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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

01 Sep 1991: Van Rensburg, Danie & Anna

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POM     Maybe you could just tell me a little bit about yourself first, where you were from, where you're living and how you ended up deciding to come and live in Orania.

DVR     I was born in the North Western Cape, a few kilometres from Orania in what we call Bushmanland.  It was a strange name of Pofadder.  Pofadder, that's where I grew up in Bushmanland and then, she was also in that part of the country, and then we went to Pretoria and I joined the Potato board in 1948 when they established agricultural, not really control boards, but that's what they call them, Agricultural Board for Potatoes, and that's where I worked for 42 years and the last ten years of those 42 years I was manager of the Board and we had the joint administration, the Potato Board and also for two other Boards, Grain Sorghum and Oil Seed Boards.  We had one administration for the three Boards and I was General Manager of that, ten years for the Potato Board and then the last three years was the joint administration.

     Then when I retired, that was two years ago in 1989, I got in touch with Professor Boschoff, actually with SABRA, it's South African Bureau for Race Relations, of which he is the Chairman.  I joined that organisation because I was interested in their research which they have been doing for many, many years, since Dr Verwoerd.  And then Professor Boschoff asked me to help him with his administration because he didn't have time to attend to all the correspondence, telephone calls and so on.  The year before that he established the Afrikaner Foundation.  He is Chairman of that and he asked me to become Secretary for that Foundation and that is why I have been spending some time for the past two years, more or less two days per week, I do the correspondence, or some of it, and the telephone calls.

     Then we heard about Orania, that it was on the market, that the government asked for tenders, and a few of us, as Professor Boschoff explained to you, came together and we bought this little village.  And being one of the shareholders of that company which we formed I decided to come and fortunately she felt the same way as me.  We moved, we bought this house and we are moving here because we believe that that is the only peaceful solution, we have the only peaceful solution for South Africa's problems; that is to give every nation the opportunity to go on their own in part of South Africa, as we have in Zululand we have the Zulus, and in Transkei we have the Xhosas, and we say a unitary state and the ideal of mixing all the peoples into one nation, to become one nation, is not an obtainable proposition.  It will definitely not be peaceful, We will live in conflict when we mix all.

POM     Do you have children?

DVR     Yes.

POM     They're grown up, they're obviously grown up?  Living in?

DVR     Yes.  In Pretoria, and nine grandchildren.

POM     Nine, gee!

DVR     Yes, and honestly part of my motivation to come here is to make provision for them, for the future, to create a future and to ensure that they have a country and have a choice.  And they have a choice and then at least my grandchildren will not be able to blame me afterwards that I didn't try and take part in this development.

POM     What kind of a South Africa do you think they will grow up into?

DVR     In South Africa? I would prefer to have this side of the country which we suggest as the only part which still has the potential for Afrikaners.

AVR     To have our homeland, just call it our homeland.

DVR     It's our country.  For the rest of South Africa I foresee only problems and degeneration in all spheres of life.  And I will be very sorry if my children and grandchildren would decide to stay there.  I don't think they will because there is not really a peaceful future for them in that country.  So I trust that, although they are not all convinced that what we suggest is really viable, although they don't think so, I think that time will show that we have the right solution.

POM     How do you see the community here developing?  I guess there are about 200 people here at the moment, 150?

AVR     It's only about six months.

DVR     Yes, we started here on 11th April, this was opened, it was the 11th April, and I think it's just amazing what has been achieved so far, but it's still at the beginning and it will take time to develop and to get people interested and to come and work and live here or retire here.  People must come and produce and manufacture and produce something which we can export to our neighbouring South Africa and the rest of Africa, even overseas.  but it's a nucleus of what we see as a new country. Professor Boschoff would have shown you the borders which we have in mind.  And as Secretary of the Foundation I am writing newsletters to people who we have on the list to inform them of developments and the response that we get is such that I'm optimistic that although I might not see a volkstaat, a nation state, it will come. It will come. This is the beginning and from here it will grow.  Along the river we have people who say they are moving from Pretoria and Johannesburg to the desert, the semi-desert.  We differ, we say they are living in the desert because they have no rivers, the people must get water from the Vaal River which is an empty river. They must get water now, Transvaal must get water from the Orange River. We think that this river gives us the potential to go all along the river, along to the sea.

POM     How do you see the values that will be at the core of this community to be different from the values that will prevail in the rest of South Africa? Children will go to school here and children will be taught and what values will the community exercise in the development of the individual and development of the community?

