South Africa Afrikaners build whites-only town where black people are banned
A sprawling ‘whites-only’ settlement dubbed ‘Project Eden’ is being set up on the edge of the South African desert by ‘pioneers’ who claim they are the victims of ‘apartheid in reverse’.
The controversial community will house up to 30,000 residents and is modelled on the ‘Orania’ enclave where Afrikaaners live apart from black people and even have their own currency.
Jacqui Gradwell, leader of the chilling new area under construction cites ‘the murder of 88,000 white people’ since the first free vote of 1994 as evidence of ‘a genocide against our people’.
A return to the old way – when whites and non-white South Africans lived apart – ‘is the only way to preserve our culture’, he insists.
‘It is not a racist project, it is based on fact. We have the right to that.’
A sprawling ‘whites-only’ settlement dubbed ‘Project Eden’ is being set up in the South African desert by ‘pioneers’ who claim they are the victims of ‘apartheid in reverse’. Pictured: The six children and 13 children of Joey Groenewald , who hope to live at Die Eden Projek
Jacqui Gradwell, leader of the new community, cites ‘the murder of 88,000 white people’ since the first free vote of 1994 as evidence of ‘a genocide against our people’
To date 167 families have already bought ‘havens’ in the deliberately remote 5,700 acre site on the edge of the unforgiving Karoo desert. Pictured: Purchased plots have yet to be built on
More than 20 years after the end of apartheid in South Africa, Gradwell claims that qualification to be part of Die Eden Projek – the Eden Project in Afrikaans – is based on race. Pictured: Plots of land to be developed
The controversial community will house up to 30,000 residents and is modelled on the ‘Orania’ enclave where Afrikaaners live apart from black people. Pictured: Joey Groenewald’s six children, left to right, Nico, Karin, Natasha, Kobus, Alecia and Andre (front), who are considering the move
The married father-of-six, whose beard is styled on those worn by his early settler ancestors, claims to receive ‘multiple’ calls every day from white ‘pioneers’ seeking refuge from South Africa’s political volatility, endemic corruption and high rates of violent crime.
He is convinced that the current level of violence will soon bring the ‘Rainbow Nation’ to the brink of civil war.
In an unnerving example of how deep racial divisions remain in South Africa more than two decades after the end of apartheid, Gradwell is unapologetic that the qualification to be part of Die Eden Projek – the Eden Project in Afrikaans – is based on race.
‘They must be white because all the murders and all the violence in this country is perpetrated by black people,’ the 55-year-old farmer says firmly without apology.
‘They must also be Christians and we intend to stick to that principle, we want to bring safety back to our own people.’
Mr Gradwell left South Africa in 1992 ‘in a lot of anger’ after the momentous referendum that ended apartheid, but returned ten years later after struggling with visa issues.
‘By the time I came back to my homeland, everything had changed,’ he said.
Those who are unhappy about the creation of the new settlement are not able to block the sale of the land, but the authorities have said they will ensure that the usual strict requirements will be met including planning permission and the commissioning of an environmental impact survey.
The Eden leaders insist they ‘will do things by the book’.
Joey Groenewald, grandmother-of-13, will visit Eden for the first time this week and will be the first of what she hopes will be many family members to set up home among ‘people who share our culture and beliefs’. Pictured: With her fiancé, Eberhard Oelmann
Those unhappy about the creation of the new settlement cannot block the sale of the land, but the authorities have said they will ensure that the usual strict requirements will be met. Pictured: The area awaiting development
A total of 370 housing plots, two schools, an administration block and a rugby pitch have been pegged out in the first phase of development (above)
Prospective residents told MailOnline they wanted to live in a whites-only community because they were victims of violence. Pictured: The area earmarked for development
Prospective residents told MailOnline they wanted to live in a whites-only community because they were victims of violence.
Barry Kieser, 56, has been robbed at gunpoint 12 times in the last two years in what he believes is a ‘rising tide of hatred against whites’ in South Africa.
Fearful for his safety, he is now planning a move to the controversial new community.
‘The onslaught against whites is coming, no doubt about it,’ the railway signalman told MailOnline. ‘The time has come when we need to live separately.
‘I am spat on all the time by the black passengers when I work next to the track, they throw rubbish at me and shout abuse.
‘Leaving our homes to be with our own people is the only way we can survive the growing tide of hatred against us.’
The vision of a new homeland for Afrikaaners – the descendants of the European settlers who landed in South Africa in the 17th century – was also a dream of white supremacist Eugene TerreBlanche, who himself became a murder statistic six years ago.
To date 167 families have already bought ‘havens’ in the deliberately remote 5,700 acre site on the edge of the unforgiving Karoo desert.
