A new whites-only settlement, modelled on the Afrikaners-only town of Orania, is being established on a farm near the small town of Willowmore, just over the Western Cape border.
Die Eden Projek, a non-profit company registered in July, aims to settle thousands of white families on a 300h. farm, where they can live “safely and independently”, far from urban areas.
Project leader Jaqui Gradwell is also one of the administrators of Die Eden Projek’s private Facebook page, which accepts not just only white people but also whites without black friends and which has amassed more than 1 500 members.
Ten days ago he posted on social media that he and colleagues had started laying out 371 plots on the Karoo farm in the Saartjie Baartman District of the Eastern Cape for the “people of the covenant” the whites.
He has also held a number of farm viewings for “pioneers”.
The farm has a “great amount of water” but little infrastructure, he wrote. While Gradwell is appealing for people to join the project, which he estimated can house between 20 000 and 40 000 people (20-plus times the more than 1 200 residents of Orania), he has also been asking for contributions.
He wants donations of everything from solar panels, roof tiles and bedding, to water tanks, first aid kits and chickens.
The 55-year-old, said on Friday that he was fielding 30 to 40 calls a day from interested “pioneers” wanting to settle on the land.
Frans Cronje, chief executive of the SA Institute for Race Relations, said whites-only communities such as Orania and Eden had “no effect” on wider race relations.
“Exciting as it all sounds, I just don’t think there is much of a story here. Certainly any suggestion that the whites are all trekking to a volkstaat has zero merit,” he said.
Cronje added that it was uncommon for white South Africans to go to the lengths of physically separating themselves from other South Africans. “Polling results show, for example, that eight out of 10 whites would be happy for their kids to be taught by someone of another race,” he said.
Asked whether Eden fell foul of any laws, Cronje said this was the same problem that organisations such as black business associations were struggling with.
“Denying access to any institution on the basis of race falls foul of the constitution. But the IRR thinks if people want to do their own thing and no one else is being harmed, then let them get on with it.”
Gradwell has been keeping the 1 500 members of the Facebook page up to date with hundreds of posts about the project’s development. “It is everyone’s duty to contribute to the safety and protection of our nation, our values, our culture, our religion and our freedom,” he wrote .
He did upload an aerial plan that shows 60 plots nearly laid out, as well space for rows of houses, two schools, a rugby field and an administration block.
Many of the Facebook group’s members have asked Gradwell to send them information packs, or to reserve plots. “I am looking for five adjacent plots,” posted one user this week. “Won’t you reserve ‘* mooi klompie (a nice bunch) for me?”
Despite Gradwell occasionally appealing to members to refrain from racist language, his statements include repeated offensive posts: “I again ask humbly that members with friends who are volksvreemd (racially different) – including blacks, coloureds, Indians and Muslims, remove these (from your Facebook page),” he wrote. “(These people) causes confidentially risks to our project.”
He said they were busy checking out members, “and will have to remove you”.
“Project Eden is based on a principle that comes from the days of the old Boers, (and) I am going to call it the new colonialism’. You take your family, your possessions and you move to a new place.”
The Eastern Cape Rural Development Department had not replied to an inquiry about whether they were aware of the project by the time of going to press.