DVR     Well first of all what we regard as the most important, as the basis on which we must live and on which we must base our future, and that is a Christian society, an ethical approach to matters also as regards human relationships are concerned, our relations with the other nations and other population groups. In this part of the country you have many, many coloured people, so-called coloureds, but they are different from what we are. We love them as Christians but we are not the same. We are also different not only in our standard of living, there's not a big difference there, but at the same time we also have much in common, most of them speaking Afrikaans. In other words the difference between the coloureds and the Afrikaners is not as big as that of the Bantu people and the Afrikaners. So first of all I would say Christianity is the most important, belief in God as our God.

POM     Do most people here belong to the one church?

DVR     In Orania at this stage we don't know, we haven't had a census. When the whole place is occupied I would say that most of them, the biggest proportion, will be members of our church which is Dutch Reformed and we have what they call the Afrikaans Protestante Kerk. It's also Protestant and they broke away from the Dutch Reformed Church and then also Gereformeerde it's also reformed. So we have four Protestant churches.

AVR     And then a few others.

DVR     Yes, not churches but Apostolic.

POM     Just for a moment so I can learn more about what your relationship would be to the coloured people, a large number of them would fall within the borders that are set out and they are Afrikaans speaking, it's their major tongue. So in a way you share a common -

DVR     Even our religion.

AVR     Many of them, yes.

POM     So for those who live within the borders what would happen?

DVR     Well that is something which will have to be decided at the conference, the round table where all the different parties will come with their solution. Professor Boschoff would have explained that to you. Our proposal is that there must be an arrangement, a peaceful arrangement. They must know that we have a big people to govern in South Africa and we must try to find a solution not only for a few years but for the future. And the only way that that could be achieved would be to separate, for each nation to form part of the country.

AVR     If they want it they must just tell it that they want it.

DVR     If they want it; but that's our solution, that's our proposal. That might be idealistic but that is what we think is the only thing that will work. But if they don't want it then, look, we have been building this South Africa for 300 years and we have made our contribution to what we have achieved in South Africa especially that PWV area. We are part of that and we have spent a lot to build up what we can see today and we say that part of the country does not lend itself as a solution. We can't live there together, we can't separate, that part it's a conglomerate, it's unrealistic to move away. So we say we must look for an area, part of the country which we can claim and which we can say is reasonably fair.  Now we say, look, give us this part of the country and if that does involve some people to move they must also look for an answer for the problem, they must also find for themselves, they must also decide where to go, but we must be realistic. We can't force people out of this part of the country, but come with a solution and present them with an alternative. We say they must also establish a homeland for themselves and we must propagate that idea through them. It is a potential solution for them also.

AVR     But if the rest of South Africa is so peaceful and prosperous so far then they would surely like to move there because this is a desert as you people believe, the rest of the world. So maybe it will be more attractive to them to really move there if the government or even us make it possible for them. There must be work for them and homes for them to move to. That's what we wish will happen.

DVR     I don't think it will become reality in the few years that I still have, but in time to come - you see the people must decide whether to live in peace or in a country where you have strife and problems.

AVR     And we do believe in our Afrikaans nation, you see. That's what we're working for. Not to become rich or wealthy. Firstly we're Christian, secondly we're Afrikaans, and we do see that the Afrikaner nation won't have a chance in the new South Africa to survive as a nation. As individuals, of course, they may, but not as a nation and that's what we're trying to establish here. We're prepared to make sacrifices to come and live here with people that do believe in the same thing.

POM     What do your children believe at the moment?

AVR     They're sympathetic and we have only got a daughter and a son, they're married and my son is a DR Minister. He is not really with us because he doesn't believe in our ability of the job.

DVR     He thinks it's not achievable.

AVR     But he's not against us coming here.

POM     And your daughter?

AVR     Our daughter, in thinking she is really with us. For practical reasons she can't come because at the moment they're around 40, they've got five children so they must first find a way to make a living. He's more pessimistic about the new South Africa than I am.

POM     More pessimistic?

AVR     Even if we have problems, even if there are a lot of disappointments in this whole project, then we'll still try and attain it.

DVR     I think people will just have to decide. You see people differ, they are talking of various proposals. Some people say they must take another part of the country, the best part of the country. I said no, it's not possible, it won't be acceptable internationally and also not in South Africa, so go for something which will be acceptable to the international world.

AVR     And maybe to the rest of South Africa.

