Northern Cape DestinationsOrania, Upper Karoo
South Africa's last apartheid outpost, Orania is the only town in the country that is for whites only.
Despite sounding, in the new democratic South Africa, like the stuff of myth and legend, Orania is very much a reality. It lies on the border of the Northern Cape and the Free State on Route 369, 41 kilometres south west of Hopetown, in a village that once housed construction workers for the Vanderkloof Dam.
The Orania movement, say Oranians, is a way for them to preserve the white African ethnic group, the Afrikaners, and to remain true to their culture and language; it is not about racism. Rather, they say, it is an effort not to lose their Afrikaner way of life or to 'melt' into Mandela's 'rainbow nation'.
On the one hand you could see Orania as a town wanting to maintain racial discrimination (although it is the only town in the country where class is not determined by colour), its streets lined with statues of Afrikaner heroes, like Paul Kruger.
On the other hand Orania has managed to establish, and survive, as an independent community that uses its own form of currency, known as the Ora (pegged to the South African rand), runs its own radio station, and uses fairly revolutionary farming methods. Considering the dearth of cheap labour, Oranians are also not frightened of hard work (Orania's insignia is a boy rolling up his sleeves and getting down to work).
Interestingly the community is said to have grown by 10 per cent a year since its inception.
And, in defence of their non-racist claims, is the signing by Orania's leaders of an agreement with the Eastern Cape's Mnyameni community (2011), agreeing to help them develop their own institutions, reducing their dependency on government.
Famous visitors include: Nelson Mandela, who arrived for tea with Betsie Verwoerd, the widow of Hendrik Verwoerd (architect of Apartheid) shortly after his release; and Julius Malema, who visited in 2009, and apparently praised the residents' co-operation.
Others describe the town as 'eerie' and difficult to get used to the white's only situation.
Unsurprisingly the town has many requests for visits. If the five star lodge is anything to go by, Orania is geared up for tourism.
ps: don't forget a photo at the Koeksister monument...