Barry Kieser (left) and his mother Christiana, 89, (right) will be among the first ‘white pioneers’ to join the project. Mr Kieser said he had been robbed at gunpoint 12 times in the last two years in what he believes is a ‘rising tide of hatred against whites’ in South Africa
The chief executive of South Africa’s Institute for Race Relations said he had no issue with whites wanting to live apart. Pictured: Promotional images from the Eden project video
Mr Gradwell says Eden project residents ‘must be white because all the murders and all the violence in this country is perpetrated by black people’. Pictured: The promotional ‘Die Eden Projek’ video
Many prospective Eden pioneers closely monitor what they believe is the deliberate targeting of the white population, via social media under a #StopWhiteGenocideInSA hashtag. Pictured: A scene from the Die Eden Projek video
Pieter and Naomi van der Westhuizen hope that living miles from the nearest town – and non-white neighbour – will bring them respite from their ‘constant fear’.
Mrs van der Westhuizen, 48, is still suffering nightmares after being held up and robbed by gunmen, in her driveway, five years ago.
‘She now travels with every weapon imaginable,’ her husband said, ‘pepper spray, pangas [machetes], a gun. We are both trained in self-defence and go to the firing range regularly to practice our shooting.
‘But still we live in fear, our house is a fortress. If my wife sees some black guys walking down the street towards her she just starts shaking, she is scared for her life every day.
‘The life of a white South African is worth nothing now, we are being killed for a cell phone, our women – even the old and infirm – are being raped. I know there must be some black people who are good, but 99 per cent of them are flipping bad.’
Like many Eden pioneers, the couple closely monitor what they believe is the deliberate targeting of the white population, via a string of social media sites which report violent crimes in graphic detail under a #StopWhiteGenocideInSA hashtag.
This week, grandmother-of-13 Joey Groenewald will also visit Eden for the first time – 370 housing plots, two schools, an administration block and a rugby pitch have been pegged out in the first phase of development.
She will be the first of what she hopes will be many family members to set up home among ‘people who share our culture and beliefs’.
Pieter and Naomi van der Westhuizen hope that living miles from the nearest town – and non-white neighbour – will bring them respite from their ‘constant fear’. Mr van der Westhuizen said: ‘We still we live in fear, our house (above) is a fortress’
Alleged violent crime against white South Africans is reported on social media sites under the hashtag #StopWhiteGenocideInSA and is also used to promote the new whites-only project
The purchase of the £400,000 site is being met by the purchase of shares by interested ‘pioneers’ in a registered non-profit company. Pictured: One of the images posted under the hashtag #StopWhiteGenocideInSA
News of the Eden development has renewed debate in South Africa about the fragile state of race relations. Pictured: Images promoted by #StopWhiteGenocideInSA
Violent crime against white South Africans is reported online under the hashtag #StopWhiteGenocideInSA and the material is also being used to promote the new project
Speaking from her home in Boksburg, a mining town to the east of Johannesburg, she said, ‘Apartheid never ended, it just reversed from what we had before. We cannot rely on the black government to provide for anyone in this country, and certainly not for the whites.
‘The black population don’t worry about tomorrow, about making plans for food and jobs, they can only think of today – that’s their culture.
‘Our culture and beliefs are different, and we need now to rely on ourselves. We just need a small piece of land where we can support ourselves.’
News of the Eden development has renewed debate in South Africa about the fragile state of race relations and how a new ‘whites-only’ enclave squares with the progressive constitution set up under the country’s first democratically-elected president, Nelson Mandela.
Paul Jay is likely to be one of the few at Eden who voted to end apartheid in an epoch-making referendum in 1992.
The fact that he is even considering a move, with his 25-year-old son Marcus, to such a contentious community is a reflection of the parlous state South Africa is now in, he said.
‘I have often been criticised by my white friends for being too liberal,’ the 53 year-old admitted, ‘I have quite a lot of black friends through the church and I visit the townships often in my line of work.
‘I always get a warm welcome and have never been a racist or a supremacist, I don’t subscribe to those views at all.’
Paul Jay is likely to be one of the few at Eden who voted to end apartheid in an epoch-making referendum in 1992. Criticising President Zuma, he said the breakdown in public services had led to a ‘descent into complete lawlessness that now seems unavoidable’
The project will not be the first whites-only community in South Africa – the town of Orania, which was set up after the end of apartheid, has its own currency, flag and a population of 1100. Pictured: An Afrikaans family pictured in the Eden Project video
Denying access to any institution would be breaking the country’s laws, but Mr Gradwell insists non-whites would not be welcome to Eden. Pictured: Publicity shot from the Eden Project promotional video
He believes that his country’s majority black population have been ‘terribly let down’ by the government of President Zuma, whose leadership has been dogged by controversy and allegations of corruption.