DVR     My theory is that it will become so attractive that the people from Pretoria and Johannesburg and everywhere will flock to their homeland.

AVR     You wanted to ask a question?

POM     What do you think is going to happen in South Africa in the next few years? Where are things heading there?

DVR     Heading for big, big problems the people, the different nations, they're different, so much that it is not possible to have peace because every nation - the first question is, who will govern that unitary state? Who is in control? And every nation will try, naturally, to have the biggest say in parliament. You must admire people who are governing the country. The Xhosas will want a Xhosa President or Prime Minister, and the Zulus would like the same and it will be a struggle, a struggle all the time to govern themselves, and who ought to be in charge of the rest? And that can't be, there are other peoples, the minorities will not accept that. All the time there will be discrimination against them because part of that government structure, the nation that is in control, they must keep their own people happy in the first place otherwise they will get thrown out. So what will then happen to the minorities? There will be discrimination and conflict. It's conflict, everlasting conflict as a unitary state consisting of different nations. We say give us this part of the country where we can live peacefully.

AVR     They needn't come if they don't want to come.

DVR     Eventually I believe that they will come, they will come. They will have to flee because that's what happened in the rest of Africa.

AVR     There is a possibility but I'm not saying that it will happen. The only thing that I do know is the Afrikaner volk, nation, won't exist after about ten years.

DVR     Ten years is too early.

AVR     Too early? But there will be a little bit, a few here, individuals. They will be Afrikaans but they won't be the cultural nation that we used to know. That's what I believe.

DVR     I say eventually, maybe a few decades and so on, you will find there will be areas where the Afrikaans people live in the majority. I mean it's open and free, anybody can live and buy where they want to.

AVR     And do what they want to.

DVR     But people of the same culture they tend to come together and live together, but they have no power. Regional, yes to some extent.

AVR     The same municipality.

DVR     You may have some municipalities where they have a say but in time to come we will have what we used to call locations, black locations. We will have white locations without any say. In 50 years or so the white population will only represent 1% of the total population.

AVR     If the blacks keep up their birth rate.

DVR     So I think it's a grim future for South Africa. Even economically at the moment with the population growth you must expect problems because other countries, if people who have money for investment, looking for investment in other countries, they won't invest in a country unless their investment is safe. And with a black government you can't be safe. And if they don't get growth rate in years to come we will have the position that people will invest in Orania rather than in Johannesburg.

POM     At the moment how is the community organised? I believe there was a committee set up last Thursday night, like a Town Council.

DVR     Yes it's on the basis of a Town Council.

POM     How do people earn money to live?

DVR     Most of them you will find are pensioners at the moment, but people are making plans, they are doing their research into how they can, what they become, manufacture and do here because it's not a place only for pensioners.

POM     You've a school?

DVR     Yes. So the school is here and it's growing rapidly. The school and the syllabus is for a normal village but we are talking of a very small piece of land. We are looking towards the holocaust in the coming years and every place. As a matter of fact our recommendation to people in South Africa is that they don't concentrate in Orania, they just try and find other places also.

POM     Start establishing settlement points?

DVR     That's right, especially those along the river. Start something new and with initiative and tradition and credibility of our people.

AVR     Yes, the Afrikaner as a nation.

DVR     People can come with something which we haven't thought of so far to produce. But the first and main thing is that we must be self-sufficient as far as possible.

POM     Are you talking about Orania or the larger state?

DVR     Well, of course, it's not possible to have a high standard of living without imports and exports, so we will have to import some things and we will have to export also. At this stage it's not the wealthiest part of South Africa, it's the poorest part of South Africa.

AVR     So we're not asking much.

DVR     It's a matter of faith and conviction and commitment to what we will be losing. We must make a success of it.

POM     OK, I'm glad to get to know you. I'll be back again after Christmas when maybe you'll have more time to talk.

DVR     It's a long story. It's a pity it's not in English, it's a book written by Dr Chris Jooste. It's called 'Business which we can learn from what happened in Palestine with the Jews'. They started with 5000 people, the whole world was against them and they made a success of it. They also made mistakes. Definitely they have big, big problems with the Arabs. Their whole existence is at stake. We can learn from them what is good and what made it wrong. It's very, very interesting but unfortunately I can't give it to you, it's not in English. Anyway it's nice talking to you. Looking forward to seeing you again.

POM     And you have my card  ? I took down your address didn't I?

DVR     Yes.

POM     It's quiet.

DVR     It's the place. It's not so hot yet. Come December, January, very hot.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.