about Orania

Most Afrikaners do not support the establishment of an Afrikaner state,[50] as they see it as nothing more than an impractical pipe dream,[55] though a survey of Beeld readers carried out in 2010 found that 56% of respondents would consider moving to a volkstaat.[56] Shortly after the first residents moved in in 1991, many whites derided the project as unrealistic,[57] with even right-wingers rejecting it for its location in barren territory, far from traditional Afrikaner states.[58] Orania and its leadership are poorly regarded by the Afrikaner far-right, as their official stance of opposing racism is said to be seen as excessively liberal.[59]

The largest right-wing party in apartheid-era South Africa, the Conservative Party, did not support the volkstaat concept until 1993, shortly before converging with other right-wing organisations into the Afrikaner Volksfront.[60] Even then, their plan involved separating parts of Transvaal Province, including Pretoria, to form a state where the many black residents would have only limited voting rights.[60] Negotiations to this end were conducted with the African National Congress, but were inconclusive.[61]

In 2010 Marida Fitzpatrick, journalist for the Afrikaans newspaper Die Burger, praised the town for its safety and environmentally friendly approaches to living, but also wrote that overt racist ideas and ideology still underpinned the views of many residents.[62] Members of the AfriForum group who visited Orania in February 2015 came back with mostly positive impressions of the town, comparing it to a Clarens or Dullstroom of the Karoo.[63] Afrikaans singer Steyn Fourie is a supporter of Orania,[64] and wrote a song about the town.[65]


Early history[edit]

Orania in the 1960s

The Orania region has been inhabited since about 30,000 years ago when Stone Age hunter-gatherers who lived a nomadic lifestyle there.[66] A number of late Stone Age engravings indicate the presence of the San people, who remained the main cultural group until the second half of the 1700s, with the arrival of white hunters, trekkers and the Griqua people.[66] The earliest indication of the presence of white people in Orania dates to 1762, and in the early 19th century many farmers moved seasonally back and forth across the Orange River in search of better grazing.[66] An 1842 Rawstone map shows the Vluytjeskraal farm,[66] on which Orania would later be built.[23] The first known inhabitant of what is today Orania was Stephanus Ockert Vermeulen, who purchased the farm in 1882.[67][68]

The Department of Water Affairs established the town as Vluytjeskraal in 1963 to house the workers who were building the irrigation canals connected to the Vanderkloof Dam.[69][70] It was part of a bigger scheme to bring water to the semi-desert central parts of South Africa. Other comparable construction towns like Vanderkloof and Oviston were also established. Its name was changed to Orania, a variation of the Afrikaans word oranje, referring to the adjoining river,[38] after it was chosen in a competition.[71] By 1965 it was home to 56 families.[71] Coloured workers who participated in the construction project lived in a separate area named Grootgewaagd.[72] The first phase of the project was completed in 1976.[72] After the dam was completed most of the workers moved away, and the town fell into disrepair.[70] The department completely abandoned Orania in 1989,[73] though a group of coloured people continued to live in Grootgewaagd.[72]


Nelson Mandela, Betsie Verwoerd and Carel Boshoff during Mandela's visit to Orania in 1995
External video
Mandela's visit to Orania

In December 1990, about 40 Afrikaner families, headed by Carel Boshoff, the son-in-law of former South African Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, bought the dilapidated town for around R1.5 million (US$585,000),[31][a] on behalf of the Orania Bestuursdienste (OBD).[74] The first 13 inhabitants moved in April 1991.[75] During the same month, the people who still lived in Grootgewaagd were evicted,[76] after being provided with newly built homes in nearby towns.[77] The village was renamed Kleingeluk.[78]

The last white-minority government led by F. W. de Klerk opposed the creation of an Afrikaner state, and the existence of Orania, but it took no action, believing it would fail on its own.[79] At that time, the town consisted of 90 houses in Orania and 60 in Kleingeluk, all in a grave state of disrepair.[78] In August 1991 the 2,300-hectare (5,700-acre) farm Vluytjeskraal 272 was added to Orania.[80][81]

The presence of residents with politically extreme views hampered early attempts to gain broader acceptance for the community.[82] Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) members made up a sizable minority of the population.[83] In July 1991, one resident publicly threatened to resort to terrorism unless Orania was granted independence.[84] By 1993, people with similarly militant views had reportedly been removed from the community.[85]

