Monday, July 28, 2014

South Africa Hears “Boer State,” “Winnie Mandela Province” Proposals

In South Africa, the Boere-Afrikaner Volksraad (“people’s council”), or B.A.V., which represents white South Africans of Dutch ancestry (known as Boers or Afrikaners), said this month that South Africa’s government had provisionally agreed to discuss the possibility of a new province designated for Afrikaners.

Former Boer and Griqua (mixed-race Afrikaner) republics in what is now South Africa.
As the chairman of the B.A.V., Andries Breytenbach, points out, the idea of a Boer state is not new: “It’s not a new thing for us.  The Voortrekkers left the Cape in 1834 to establish their own republics, and became full players in the international world.”  The Boer republics he is referring to—the Republic of Stellaland, the State of Goshen, the Transvaal Republic, Orange Free State—were not exactly full international players: in fact, they struggled for any diplomatic recognition at all.  Eventually, over the course of roughly the 19th century, these quasi-independent Dutch colonies were absorbed by the United Kingdom’s colonial regime—first, as a way of preventing France from encroaching into southern Africa after Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of the Netherlands, and then later more comprehensively in the Anglo-Boer Wars.

Andries Breytenbach
Breytenbach makes no bones about the fact that the ultimate goal is not just something along the lines of KwaZulu–Natal, a South African province which is majority Zulu and named for the traditional Zulu kingdom but otherwise simply one of nine provinces of equal status.  The B.A.V. wants an autonomous region, and eventually an independent state.  Afrikaners, he explained, naturally wish to be governed by Afrikaners. After all, he said, “Germans want to be governed by Germans, Japanese people want to be governed by Japanese”—though he could perhaps have chosen two examples with slightly different resonances if he is wishing to win people over to his argument.  After all, the Boers were the architects of apartheid, the cruel system of racial segregation and disenfranchisement which they imposed after the Second World War—mainly out of anger at the then-ethnic-English-dominated government’s decision to join the Allies in the war instead of the Axis powers that Boers tended to sympathize with.

The flag of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging, or Afrikaner Resistance Movement,
betrays modern Boer nationalism’s roots in pro-Nazi sympathies.
After apartheid ended in the 1990s, groups like the Pro-Afrikaner Action Group (Pro-Afrikaanse Aksiegroep, or PRAAG), the Boerestaat Party, and the Freedom Front (Vryheidsfront, or V.F.), proposed setting aside a large swath of the Cape region in western South Africa as an independent Boer republic.  (It is V.F.’s proposal for a Boer state’s boundaries which is shown at the very top of this article.)  But such notions had no chance in the face of the sheer momentum of Nelson Mandela’s optimistic, unifying vision for a new South Africa.  More recently, two Boer micronations of sorts have been established—Orania, in Northern Cape Province, and Kleinfontein, just outside Pretoria—are seen by some as the kernel of some future Afrikaner Volkstaat.  This is especially true of Orania, which even mints its own currency.

F. W. de Klerk, a Dutch-descended Afrikaner, handed the South African
presidency to Nelson Mandela in 1994.
More spectacularly, a militia called the Boeremag was in 2003 on the brink of carrying out a plan to assassinate President (as he then was) Mandela, after which they hoped to seize power and reinstate apartheid, before they were stopped by the authorities.  Some Boer nationalists follow the prophecies of a semi-literate mystic from Transvaal named Siener van Rensburg who gave clairvoyant advice to Dutch generals in the Boer Wars and whose visions seem to portend an eventual independent Boer republic.

The official flag of the white-supremacist micronation Orania
One would think that such an idea would be dead in the water.  Although one survey found that 56% of self-identified Afrikaners would consider moving to an autonomous Boer state, Boers are nonetheless only 6% of the population and are outnumbered by mixed-race and Black South Africans who speak Afrikaans (the South African dialect of Dutch) and are mostly dead against any kind of revival of apartheid, even of the voluntary sort.  But South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, has said that he intends to meet with the B.A.V. next month to discuss the idea—not of independence but of some sort of internal reorganization that will provide a homeland.  Zuma addressed the issue of Boer identity in an interview in 2011.  Though he stated, “You can’t create an Orania, you must be part of South Africa and share in what we all share,” he also acknowledged that, as with any ethnic group, some sort of homeland “is what some Afrikaners need on a psychological level.”

President Jacob Zuma
This could mean anything from just redrawing some borders and declaring a province with a Dutch name, or even a kind of autonomous region.  As Breytenbach put it, “It may not be in just one area, but two or three.  Because the Afrikaner is spread all over.  One might be around Pretoria, another in the Northern Cape.”  The more he talks about it, the more it sounds like the nominally independent but in actuality very Indian-reservation-like “homelands” or “Bantustans” that the apartheid regime set up as a way of demographically removing Blacks and their tribal allegiances from the South African body politic.  Armed Boer militants even aided one homeland, Bophuthatswana, in its desperate attempt to retain its “independence” when the homelands were dissolved at apartheid’s end in 1994.

When Bophuthatswana tried to keep its “independent” status as apartheid ended,
armed Boer radicals sided with them—and things deteriorated from there.
Meanwhile, Lotta Mayana, chairman of the Cape Town–based human-rights group Sobahlangula, has his own idea for a new South African subdivision: Winnie Mandela Province—to be named for Nelson Mandela’s former wife, a prominent (and controversial) anti-apartheid activist.  The name would be a way of honoring women in general, Mayana said, but mostly he sees economic benefits in merging the current Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and Northern Cape provinces, though he was vague about how exactly that would create more opportunity.  Before 1994, roughly the area of those three provinces was the vast Cape Province, which took up nearly half of South Africa’s territory, back when there were only four provinces.

Some of Mayana’s other ideas for Winnie Mandela Province are less savory.  He wants elephants to be openly harvested for body parts that can be sold to China, and he rails against “the Jews who are in control of [Western Cape] province.”

South Africa’s provinces, before 1994 (in inset) and now
So far, both these redistricting proposals have little momentum, but once the Pandora’s box of redrawing provincial boundaries is opened, who knows what ideas might gain followers?

[You can read more about countless separatist and new-nation movements, both famous and obscure, in my new book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas just published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar.  The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), is available for order now on Amazon.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even if you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this interview for more information on the book.]

1 comment:

  1. It is high time the Afrikaner gets rid of the "chip on their shoulders" and start engaging with ALL people of the minority group i.e. WHITES. Who the hell cares who did what to whom, that is in the past and if we are to have any chance of a future, every LIKE MINDED individual should be considered an asset. Get over yourselves and let's make a go of this for the future of our children. My thought is that if we are able to, this section of South Africa will be the salvation of the world. But like this, we don't have a hope in hell.


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