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Nonwhites Need Not Apply Here

Some Afrikaners, fed up with their change in status after apartheid ended in South Africa, are building islands of racial 'purity.'

March 30, 2003|Anne-Marie O'Connor | Times Staff Writer

KLEINFONTEIN, South Africa — Under apartheid, homelands were created to isolate and repress blacks. Here in the crackling heat of the high bush, where jackals and antelope roam wildflower-carpeted mountains, some South Africans are dreaming of another kind of homeland: for white people.

Not just any white people, but conservative white Afrikaners who feel displaced by black majority rule and say their Bible abhors the racial mixing that is a feature of the new South Africa. They are moving to places such as Kleinfontein, one of three all-white Afrikaner communities whose leaders advocate self-rule.

"History has turned topsy-turvy. We're reduced to a minority group," Niel de Beer, the 65-year-old chairman of the Kleinfontein cooperative, lamented as he pulled up to 20-foot guard towers that stand sentinel along the red dirt road leading into the community of 420. "In Kleinfontein, we are a Volks, a small nation. Eventually we hope it will lead to statehood."

As the heavy iron doors swing open against the sun-bleached high grass, it's clear this is no ordinary gated community. It's partly the way people talk, in a discriminatory lexicon no longer publicly acceptable in South Africa.

Monique Trollip, 13, says she was sent to live with her grandparents in Kleinfontein for a year "because there's no blacks. They're not allowed to take blacks in here." Outside the gates, "if you're walking the streets the blacks just grab you," she said, toweling herself off at the community pool, where the fence is laced with concertina wire.

"We don't hate the blacks. We just don't want to mix with them," said Johan van Emmenis, 45, the coach of an all-white boys' wrestling club. "I'm a good Christian. God made black. God made white. It's not up to us to decide why."

Built by Whites

Even the buildings here, De Beer proudly points out, were built entirely by white Afrikaner labor -- distinguishing Kleinfontein, 15 miles east of Pretoria, from Orania, a wind-swept farming town in the northern Cape region. Orania, home to 600 other white separatists, was built by blacks, he said.

Kleinfontein gave the construction jobs to Afrikaners, he said, to help alleviate Afrikaner unemployment. Such unemployment was unusual when whites were at the top of the social pyramid. But after white rule ended in 1994, nonwhites became eligible for formerly "whites-only" jobs.

The transition "left the Afrikaner with nothing, no rights, no land, nothing. Now we are completely outnumbered," De Beer said. "White men will never rule again in Africa. We can never have our nation's ideals sustained anymore. Kleinfontein is an attempt to resolve this situation."

Until white rule ended, the Afrikaners were firmly ensconced as leaders of the racist apartheid system. They aggressively promoted their Dutch-based Afrikaans as the language of the government and encouraged its use in media and schools. Their political leaders legalized the draconian policies that institutionalized racial separation after 1948, forcing blacks over the age of 16 to carry passes and, in the early 1960s, reclassifying millions of them as "citizens" of rural slums known as bantustans or homelands. Homeland residents had to produce papers to enter the rest of the country, depriving them of their national citizenship.

Such domination is history. Afrikaners have been reduced to a numerically insignificant minority of about 7% of the country's 44 million people, and Afrikaans is just one of 11 national languages.

Now, except for this small separatist movement, Afrikaners who have not emigrated are trying to adjust to their new status, experiencing life in a more equitable multicultural society.

"I once asked a globalist Afrikaner if he would rather spend his time with a poor, illiterate Afrikaner or an educated, intellectual black person," De Beer said. "He chose the intellectual black person.

"I'd rather spend an entire day with an illiterate Afrikaner, because we have religion, culture, language, history. These are the binding forces at Kleinfontein. It's such a homogeneous population. We all look alike, we all think alike," he said.

"If people are white," said Jaap Diedericks, manager of the Afrikaner Radio Pretoria, which transmits from Kleinfontein, "they should have the freedom to pursue their ambition of staying white."

In the new South Africa, such talk inspires more ridicule than outrage. Sunday Times columnist Max du Preez termed the communities "sustainable racism" orchestrated by "right-wing Afrikaner fundamentalists," and suggested taking "buses full of tourists to look at these peculiar relics from the past." A parliamentary staffer observed with a grin that the communities have "finally perfected racial purity -- now they don't even have black servants."

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