The town council was established in February 1992.[86] A journalist for the Provinciale Zeeuwse Courant, visiting in 1993, noted that houses had been repaired, but the town lacked any meaningful economic activity.[83] There were few jobs available, and no money for further development.[83] The town relied on neighboring farms for food.[87]

Orania elected its own transitional representative council, a temporary form of local government created after the end of apartheid, in 1995.[88] Construction on an irrigation scheme to cover a 400-hectare (990-acre) area began in 1995 and was completed in October 1996.[89]

In a conciliatory gesture, then-President Nelson Mandela visited the town in 1995 to have tea with Betsie Verwoerd, widow of former Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd.[90] Orania grew to 200 permanent inhabitants in 1996.[75] By 1998 R15 million had been invested in the town for expenses including the upgrading of water and electricity supply, roads and businesses.[91] A violent incident occurred just outside Orania in April 2000, when a white man shot and wounded a 17-year-old black girl, hitting her leg.[92][93]

On 5 June 1998, Valli Moosa, then Minister of Constitutional Development in the African National Congress (ANC) government, stated in a parliamentary budget debate that "the ideal of some Afrikaners to develop the North Western Cape as a home for the Afrikaner culture and language within the framework of the Constitution and the Charter of Human Rights is viewed by the government as a legitimate ideal".[94][13]

2000 court case and aftermath[edit]

Inhabitants of Orania in front of the Northern Cape Division in 2000

In December 2000, the provincial government ordered the dissolution of Orania's town council and its absorption into a new municipality along with neighbouring towns.[95][96][97] Oranians lodged an application with the Northern Cape Division, which found that negotiations between the residents of Orania and the government for a compromise on Orania's municipal status should take place;[98] until such an agreement can be reached, the status quo would remain.[99]

The 2001 Census found 519 residents.[100] By 2003 local amenities included a holiday resort on the Orange River, a home for senior citizens, two schools, a private hospital and a growing agricultural sector.[26]

A dispute arose in May 2005 with a faction of residents who claimed the town was being run like a 'mafia', with a number of lawsuits being filed as part of the dispute.[101] A raid on the town's radio station in November 2005 was linked to a tip-off received from internal dissenters;[36] they ultimately left the community.[102] In November 2005, around 20 coloured families who lived in Kleingeluk before 1991 lodged a land claim with the government for around 483 hectares (1,190 acres) of land within Orania.[103] It was settled in December 2006 when the South African government agreed to pay the claimants R2.9 million in compensation.[104]

A R5 million shopping centre, the Saamstaan-winkelsentrum, opened in 2006.[105] In 2011 residents of Orania purchased the Vluytjeskraal-Noord farm, though it was set up as a separate legal entity and intended for residential development on areas not utilised by agriculture.[106] Commercial developments launched in 2013 included Stokkiesdraai Avontuurpark, an adventure park, and Ou Karooplaas Winkelsentrum, a shopping centre.[107]

Prior to the 2016 local elections, the Thembelihle branch of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) campaigned on a platform including a pledge to end the autonomous status of Orania, if elected to govern the municipality.[108] After a visit to Orania, Thembelihle mayor, and EFF candidate, Danny Jonas said he wanted to retain the status quo while working together with Orania for the benefit of Thembelihle.[109] The party ultimately won 11.6% of the municipal vote.[110]


The area around the town is semi-arid.[111] Orania is part of the Nama Karoo biome, and receives 200–250 millimetres (7.9–9.8 in) of rain a year.[112] More than 30,000 trees have been planted in Orania and the surrounding farmlands.[113] Prospective residents are warned of the inclement weather conditions, with extreme temperature differences between summer and winter.[114]

The vegetation of Orania includes karee and witkaree trees, blinkblaar-wag-’n-bietjie, witgat and Sweet thorn trees.[115]


Climate data for Orania
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 34.3
Average low °C (°F) 17.9
Average rainfall mm (inches) 65
Source: [112]

Subdivisions and architecture[edit]

