By Johnny Masilela
Mail and Guardian
A cluster of rickety shacks and neat brick houses cling to the rolling hills of the Klipgat settlement, northwest of Pretoria.
There’s a throat-scratching smell of the nearby sewerage works in the air. Goat trails are etched on the koppies. Children rub their one bare foot against the other to warm them up. Sickly stray dogs follow the winter sun.
This scene is in sharp contrast to the beautiful valley of the Upper Karoo town of Orania, more than a thousand kilometres away. Here the townspeople, all white Afrikaners, make sure the dogs are taken for a walk and the children have their shoes tightly laced.
Orania’s stretch of mealie fields, pecan nut plantations, the periphery of the mighty Orange River, are home to James Kemp (33), a young Afrikaner. He is nearly half the age of Klipgat resident and retired unionist Malose Rampou (57) – a veteran follower of Steve Biko’s Black Consciousness (BC) doctrine.
Rampou, his left hand paralysed from a stroke, still enjoys a good laugh. He reads his newspapers, books or magazines in the shade of a naartjie tree – abundantly orange with fruit – in front of his house.
We had a good old chuckle, a few weeks ago under this tree, about his attempt at vote harvesting ahead of the country’s first democratic local government elections in 1995. Rampou had personally sponsored food parcels for 500 of the poorest of the poor in the area. But come the announcement of the election results, only 20 people had cast their votes for Rampou’s Azanian Peoples’ Organisation. “Ah, Madiba magic at work,” he laughs.
Rampou’s eyes light up when I show off my media accreditation lapel badge from Orania, designed with the image of a young man rolling up his shirtsleeve – “the Little Giant”, as the townsfolk affectionately call him. I was given the badge when I covered the Orania leg of Steve Hofmeyr’s Toeka tour, on a chilly night in March this year, for the Mail & Guardian.
Rampou turns my lapel badge in his working fingers: “You see, now. The Boerseun rolls up his shirtsleeve to bliksem us darkies.” This is followed by peals of laughter from both of us.
On a serious note, though, we agree the image of the rolled-up shirtsleeve is a fitting symbol of the remarkable work ethic of the Afrikaners of Orania and elsewhere.
During a separate interview, Kemp, the Orania Movement communications and marketing director, strokes his beard and elaborates: “On Orania’s town flag is the emblem of a young man rolling his sleeves – the Little Giant. He embodies the core foundations of Orania – own labour. A place where the worker and job provider live in an integrated community.”
Central to my visit to Rampou’s home village of Klipgat – and indeed subsequent engagements with Kemp – is an attempt to nudge the two men to provide similarities between the Orania Movement’s “intentional” Afrikaner community, and Steve Biko’s clarion call: “Black man, you are on your own.”
Categories: Race and Ethnicity