PROFESSOR Carel Boshoff sports the cropped remains of a gray beard he grew two years ago to celebrate the 150th anniversary of an arduous journey by Afrikaner pioneers known as Voortrekkers. The doughty Dutch-descended settlers set off from the Cape Province in 1938 on an uncharted journey - known as the Great Trek - into the inhospitable interior of the country in wooden wagons drawn by oxen.
Today some of their descendants - having achieved political power and economic prosperity - are contemplating another ``trek'' into a section of the country they have dominated for the past four decades.
``Afrikaners can only achieve sovereignty and survive as a distinctive nation in a country of their own,'' says Dr. Boshoff.
The purpose of the extraordinary journey is to avoid what they see as the humiliation of black rule and the dilution of their Afrikaner identity and culture.
``If we want our self-determination and our freedom we must accept a smaller portion of the land,'' says Boshoff in an interview in the thatched bungalow-office adjoining his rambling Pretoria home.
``It has not been possible for the whites to create a state which makes blacks happy,'' he says. ``So how can blacks create a state which will make me happy?''
The area for the Afrikaner nation state has been selected to involve the minimum dislocation of settled black groups.
``We realize that 40 million blacks cannot disappear in the air like smoke,'' he says. It is neither moral, nor tenable, to maintain a minority government forever.''
Boshoff is a respected Afrikaner theologian who once headed the Afrikaner Broederbond, a secret and influential Afrikaner brotherhood which is now a think tank with close ties to President Frederik de Klerk.
Boshoff believes that his proposal is winning converts in the Conservative Party, the main right-wing group, of which he is a member.
He is also encouraged by a recent Broederbond initiative that acknowledges the right of Afrikaners to opt for a white homeland and seeks to reach consensus on a partition proposal as a possible constitutional solution.
[Officially, the De Klerk government rejects the idea of a separate white - or Afrikaner - homeland.]
But the Conservative Party does accept the idea of a white homeland.
In the past this has meant retaining the whole of the country - excluding the black tribal homelands. Now the debate on accepting less than the whole cake is moving in Boshoff's direction. ``People on the right sometimes accuse me of being defeatist,'' he says.
Boshoff says that he would like to see his proposals form part of the process of negotiating a new constitution.
He has prepared a detailed proposal for a white homeland in a desolate part of the country.
Originally, the homeland would have incorporated the southern third of what is now the independent state of Namibia.
Boshoff still hopes that it might be possible to swap the South African enclave of Walvis Bay for the southern portion of Namibia.
Afrikaners and those who identified with that cause would be eligible for citizenship, and the emphasis would be on an export-driven economy based on high tech manufacturing.
Above the entrance of his circular office is a black-and-white photograph of the late Hendrik Verwoerd, architect of the plan for racial partition based on independent black homelands.
He was Boshoff's father-in-law. [Another man - a son of Verwoerd, also named Hendrik - heads a group known as the association of Orange Workers which has begun the nucleus of another white homeland in the tiny village of Morgenzon - about 100 miles southeast of Johannesburg.]
Boshoff recalls that it was Verwoerd who said in 1959: ``I would rather have a smaller state that is white than a larger state which has already been given away to black domination.''
But Boshoff says he opposes the use of force until all political avenues have been exhausted. ``In the end we will take up arms for what we believe in,'' he says.
As he shows this reporter to the door, his next guests - two black men - are waiting outside.
Slightly embarrassed, Boshoff introduces his guests by name.
``Who do you represent?'' they are asked.
``The African National Congress,'' said one of the men, confirming his membership in South Africa's main black liberation movement.
Carel Boshoff is clearly the respectable face of the white right wing.