Map of Orania, showing the private entities owning the town's territory

Orania has three residential areas: Kleingeluk ("small happiness"), Grootdorp ("big town") and Orania Wes ("Orania West").[18] Kleingeluk is a separate district about 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) from Grootdorp, and is poorer than the main town, although progress has been made in narrowing the gap in living conditions.[116]

Many houses in Orania are built in the Cape Dutch architectural style.[4] Most of the original buildings from the water department era are prefabricated, and while some have been renovated others show signs of deterioration, as they were not designed to last more than 20 years.[117] A City Press reporter wrote in 2013 that "none of the town’s buildings are impressive".[118]

Territorial extension[edit]

The town's territory originally covered 300 hectares (740 acres), and was expanded through a number of land acquisitions.[106]

In August 1991 the 2,300 hectares (5,700 acres) farm Vluytjeskraal 272 was added to Orania.[81] It was divided into smaller farmsteads, and now grows pecan nuts, olives and fruit.[106]

Kambro Landbou Koöperatief is a legal entity established to buy land on Orania's behalf.[106] In 2004-2005, the purchase of two farms located 20 kilometres (12 mi) south of Orania, Nooitgedacht and Biesiebult, added 4,000 hectares (9,900 acres) to the town's territory.[119] Biesiebult is a pasture, covering 2,300 hectares (5,700 acres), and is used as grazing land for cattle.[106] Nooitgedacht is a riverfront farm, located between Orania and Vanderkloof. It is used mostly for agriculture, with a smaller built-up area along the river bank.[106] Kambro also own a 380 hectares (940 acres) farm west of Orania.[106] The Masada farmhouse opposite Orania, about 150 hectares (370 acres), was bought and proclaimed as an eco-park.[119]

Farm Vluytjeskraal Noord was bought by a group of Orania residents in 2011.[119] Vygiesvlakte is a 2,600 hectares (6,400 acres) farm on the West Coast, near Groenriviermond. It was purchased around 2012.[106] After the Vluytjeskraal Noord purchase, the town administration decided that developing the infrastructure of existing land should be the priority, though new land acquisitions were not ruled out.[119]


Population estimates for Orania, 1991 to 2017

A local census carried out in 2014 found 1,085 inhabitants in 386 households — an average of 3.5 people per household.[3] Children made up a quarter of the population in 2007.[120] According to town authorities, the population had grown by 10% annually over the three years to 2015.[121] Male residents outnumbered females 60% to 40% in 2011,[1] and the lack of young women is a cause of complaints among local men.[122]

White South Africans were the main population group at the time of the 2011 census, representing 97% of the total.[1] Afrikaans is the only language used in all spheres of local life.[123] According to a 2014 census carried out by town authorities, Afrikaans is the main language spoken at home for 95% of residents, followed by English with 2%, with speakers of both English and Afrikaans making up the remaining 3%.[3]


Orania is a deeply religious community, with local churches including the Dutch Reformed Church, Apostoliese Geloofsending, Afrikaanse Protestantse Kerk, Evangelies-Gereformeerde Kerk, Gereformeerde Kerk, Hervormde Kerk, Israel Visie and Maranata Kerk;[124][125] all are Protestant except Maranata, which is part of the Charismatic Movement.[126] According to a 2014 local census, the Afrikaans Protestant Church was the most popular denomination, followed by 21.9% of households in Orania, followed by unaffiliated households with 15.6%, the Dutch Reformed Church and the Maranatha Church (both 14.8%), Gereformeerd Church (7.4%). In total, 84.4% of households are affiliated with a religion.[3]

The arrival of Orania residents from various parts of South Africa meant that newcomers brought a relatively large variety of denominations to their new town.[126] In the early years, all denominations shared one church building.[127] On important holidays such as the Day of the Vow interdenominational services are held.[128][126] Works stops on Sundays, except for services that are deemed essential.[129][20]

The Afrikaanse Protestantse Kerk was established in 1991,[130] making it the first church to be established in Orania.[131] The congregation counts 145 members.[130] The church is a prefabricated building,[132] the only church in Orania with a steeple.[133] In 2017 it was reported that black journalists were prevented from attending a service in the Afrikaanse Protestante Kerk.[134]

