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HomeLanguage NewsnewsWhat is Orania?

What is Orania?

Orania is a White Dutch–only enclave and an “independent” country inside South Africa. Inside Orania, English and the majority of African languages are banned—sort of. Here are the bizarre facts about this unusual arrangement in post-colonial South Africa.

Orania, translated as “Sunrise” in Dutch, is the name of a rapidly growing “country” inside South Africa. To be more precise, its 3,000-strong population makes it a town. Situated in the Northern Cape, an arid western province in South Africa, Orania is 680 km from Pretoria, the capital of modern-day South Africa.

Though occupied from the 1700s by White Dutch colonists, Orania as an all-White enclave was formally created in 1991, a time when a ferocious uprising against White colonialism got intense in South Africa. Oranians are White Afrikaans settlers.

Afrikaans refers to a Dutch dialect that grew up in South Africa when White immigrants from the Netherlands began to arrive there in the 1500s.

Afrikaans governed South Africa for 100 years until 1994 and exacted a brutal, segregationist form of anti-Black government called apartheid. The UN has designated apartheid as a crime against humanity.

Why Was Orania Created?
When the famous freedom fighter Nelson Mandela was released from jail in the early 1990s and it became clear Black-majority rule was on the cusp, some racist Afrikaans colonizers in South Africa feared democracy would threaten their land holdings and continued use of Afrikaans as a language in South Africa. Hence they pooled resources to create Orania to guard themselves against an imaginary “genocide against White South Africans.”

What Are the Rules of Orania?
No one can live in Orania unless they apply first. The requirements are one has to be White Afrikaans, be a Calvinist Christian, have a clean criminal record, and speak Afrikaans only inside the enclave. Afrikaans is the only language tolerated inside Orania, yet almost 90% of South Africa’s business and social life goes by English and the majority African languages.

Orania’s population has grown fast in recent years, and the town’s mayor is planning for 10,000 households.

Oranians are mainly farmers, and the “country” seeks selfsufficiency: building its sewers, roads, council offices, and hospitals separated from South Africa’s national budget. The employment of Black laborers is not allowed. Orania has its own currency used to trade inside its borders, and in recent years it has tried to bypass the rand, South Africa’s currency, by using cryptocurrencies.

What Do South Africans Think of Orania?
“It’s terrible shame that we have Orania, considering the trauma of apartheid colonialism that South Africa shouldered since 1949,” Dali Mpofu, a leftist lawmaker in South Africa, argues. “This racist enclave is a rejection of reconciliation.”

Steve Fanmeyer, a White Afrikaans councilor in Orania, rejects the accusations that Orania is a stain on South Africa’s democracy. “We Afrikaans are an endangered species in South Africa, and our Dutch-derived language is endangered too. Orania is necessary to guard our heritage,” he told Language Magazine. The Black South African government has generally tolerated Orania since 1994, seeing the town as more of a “nuisance” than a threat to the country’s foundations, adds Mpofu.
Ray Mwareya

Language Magazine
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