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​Die Eden Projek: Black labour to build the white dream

Black people will be allowed into the whites-only enclave of Die Eden Projek in the Eastern Cape. They will build the houses, till the land and prepare the food for the white families. And black women will help rear the children brought to this “safe haven” by threatened white people.

But, when the sun sets, they will have to retreat beyond the borders of the 2 300-hectare privately owned farm, to townships and informal settlements in the nearby small town of Willowmore.

“A community forum will still establish rules of how they will work for us here. Black people can buy any land around us but this is private land; it’s ours,” Die Eden Projek’s leader, Jaqui Gradwell, told the Mail & Guardian on Wednesday.

“Like everyone in life has the right to freedom of association, we [Afrikaners] also have this right. No one can take that away from us.”

The project is still under development and its builders hope to see between 20 000 and 40 000 white families move on to the land to build a new sanctuary — but only after meeting the strict entry requirements.

“We choose our people based on their culture, which is Afrikaners, and their religion, which is Christian. This is a place for boere but, of course, not all farmers are Afrikaans. But they are still welcome,” Gradwell said.

But he admits that the primary reason for seeking an Afrikaner enclave in the Eastern Cape was the “massacre” of white people. The 55-year-old believes black people commit all crimes in South Africa, and are to blame for the “systematic genocide of white farmers and Afrikaners”.

“All the crimes against white people are committed by black people. All the crimes against black people are also committed by black people.

“They murder and molest us, our children are slaughtered like sheep. There are 80 000 white people [who have been] killed in South Africa — I have got the names. That’s the main reason — to get our people to safety — and, secondly, because our culture is being wiped out,” he said.

Gradwell claims to have sparked the interest of wealthy white investors, who he hopes will buy up 60 plots already marked off on blueprints for his vision of a volkstaat, which was imagined by the murdered white supremacist and Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging leader Eugene Terre’Blanche.

After completion, Die Eden Projek will have two schools, an administration block and its own rugby field and team.

Gradwell said the community will strive for complete self-sustainability and he hopes to provide each resident with a home, a job and a steady income. “We need no state water, power or food. We’ll do all of that ourselves.” He doesn’t expect any protests against the whites-only development, saying it’s modelled on the existing whites-only town of Orania, which is south of Kimberley in the Northern Cape.

But, should Eden owners start selling off portions of land, they could run foul of the law. “Legally it is discriminatory,” says Wits University law professor Cathi Albertyn.

“What would happen if a black person tried to buy there and they were told: ‘No, you can’t own this land, it’s reserved.’ If anybody challenged it, I think that they [the developers] would not be able to justify the exclusion of people based on race.”

Human rights organisations could also launch a public interest claim. Albertyn said South Africa’s divided history could make the case even stronger. “Considering South Africa’s history of forced removals and land segregation during apartheid, it would be very difficult [to defend].”

And Orania’s leader, Carel Boshoff, distanced himself from the new development because of its racist undertones. “Self-determined communities are the best foundation for a successful South Africa, but we don’t approach it on the basis of white versus black, even when it is imposed upon us from outside … Orania also believes in self-labour and therefore we do not encourage any form of migrant labour but do what we can on our own,” Boshoff said.

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Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.

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