The Dutch Reformed Church in Orania was established in 1999, when it detached from the Hopetown congregation.[131] The church is part of the ring (presbytery) of Hopetown and the synod of the Northern Cape.[135] In March 2015, the Dutch Reformed Church in Orania voted against changes to the DRC Church Order allowing for the adoption of the Belhar Confession, as did a majority of churches in the Northern Cape Synod.[136]

Legal framework[edit]

Although Orania lies within the borders of the Thembelihle municipal area, it is not an administrative part of the Thembelihle Local Municipality. Orania maintains it own municipal administration, while Thembelihle provides no services (like sewerage, roads, rubbish collection) to Orania,[108] and collects no rates from the town (other taxes are paid normally).[137][138] In 2011, town rates for residents were between R1,500 and 2,000 per month.[139]

The town's existence is permitted by the Constitution of South Africa under a clause that allows for the right to self-determination.[4] Orania has a non-confrontational attitude towards South African authorities, which have likewise adopted a non-interference policy towards Orania.[140] The ANC government mostly avoids the issue of Orania and its status, as it is seen as less important than many other political issues the party faces.[141]

Private company[edit]

Meeting of the Village Council

The town is privately owned by the Vluytjeskraal Aandeleblok company (VAB, Vluytjiekraal Share Block). Ownership of plots and houses is in the form of shares in the company,[75] according to a framework known as 'share block' under South African law, similar to the strata title or condominium in other countries.[142][74] No title deeds are provided, except for agricultural land.[143] Share blocks are linked to portions of the company's real estate property, and the shareholder acquires the right to use property linked to their share block.[144]

A general meeting of shareholders is held every year.[144] The shareholders, numbering about 400 as of 2017, vote for the company's board of directors.[145] The eight people on the board of directors form the village council (Dorpsraad).[146] The board of directors elects a chairperson, who serves as the town's mayor, and an executive officer who is responsible for the daily administration of the town.[146] Other members of the board are given responsibility for community matters such as safety, planning and community services.[146]

Parts of the community are critical of the share block arrangement, as it offers no effective representation to people who rent their house, and thus are not shareholders in the company.[147] Even shareholding residents feel they have only a limited say in the management of Orania.[148]

Vluytjeskraal functions like a municipal administration, being funded by rates and delivering services like water, electricity and waste management.[146][75] Utility companies like Eskom and Telkom provide services to this private entity, which then splits the costs and charges the end users.[108] The budget for the fiscal year 2006/2007 was R2.45 million.[149] Harry Theron is the company chairman as of 2018; Frans de Klerk is the chief executive officer.[150]

Kambrolandskap Koöperatief is a separate legal entity acquiring land on Orania's behalf.[151] It owns land plots in share blocks, just like Vluytjeskraal Aandeleblok.[151]

Democratic institutions[edit]

The Orania Verteenwoordige Raad (OVR, Orania Representative Council) is an elected institution, tasked with handling Orania's political interests in negotiations on the provincial and national levels.[152] It is the last transitional representative council extant in South Africa. The Representative Council is elected by all residents, including those who own no shares in the company.[145]

Orania has its own municipal structure in the form of the Orania Representative Council based on the Local Government Transition Act of 1993, where other municipalities are based on the Municipal Structures Act of 1998. This legal framework was laid down in 2000 when an agreement between the Cabinet of South Africa, the Northern Cape government and the Orania Representative Council was reached about a provisional status for Orania. This agreement was confirmed by a ruling of the Northern Cape High Court.[153]

Orania residents are eligible to vote in the Thembelihle municipal elections, but few choose to do so.[154]

Politics and administration[edit]

Orania receives no fiscal contributions from either state or provincial government.[155] The Helpsaam Fund, a non-profit institution, raises money for projects like subsidised housing for newcomers in need.[156][75] The Elim Centre accommodates unemployed young men who come to Orania seeking employment.[157] Most are destitute when they arrive.[158] They are usually given work with the municipality or local farms, and provided with training.[137] Nerina, the equivalent residential complex for women, was completed in July 2012.[159]

The Orania Beweging (Orania Movement) is a local political and cultural organisation that promotes Afrikaner history and culture.[160] The Orania Movement has around 3,800 registered supporters from outside town.[161]

