Afrikaners' Ironic Second Trek

Some disgruntled whites on another quest for a homeland stream into black-ruled Mozambique

SOME ancestors of the Voortrekkers of old - Dutch-descended Afrikaners who turned their back on British rule 150 years ago and trekked into South Africa's rugged interior - are now looking for a refuge in this undeveloped and fertile land with its vast and scenic Indian Ocean coastline.

When the Voortrekkers packed their ox-drawn wagons and began a dangerous journey north from the Cape Province in 1836, they were embarking on a spiritual quest for self-determination that brought them into conflict with the country's black majority.

Ironically, some of their descendants are looking to underdeveloped, black-ruled states for a refuge from what they see as an era of vengeance against the Afrikaner that they believe will accompany black rule in South Africa.

``I am not going to let [African National Congress President Nelson] Mandela get his hands on the money I have worked a lifetime to save for my retirement,'' says Willie van Zyl (not his real name), a middle-aged man from the Transvaal town of Pietersburg who sees no future under a black majority government in South Africa.

``I have no grandiose ambitions.... I just want to find a place in the sun where I can live a simple life without the constant threat of retribution for the past,'' he says in a camping site here run by a fellow Afrikaner.

Willie and his friend Piet, who is accompanying him, are reluctant to be identified because their venture into neighboring Mozambique is exploratory and uncertain. If their mission succeeds, they will buy a piece of real estate in the picturesque coastal resort of Tofu near Inhambane, which is located about 180 miles north of here on poor roads.

``We have been told that it is the only place in Mozambique where a foreigner can buy land, but we are unsure of the legal implications. The land costs about 300 rands [$90], but the bribes and legal fees amount to another 3,500 rands [$1,000],'' Willie says.

Jacques, the young Afrikaner who runs the camping site, has to cross the border every few months to renew his visa. He has begun bargaining with local Mozambican officials and landowners for their cut in his profits.

``I don't know what the future holds,'' says Jacques. ``But I have been here since January, and I enjoy the way of life.''

Xai-Xai, a former coastal haven for South African tourists and Portuguese Mozambicans, offers excellent fishing, scuba diving, and a wealth of marine life in a massive tidal pool protected by a barrier reef, which runs for miles along the coast.

The once-packed hotels and holiday homes lay deserted for 17 years after the sudden departure of the Portuguese when independence was declared by the former rebels of the Marxist-Leninist Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) in 1976.

The Frelimo government, which signed a peace accord with the anticommunist rebel group Renamo in Rome last October, has today turned to democracy and a free market economy, and welcomes the growing trickle of tourists and Portuguese returning to reclaim their property.

South African tourists and adventure seekers are braving the pot-hole infested roads from the Swaziland and South African borders to Maputo - a mere six-hour drive from Johannesburg and less than an hour by air.

The roads are still littered with burned-out wrecks from the war, but attacks ceased soon after the signing of the peace accord.

On long weekends, hundreds of Afrikaans-speaking tourists from the Transvaal set up camp along the Xai-Xai coast in tents and trailers.

But the Voortrekkers of today come in four-wheel drive vehicles rather than ox-drawn wagons.

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