South African enclave raises old race questions

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Residents don’t pay taxes on municipal services because they don’t receive them. They draw water from a spring and are building a sewage system. There is a cafe, a primary school and a care center for the elderly. Zebra, antelope and wildebeest roam in one part of the fenced, 721-hectare (1,780-acre) property. Residents buy many of their goods from outside the fence.

“If I was a racist, we wouldn’t speak to a Black. We wouldn’t do business with them,” said Annatjie Oncke, a 49-year-old house cleaner living in a caravan park. She and other poor residents do the kind of menial labor reserved for Blacks in the era when Whites were in charge. Kleinfontein also has engineers and other skilled workers, as well as retirees.

In the past, small bands of Afrikaners have sought to establish enclaves elsewhere in South Africa, notably in the Northern Cape community of Orania, founded in 1990. Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first Black president, traveled to Orania in 1995 and had coffee there with Verwoerd’s widow in a show of racial reconciliation. Verwoerd was assassinated in 1966.

Kleinfontein has been around almost as long as Orania, but is now under scrutiny in part because it wants local authorities to recognize it as an entity with the right to run its own affairs. The Times, a South African newspaper, reported that provincial lawmakers were informed last year that Black police officers were barred from entering the enclave.

Last week, members of the Democratic Alliance, a political party, protested outside Kleinfontein.

“By creating a ‘Whites-only’ area, this community is saying that it has no respect for people who are different from them. It is saying that it fears people who are different,” said Mbali Ntuli, the party’s youth leader.

On Wednesday, Kgosientso Ramokgopa, the mayor of Pretoria and surrounding areas, visited Kleinfontein as part of an inquiry into its alleged failure to comply with municipal planning laws. Delegations of the two sides met in a hall with a corrugated iron roof, a church bell mounted outside in a scaffold.

Ramokgopa noted the right of every citizen to “reside in any part of the country,” while Groenewald, Kleinfontein’s chairman, spoke of the right to “self-determination.”

The mood was diplomatic, and jovial at times. Ramokgopa joked about “koeksusters,” a fried, sugary snack favored by his Afrikaner hosts. Groenewald referred to Mandela’s leadership, but also hinted at his resolve with a mention of Koos de la Rey, a general in the 1899-1902 Anglo-Boer war who did not want conflict but fought hard when it began.

South Africa’s national flag does not fly in Kleinfontein, though some residents were seen recently with the “Vierkleur” (“Four-color”), the flag of the Transvaal republic, which in the 19th century formed part of what is now South Africa. A community member handed out a declaration that complained of betrayal and persecution of the “Boer-Afrikaner nation,” and described South African democracy as a sham.

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