Orania has a small clinic, and a government-funded nurse visits twice a month.[155] The town has two airstrips, one 1,300 metres (4,300 ft) and the other 1,000 metres (3,300 ft).[162]

Since 1994, citizens of Orania have voted in the five national elections. Over the last three elections, Orania had an average vote turnout of 65%, based on registered voters. In the South African general elections in 2004,[163] 2009,[164] and 2014,[165] the community voted decisively for the Freedom Front Plus party. The four votes recorded for the Economic Freedom Fighters party in the 2014 election elicited a number of comments from South African media.[166]

Town authorities have a strong focus on green practices, including recycling and conservation.[167][10] Solar geysers are a requirement for all new houses built in Orania.[168] In 2014 Orania opened its bicycle sharing system, called the Orania Openbare Fietsprojek (Orania Public Bicycle Project).[63]

The Boshoff family are regarded as the 'political elite' of Orania.[169] They are generally seen as being relatively more liberal than most of the town's other residents.[169]

Law enforcement[edit]

Orania Veiligheidsdienste securing a truck breakdown site

The town has neither a police force nor a prison.[82] Traffic monitoring and minor crimes such as petty theft are handled internally.[142][170] Volunteers carry out neighbourhood watch patrols.[170] In October 2014 Orania Veiligheid (Orania Security) was established, to handle reports of illegal activities such as drug dealing or car theft, but also more trivial matters such as littering and noise complaints.[171] Apprehended suspects are taken to the police station in neighbouring Hopetown.[172] Residents are exhorted to use mediation and arbitration procedures made available by the town council, rather than resorting to South African courts.[75]

Residents perceive Orania as being safe.[4] To maintain the picture that all is well in the community,[173] police from Hopetown are only called in as a last resort.[174] Local media reported on multiple cases of child abuse committed by an elderly Orania resident which went undetected for years.[175] Town authorities were also criticized for failing to act on reports of assault and abuse against a three-year-old girl who was later murdered by her parents.[176] The abuse was not reported to the police, as residents were afraid of being expelled for filing a report.[177]

Application process[edit]

Orientation meeting for new residents

Prospective residents are required to go through an interview process with a committee, which may deny access to people based on criteria such as criminal records.[178][82] Once permission is granted, the new residents become members of the community, either as shareholders if they buy property, or as tenants.[82]

Being an Afrikaner is the most important criterion for admission.[4] Although there are news sources that claim that black or coloured people are not allowed to live in Orania,[18], the town's spokesman insists that there are no rules against admitting them as residents.[161] Though the community is not supportive of same-sex relationships, some gay people do live in Orania.[179]

Some people who try to live in Orania leave due to the limited choice of available jobs or the requirement to conform to local social norms.[180][73] According to a 2004 study, 250 people had left Orania since its establishment in 1991, most of them due to "physical and social pressure".[181] The difference in lifestyle compared to an urban environment is another factor that negatively impacts newcomers.[182]

External relations[edit]

Representatives of the CRL Rights Commission visiting Orania in 2009

Over the years, Orania has been visited by many public figures, including Northern Cape Premier Dipuo Peters (in 2004),[183] Julius Malema (in 2009),[184] Desmond Tutu (in 2010),[185] and former President Jacob Zuma (in 2010).[186]

In June 2007, the Cape Coloured community of Eersterust, outside Pretoria visited the Afrikaner enclave.[187] The groups met to discuss community development and discussed methods of self-governance.[187] On 4 July 2007 the town of Orania and the Northern Cape government agreed that all government levels should discuss the question of Orania's self-government.[188]

Orania and the Xhosa community of Mnyameni signed a cooperation agreement in December 2012,[189] to assist in the development of own institutions and the transfer of knowledge between the communities.[190][191]

Members of the Orania Beweging, including its president Carel Boshoff, went on a European tour in 2013, meeting with MPs from the Partij voor de Vrijheid of the Netherlands, the Vlaams Belang party in Belgium and Südtiroler Volkspartei in Italy's South Tyrol province.[192][193][194]

Boshoff rejected an invitation to the funeral of Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) leader Eugene Terre'Blanche in April 2010, as he saw him as having chosen a path of confrontation and conflict.[195] Boshoff IV also noted that the Orania concept was at odds with the baasskap system of the apartheid period.[27]


