Afrikaner group aims to develop settlement on farm near Willowmore
Plans for an Orania-style whites-only settlement outside the small town of Willowmore in the Eastern Cape have been slammed as “a race tragedy”.
But Die Eden Projek leader Jaqui Gradwell, who aims to develop a 2 300ha tract of land into a settlement for between 20 000 and 40 000 people, said the enclave was simply a response to “white genocide and BEE”.
Describing the potential settlers as land pioneers, Gradwell said: “We are tired of our people being killed and hundreds of thousands being chased into informal settlements.
“There is a genocide happening in South Africa, and the United States and Europe. It’s as plain as day to see.”
ANC spokesman and rural development and agrarian reform MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane said if the proposed settlement went ahead, it would be a serious race tragedy.
Die Eden Projek, which registered as a non-profit company in July, is in the process of buying the land, which will have both a primary and high school as well as a hospital on site.
Gradwell said farming would provide the group with all its needs. No black labour would be used. Instead, whites from informal settlements would be brought in to work the land and build the place.
“Those who believe in the rainbow nation are free to do so, but we are happy to have any person who has the same values as us – people who feel threatened by the current regime , ” Gradwell said.
Asked if people of other races who also felt “threatened ” by the regime would be welcome to join, he replied: “No comment.”
Talking about the “white genocide”, Gradwell said: “Whites are being murdered daily, there is BEE, no benefits . . . let’s not play around – we all know it’s happening. “This [settlement] is a cultural project. “A culture that is currently being killed. “It is not a racist project, it is based on fact. We have the right to that.”
Gradwell, whose beard harks back to the Voortrekker era, is vocal about his beliefs on his Facebook page, urging families to join and create a legacy to be proud of and a safe future for their children.
However, Die Eden Projek’s Facebook page is less accessible, with reports suggesting that only white South Africans who do not have any black friends can join.
Asked about this, Gradwell said the page was closed as “we have security issues”. “You see this [information that only whites without black friends can join] has already been leaked,” he said.
The Facebook page has about 1 500 members and is, according to Gradwell, growing by the hour.
Non-Christians are also not welcome in the Eden settlement.
Asked who exactly would be able to settle on the farm land, Gradwell said that besides Afrikaners, English- speaking white South Africans would be accepted as long as “they believe in our Father God”.
Asked about white Afrikaner atheists, he said: “No, we would not like that.”
Willowmore businessman Willem Swanepoel, who is retiring and selling the farm as he is moving, confirmed the deal was in progress.
Although unsure about the precise plans for the land, he said he believed it was for a group of people “who want to live together as Afrikaners”.
“Some of the people who have been to look at the land looked middle-class, some poor and a few wealthy, but it’s hard to tell,” he said.
Swanepoel did not want to say how much the property was selling for, but said it was “the going rate, between R2 500 and R3 000 a hectare”.
The land is believed to have been put on the market for about R7-million.
Dr Beyers Naude Municipality mayor Deon de Vos said he knew nothing about the proposed settlement, but would follow up as the farm was in his municipality.
Former Baviaans municipality mayor Ewald Loock, now a councillor in Willowmore, said he had heard about the proposed settlement two weeks ago.
I contacted the owner of the land they were talking about and he confirmed that the people had approached him,” he said.
“By law, if you want to develop land which is more than 4ha you must do an environmental impact assessment. “There is a lot of legislation to be followed, like the National Environmental Management Act, if you want to develop land that big.”
He said the group would therefore need to consult the municipality.
The farm borders the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve, a national heritage site.
“There are very strict regulations when one wants to develop around it,” Loock said.
“In my time as mayor, people found it difficult to follow procedure and the guidelines to own a development there. “My opinion is that those people are so far [removed] from reality.”
Gradwell said the settlement would follow the laws of the land.
“We have very competent people and legal representatives working with us,” he said.
Qoboshiyane said: “Naturally, there is no illegality for any South African citizen purchasing the land for development. “But there will be a serious race tragedy if white people can still be consumed with racial human settlements which will be [for the] sole preservation of a privileged few.”
He urged Beyers Naude councillors to scrutinise rezoning, property acquisition, human settlement and business developments thoroughly so that projects like these could be exposed.
“South Africa is being agitated by these tendencies,” Qoboshiyane said.