Coffins, Old Flags, Microorganisms And The Future
of the Boer (cont.)
I ask Pieter what will be the plight of the Boer in
South Africa. He pauses momentarily, “Exactly what
happened to the farmers in Zimbabwe. The government
will squander the countries wealth, which the Boer
created. As they run out of money, they will confiscate
our farms to give to their cronies; already this is
happening. But we will unite and resist. For me to
let them take our land is to stab my ancestors in
the back. I will fight and make my forefathers proud.
The Boer will survive.”
I ask him if he thinks black South
Africans have a right to this land.
“Of course they do. All I want
is for them not to mess with me, and I won’t mess
with them. They must leave us alone; let us practice
our own culture. But the Boer and the blacks are like
oil and water: we just can’t mix.”
The day before, in Pretoria, I attended
a meeting of the Boer think tank Studiegroep vir
Eietydse Geskiedenis (Study Group for Current
History). Once a month at an upscale restaurant downtown,
this group of mostly elderly men, meet in a private
room adorned with scantly clad Greek and Roman goddesses.
They sat at white-linened tables, sipped wine, and
listened to guest speaker Christo Burger talk about
the threat of Islam, the biased media, the Antichrist,
and God’s special plan for the Boer nation. His business
card describes him as President of the CIA (Christian
Intelligence Agency), “Spreading Absolute Truth.”
They asked ponderous questions,
heard only what confirms their worldview. Like old
lions they sat, growling into their wine glasses,
their teeth worn down to stubs, hair gray and falling
out. If evoked, their roar will still freeze blood,
but most have lost the will to fight. They are disappointed
and bitter and dazed. “Adapt or die” the old saying
goes. In 1994, when the black South Africans gained
power, these men were too old to adapt, too young
to die. Now they are old; soon they will die, and
be remembered for the mistakes of their past.
It is the young Boers who will lead
the Volk forward. The ones who carry new flags up
mountains, who live their history, learn the songs
and sing them spontaneously on former battlefields.
They are too young to be burdened by the guilt of
apartheid. They embrace riding in commandoes and the
Internet. They live the old traditions and adapt new
ones. They can imagine a Boer future and are willing
to fight for it.
I spend the night sleeping under
an old ox-wagon, as Orion performs a slow back-flip
over Majuba. The Boers sing and talk around a bonfire
until 3 am.
Early the next morning I hitch a
seven-hour ride to Bloemfontein. I rent a room in
this small city in the Orange Free State, which was
once a Boer Republic capital, and is still South Africa’s
In the evening I walk through downtown,
a rare white face in a city turned African. Professional
black families sit on balconies to catch the evening
breeze. Young men rev hotrods at traffic lights. A
large sandstone church, once filled with Afrikaners
worshiping their white God, is packed with a well-dressed
congregation of blacks singing foot-tapping gospels.
The few whites, who had to venture downtown from their
walled suburban homes, sit hunched behind steering
wheels with the doors locked. Foreigners in their
former capital, they pass like cloud-shadows across
At an Orania guesthouse the next
day, I meet a retired couple from Nelspruit. They
sit on the front porch, sip tea, and watch the sun
set. She, with hair shaped into a black helmet and
eyes magnified behind thick glass, tells me: “Our
children think we are mad coming here, but we have
to find a safe place to live. The crime in Nelspruit
is terrible, and getting worse. Four times they broke
into our home. We have to chain our car to a tree
so it won’t get dragged away. I can’t sleep anymore.
The smallest noise, and I wake up; have to go check.
Our friends have been killed; women we know raped...”
Her voice grows with hysteria; eyes wide with remembered
fear. “It’s just terrible, terrible. Always locking
doors, locking windows. We’re like prisoners in our
own home. No one should have to live like this. I’m
going mad, quite simply mad with fear.” Her husband
tries to calm her. She takes a deep breath and strokes
nonexistent wrinkles on her dress.
In an Orania packing shed, young
Afrikaners with enviable tans and sun-bleached hair,
pack melons for export to Europe. They wear the unofficial
uniform of South African farm laborers everywhere
- black rubber boots, blue overalls and threadbare
tee shirts. They came from towns like Newcastle and
Kimberly where work, particularly for Afrikaans males
is scarce. Ten years of the New South Africa has pushed
these young men to the bottom of the food chain. Undereducated,
white and often racist, their only hope lies in finding
manual work at a place like Orania. So for $9/day
they work where no blacks may; wielding shovels, swinging
pick, harvesting melons, pruning 20,000 pecan trees.
They hate it here, but it's a living.
The town folk, 51% of whom are university graduates,
look down on them. Young women are scare, and extramarital
sex is forbidden anyway. They can’t get drunk, can’t
play their music too loud. The bright spot for many
of them is the racial isolation. The bigotry is blatant,
not hidden behind a veil of intellectual contortions:
“A kaffir (disparaging term for a Black person) is
a kaffir,” says Tiene Martines, 17. “He just stinks.”
In big vats of molasses, children at the Volk School
Orania, cultivate microorganisms.
This school, with a graduation rate
of 100%, is regarded as a model of progressive education.
A self-directed, computer-based learning system called
KenWeb, was developed here, and is exported to home-schoolers
around the world.
Anna Boshoff, daughter of apartheid-era
Prime Minister H.R. Verwoerd, is the principle of
the school. The children treat her like a grandmother.
One of her sons, Wynand Boshoff, is head teacher.
A guest speaker demonstrates an earth building technique.
Wynand takes off shoes and mixes mud with the students.
Mrs. Boshoff explains how Effective
Microorganisms, or EM, works: “ 80% of microorganisms
have little known benefit, 10% are harmful, and 10%
are vital to maintain an ecological balance. Conventional
farming practices have upset this balance. Through
a company in Japan we buy EM spores, which we cultivated
in vats of molasses. The EM-rich liquid is then sold
to local farmers. They feed it to their cattle, spray
it on their crops, put it in the water. In time, animals
get healthier, crops stronger, and balance is again
restored to the land.”
Maybe Orania is itself a big
vat of molasses for the Boer people. A place in the
semi-desert where they can preserve their own culture,
and cultivate that which they require to survive.
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