Pecan harvest in Orania

More than 100 businesses are located in Orania as of 2013.[16] Economic services provided in the town include a call centre, stockbroking and architecture.[82] The community's annual turnover in 2011 was R48 million.[196] The average wage in Orania was estimated at approximately R4,000 ($590)[a] per month in 2007, low by white South African standards.[197] The lack of cheap black labour means that living expenses in Orania are twice as high as in the rest of South Africa;[161] at the same time, unskilled workers are scarce.[158] In 2015, a visiting journalist estimated the poverty rate at 70–80%.[198]

In Orania people from all levels of society perform their own manual labour.[18] Local Afrikaners also work in unskilled positions such as gardening and waste collection.[121] In 2009, 14% of the population was self-employed.[199] Rapid growth over the four years to 2014 led to the construction of new commercial developments and a rising number of young adult immigrants, but also caused an increase in class differences between residents.[200]

Orania's tourism industry is showing rapid development with the completion of a luxury river spa and boutique hotel complex in 2009.[201] Orania Toere (Orania Tours), Orania's first registered tour operator, was also launched in 2009. In 2010 thirteen independent hospitality businesses operated in Orania,[202] including a caravan park, self-catering flats, rooms, hotel and guest-houses.[10] From October 2012 to February 2013, about 2,000 holidaymakers visited the town.[203]

The Orania Chamber of Commerce was established in 2001.[23] The Orania Spaar- en Kredietkoöperatief (Orania Savings and Credit Co-operative) is a local cooperative bank. It registered with the South African Reserve Bank in 2011, and in 2013 it had R45 million in savings deposits.[204]

During April 2004, Orania launched its own monetary system, called the Ora, based on the idea of discount shopping vouchers.[14][12] Orania launched its own chequebook in 2007.[205] The enclave is currently working to introduce the e-Ora, a digital version of the currency that is currently in circulation.[206]

Previously, a permit was required to start new businesses in town, which was only granted to if the new business did not compete with existing ones.[85] The permit system proved unworkable, causing dissatisfaction among the residents, and was abolished.[207]


Pivot irrigation

Farming is an important part of Orania's economy, the most prominent project being a massive pecan nut plantation,[208][209] one of the largest in South Africa.[111] The plantation is said to have given Orania a substantial economic boost.[118] Most of the agricultural production is exported to China.[16] Since purchasing the 430-hectare (1,100-acre) town, the community has added 7,000 hectares (17,000 acres) of agricultural land to it.[210] A pumping station on the Orange River, financed and built by the town's residents, provides water for agricultural use.[183] The station is connected to a 9-kilometre (5.6 mi) pipeline.[66]

A R9 million dairy farm, the Bo-Karoo Suiwel, operated in Orania from 1998 to 2002. Though deemed one of the most modern dairies in South Africa at the time,[73] the increased cost of imported machinery caused by a decline in value of the rand combined with a rise in the price of corn used to feed cattle led to its liquidation.[211][212] Another ambitious project, a mill processing a range of corn products, was completed in 2005,[213] but also proved unsuccessful and was closed down.[214] The Orania management has since mostly eschewed large-scale projects, rather focussing on small- and micro-enterprises to develop the local economy.[214]


The construction industry is an important element of the local economy. Orania counts 8 construction companies as of 2017.[215] Property prices in 2010 ranged from R250,000 at the low-end, up to R900,000 for new riverfront property.[216] Average house prices in Orania have grown by 13.9% a year from 1992 to 2006.[217]

The shortage of affordable housing is a significant problem in Orania.[218] Given the relatively low local wages, even two mid-range salaries might not be enough to buy a house.[218] Outside investors, who can afford to pay more using savings from previous employment outside Orania, inflate housing prices..[218] While buildings from the Water Works era can rely on pre-existing utility connections, new builds face the additional cost of installing infrastructure, raising prices further.[218]

In 2013, the Sonskip / Aardskip earthship living museum was under construction in Orania,[219] designed by Christiaan van Zyl, one of South Africa's foremost experts on sustainable architecture.[220] The building though unfinished as of 2018 is open to the public as an open air museum; once completed it will be the largest earthbag earthship in the world.[220]