High levels of youth unemployment, poor standards of education and housing and a lack of access to basic services are factors which ‘set the scene for a descent into complete lawlessness that now seems unavoidable,’ Mr Jay said.
Ongoing violent protests at South Africa’s university campuses, which began last year with the high profile movement to remove paraphernalia celebrating colonial-era figures such as Cecil John Rhodes – a protest that spread to, but was quashed at, Oxford University – are a sign of chaos to come, he believes.
‘The campuses have been burned and looted by a tiny group of who are bent on destruction and holding the authorities to ransom it seems the police and army can do nothing to stop them.
‘Just imagine, if a big crowd took to the streets, they could burn an entire town overnight. I foresee things can only get worse and I will only find safety with like-minded people who are capable and are prepared to work together in what I fear will be a fight for survival.’
The project will not be the first whites-only community in South Africa – the town of Orania, which was set up after the end of apartheid, has its own currency, flag and a population of 1100.
Mr Gradwell (pictured) said white and non-white South Africans living apart ‘is the only way to preserve our culture’. ‘It is not a racist project, it is based on fact. We have the right to that’
Although no one can legally be prevented from settling at Eden, Mr Gradwell said non-whites would not want to be part of the community. Pictured: An area earmarked for development
The chief executive of South Africa’s Institute for Race Relations said he had no issue with whites wanting to live apart.
‘If people want to do their own thing and no one else is being harmed, then let them get on with it,’ Frans Cronje said.
Although Mr Gradwell insists that non-whites would not be welcome to move to Eden, denying anybody access to any institution would be breaking the country’s laws – although it would be hard to imagine that the project would attract anyone but those who share the views of the founding partners.
He said: ‘Seventy per cent of black South Africans live exclusively together in their own communities, in townships and so on. They don’t want white people to live among them. Why can’t we have the same thing?
‘It doesn’t need to be set in law, although we all have rights of association, they won’t want to be part of our community, it will just be that way because that’s how we all actually prefer to be.’
The purchase of the £400,000 site is being met by the purchase of shares by interested ‘pioneers’ in a registered non-profit company. Those who move to Eden will have to construct their own homes, without relying on ‘black labour’.
Leading South African commentator R W Johnson said he understood why many Afrikaaners felt a ‘strong sense of betrayal’ since the end of apartheid.
‘There is provision in the constitution for their language and culture, but that has been eroded over time and there has been a certain amount of welching on the original deal, an element of ‘ethnic revenge’ about it.
‘But you cannot just write these Afrikaaners off as fantasists or conspiracy theorists.’
He went on: ‘They have genuine fear for their personal safety which appears to be the major driving factor for these initiatives. And these sorts of projects can work, Orania demonstrates that.’
| JOHANNESBURG |
JAQUI GARY GRADWELL sports a bushy beard in the style of his voortrekker ancestors—the pioneers who fled British rule in ox-drawn wagons. Also in the spirit of thevoortrekkers, he vows to lead his people away from oppression. Afrikaner culture is under threat in the new South Africa, he reckons. White people face “genocide”. So Mr Gradwell (pictured) wants to lead like-minded whites—40,000 of them, he predicts—to a farm in a remote part of the Eastern Cape to live together in an agrarian idyll.
A promotional video for Die Eden Projek (The Eden Project) contrasts images of black rioters, black criminals and President Jacob Zuma with soft-focus photos of happy white families with tractors and chickens. It does not, however, mention Mr Gradwell’s somewhat chequered past, which includes being convicted of firearms offences while living in America.
Mr Gradwell’s plan has generated many headlines but little support. Disgruntled whites already have an enclave, but hardly anyone wants to live there. Orania, an Afrikaner-only town in the Karoo desert, has been around since 1991. Despite impressive organisation and towering ambitions (it has its own currency, the Ora, and a flag, which features a white boy rolling up his sleeves), it is home to just 1,100 people. Orania’s isolation has left it economically unattractive and politically irrelevant.
Frans Cronje of the Institute of Race Relations, a liberal think-tank, says that news stories about white separatists can reinforce the gloomiest perceptions about South Africa: “that we’re only one step away from a race war”. But they are piffle. “Rank and file South Africans are actually pretty committed to making it work with each other,” he says. A survey from the IRR found that 76% of South Africans thought race relations had improved or stayed the same since 1994, when apartheid ended. In another poll, 68% of respondents said that they expected a happy future for South Africans of all races. Nonetheless, according to the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, another think-tank, more than half of South Africans barely interact with people of other races except when at work or while shopping.
Still, some South Africans worry that tough times may aggravate racial tension. Youth unemployment is around 50%. The economy is dicing with recession. Mr Zuma’s approval rating is a miserable 21%. A skilful demagogue could whip up something nasty from these ingredients.