Like the rest of South Africa, Orania has been under lockdown since late March to curb the spread of Covid-19, putting a brake on economic activity.
Massive job losses have been predicted across the country. The government has launched several measures to help communities, businesses and the unemployed.
For three decades Orania has maintained its self-declared independence from the rest of South Africa. But is the town, which has no black residents, now asking the government for help?
What is Orania?
The town is built on private property, and was established for “the preservation of Afrikaans culture and language”. People wanting to live there must identify as an Afrikaner and believe in Orania’s values.
As BBC News explained in a 2014 analysis of the town: “Prospective residents are screened by the town council using a strict criterion, which includes first and foremost being an ethnic Afrikaner. It is not enough to simply speak Afrikaans, as is the case with many black and mixed-race South Africans.”
Founded on the principle that Afrikaners should rely only on their “Own land, own labour, and own institutions” (“Eie grond, eie arbeid en eie instellings”), Orania remains self-sufficient wherever possible. As well as insisting that residents be Afrikaners, only Afrikaner labour is used to run businesses and perform services there.
‘We are sufficiently handling Covid-19’
SABC News recently visited Orania and interviewed Joost Strydom, head of the Orania Beweging (Orania Movement). He told the broadcaster that the town’s economy had struggled under the lockdown, but it remained self-sufficient.
Strydom said Orania was following the rules of the lockdown, but “innovating” to keep its economy alive. Steps had been taken, he said, “so that we keep social distancing and keep all the necessary measures, but get our people working”.
Africa Check asked Strydom if the town had applied for government relief funds.
“The leadership of Orania have NOT appealed for the South-African Government to look into our case and support our esteemed livelihoods,” he told us in an email. “We are sufficiently handling the economic fallout of COVID.”
He added that Orania residents able to receive benefits from the Unemployment Insurance Fund “should be welcomed and encouraged to apply for UIF payouts”, but that he was not aware of how many had done so.
Fund ‘for ending Afrikaner poverty’
The Orania Movement does have a charity fund, the Helpsaamfonds, which has existed for many years as a “long-term, sustainable solution for ending Afrikaner poverty” (“langtermyn, volhoubare oplossing vir die verbreking van Afrikanerarmoede”).
Since South Africa’s national lockdown was first announced, another fund – the Helpmekaarnoodfonds – has been set up “to make sure that Orania’s most vulnerable residents have access to decent, nutritious food parcels” (“om seker te maak dat Orania se mees weerlose inwoners toegang tot ordentlike, voedsame kospakkies kry”).
Money from the Helpsaamfonds has been put towards the Helpmekaarnoodfonds, and people have been encouraged to donate to both. The Orania Movement has not asked the South African government to contribute to these funds. – Keegan Leech
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