Brouers- en Stokersfees in Orania

Cultural institutions include the Orania Kunsteraad met orkes en koor (arts council with orchestra and choir) and the Orania Kultuurhistoriese museum (cultural history museum).[149] Exhibits housed in the museum include the Felix Lategan gun collection and a Vierkleur flag carried by Jopie Fourie.[221] A collection of busts of Afrikaner leaders, sourced from institutions that no longer wanted them after the end of apartheid, sits on a 'monument hill' outside town.[111] There is also a Verwoerd museum, where items and photos of Hendrik Verwoerd are on display. It was the house where his widow lived from 1992 until her death at the age of 98 years in 2000.[222][111]

The Koeksistermonument, erected in 2003, celebrates the women who baked and sold koeksisters to collect money for charity and is one of the town's tourist attractions.[223] The town also houses the Irish Volunteer Monument, dedicated to the Irish soldiers who fought on the Boer side during the Boer War (see Boer foreign volunteers).[111] Jan van Wijk, who also created the Afrikaans Language Monument in Paarl, designed the monument. It was moved from Brixton, Gauteng in 2002 by a group of Afrikaners concerned by its imminent demolition.[111]

The Gemeenskapswembad, a public swimming pool

Orania has a mascot named Klein Reus (small giant), a small boy shown rolling up his sleeves.[224][111] The symbol is used for the town's flag, its currency and merchandise.[159] Traditional Afrikaner cultural activities such as volkspele dances and games of jukskei are promoted within the community.[225] Karoo-style food such as skaapkop (sheep's head) is part of the local culinary heritage.[225]

Like most white South Africans, Orania residents are rugby fans.[226] The town has a rugby team, the Orania Rebelle, playing in the Griqualand West Rugby Union.[227]

The Orania Karnaval (formerly Volkstaatskou) is the main cultural event in town. Held annually since April 2000,[228] it features exhibitions, competitions and concerts from local and national Afrikaner artists,[229] with food stalls offering traditional Afrikaner treats.[230] The Ora currency and the Kleinreus flag were both introduced during the celebrations.[231][232]

Younger residents occasionally complain of a lack of recreational activities, a concern common to many small communities.[233] Orania, a farming town, offers few amusements to teenagers and young adults, who miss the entertainment offered by city life.[234] Things improved considerably with the opening in 2014 of the Ou Karooplaas shopping centre, which also houses a cinema, pizza parlor and DVD shop; and the Stokkiesdraai Adventure Park, which also has a pub and coffee shop.[198]


First day of school at CVO Orania

The Orania Koördinerende Onderwysraad supervises all educational activities in Orania.[235] Orania's schools have consistently achieved a 100% matric pass rate since 1991.[236]

There are two schools, the CVO Skool Orania (Christelike Volks-Onderwys or Christian People's Education) and Volkskool Orania (Orania People's School).[237] Afrikaans is the language of instruction, while English is taught as a second language.[50] Both schools follow the IEB curriculum;[238] the CVO school offers a more conservative education, while the Volkskool is relatively more progressive.[239]

The CVO-school, established in January 1993,[86] is run along conventional lines; enrolment in 2014 was 225 students, with some coming from neighbouring towns.[240] The CVO School includes Christian tenets as a vital part of the education, and is part of the Beweging vir Christelik Volkseie Onderwys, a network of similarly minded schools across the country.[241] As a Reformed Christian school, its teachings are in accordance with the Canons of Dort.[242]

The Volkskool, established in June 1991 with Julian Visser as its first principal,[86] uses a self-driven teaching (selfgedrewe) system which is unorthodox by South African standards.[243] Because the town had few school-aged children when it was established, the school adopted a computer-based learning system that allowed students of different levels to taught by a single teacher.[244] The Volkskool's e-learning system was seen as innovative and received attention from South African media in the early 2000s.[245][246]

There is a rivalry between the schools, which is generally friendly but can occasionally become quite fierce.[247] Not all local children attend them, as some parents choose homeschooling or boarding schools in cities like Bloemfontein.[125]

A vocational training school, offering courses in technical subjects such as welding, metalworking and engineering, was opened in 2017.[248]


