Right-wing Afrikaners declare their town a `white homeland'

One of the coldest small towns in the whole of South Africa has suddenly become a hot talking point because of a plan to turn it into the heart of a ``white homeland.'' The town, which is about 70 miles from Johannesburg, is Morgenzon. A group of right-wing Afrikaners want all the blacks living there (2,200 compared to 946 whites) to be relocated.

Then they propose that whites should be imported to do the heavy work at present done by blacks and that white women should become servants on the nearby farms.

The sight of whites doing all their own work would be an ``inspiration'' to other South African whites, they say. Beyond that, such a spectacle would transform the town into ``a tourist attraction,'' these Afrikaners believe.

The organization behind the white homeland experiment is the Orange Workers' Union, which takes its name from the Orange River, which marks the border between the more liberal Cape Province and the conservative northern provinces of Orange Free State and Transvaal.

Acting as its honorary chairwoman is Betsie Verwoerd, the widow of former South African Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, whose son, Hendrik, serves as the union's full-time secretary. Afrikaans University professors are among the union's leaders.

Long-term residents of Mor-genzon were taken aback when they received a letter recently from the white homelands group advising them ``with pleasure'' that they were living in a town that was to be ``transformed into a full-scale Orange Workers' Union growth point.'' In the same letter residents were told that if they did not go along with the plan, they would be ``dealt with.''

One of the residents has already begun to ``set a good example'' for other whites: Town Clerk Frikkie Jooste now drives the town's refuse truck around, collecting and dumping the rubbish himself, instead of leaving the job to blacks. He has also begun to repair residents' lawn mowers in his spare time.

Two nearby farmers, members of the Orange Workers' Union, have drastically reduced the number of blacks they employ on their farms. The plan is that, in time, each farmer in the area will fire all his black workers, hiring white workers in their place.

Businessmen in the town -- which has four garages, two general stores, one second-hand furniture shop, a hotel, and a few drugstores -- are not impressed with the Orange Workers' Union proposal.

They point out that the 2,200 blacks from the nearby township are vital to the town's economy, especially, as one put it, ``since they pay cash and do not ask for credit like the whites.''

``When the whole plan flops, the Orange Workers will just clear off and leave us holding the bag,'' he added.

Nevertheless, members of the Orange Workers' Union say they intend to press on. They admit that many in the town oppose them but they claim, ``Most Afrikaners can be persuaded to support the concept of a white homeland if it is put to them correctly.''

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