The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) shut down the first local community radio, Radio Club 100, in November 2005 for broadcasting without a licence and being a "racist-based station".[249] The station's management contended they had repeatedly applied for a licence and were merely carrying out tests, and that they broadcast harmless news about birthdays and social events.[249] ICASA granted a licence to the new Radio Orania in December 2007,[250] and the station began broadcasting on 13 April 2008 on 95.5 MHz.[251] The community station is run by volunteers and counts over 50 contributors.[252] Programmes include readings of Afrikaans literature such as Mikro's Die ruiter in die nag.[253]

Dorpnuus, the town hall's newsletter, was launched in November 2005 and reports on local events and meetings of the town council.[254] Volkstater is an independent local publication that is sent to supporters of the volkstaat idea, mostly non-residents of Orania. and deals with local events and Afrikaner history.[255] Voorgrond, a publication of the Orania Beweging, is aimed primarily at non-residents who support the movement.[256]

Cultural holidays[edit]

The Koeksister Monument in Orania

Geloftedag on 16 December is one of the most important holidays for the community. Locals wear traditional clothing and commemorate the victory in 1838 of 470 Afrikaners over an army of 15,000 Zulu warriors.[257]

A list of cultural holidays in Orania:[258]

Date Afrikaans Name
27 February Majubadag
6 April Stigtingsdag
31 May Bittereinderdag
14 August Taaldag
10 October Heldedag
16 December Geloftedag

Works about Orania[edit]

The unusual and controversial nature of Orania has drawn the interest of researchers,[259] especially in the field of anthropology. Kotze (2003) examines Orania as a case of a non-declining small town in South Africa.[260] Steyn (2004) elaborates on the town's bottom-up approach to development.[260] De Beer (2006) considers the achievements of Orania, deeming it unlikely that it will ever succeed in bringing about self-determination.[260] Terisa Pienaar analyzed the volkstaat concept, and the suitability of Orania as a growth point for a volkstaat.[261] Lindi Todd included Orania in a study on how the Afrikaner identity developed after the end of apartheid.[261] Liesel Blomerus focused on the identity of Afrikaner women in the town. Lise Hagen addressed the concepts of space and place in Orania.[261] South African economist Dawie Roodt described the town as being "like a Petri dish" for economic research.[262]

In September 2012, a German documentary film titled Orania premiered at London's Raindance Film Festival. The film is a sociological study of the town.[263] The town was also featured in a 2009 documentary produced by France Ô, Orania, citadelle blanche en Afrique.[264][265], and in a 2018 documentary produced by Lauren Southern, Farmlands.

See also[edit]


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  1. ^ a b USD conversion using the end-of-year rate from the South African Reserve Bank


Further reading[edit]

  • Blomerus, L., 2009. 'n Antropologiese studie na die identiteit van vroue in Orania. MA-dissertation: Universiteit van die Vrystaat.
  • Cavanagh, E., 2011. Dispossession and Restitution: Property in Land and the Politics of History in South Africa. MA-dissertation: Universiteit van die Witwatersrand.
  • de Beer, F.C. (2006). "Exercise in futility or dawn of Afrikaner self-determination: an exploratory ethno-historical investigation of Orania". Anthropology Southern Africa. 29 (3–4): 105–114. doi:10.1080/23323256.2006.11499936.
  • Geldenhuys, D., 2006. ’n Internasionale perspektief op selfbeskikking. Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe, 46(4), pp. 443-455.
  • Hues, Henning; Morgan, Katalin (July 2010). "The raising of the flag in 'Volkstaat' Orania: Perspectives on a school ceremony". Education as Change. 14 (1): 33–46. doi:10.1080/16823206.2010.487367.
  • Kotze, Nico J. (January 2003). "Changing economic bases: Orania as a case study of small-town development in South Africa". Acta Academica Supplementum. University of the Free State (1): 159–172. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  • Labuschagne, P., 2008. Uti Possidetis? versus self-determination: Orania and an independent "volkstaat". Journal for Contemporary History, 33(2), pp. 78–92.
  • Steÿn, J.J. (November 2004). "The "bottom-up" approach to Local Economic Development (LED) in small towns: A South African case study of Orania and Philippolis". Town and Regional Planning. 47: 55–63. Retrieved 31 January 2018.

External links[edit]