Skip to main content

South African town accused of keeping apartheid alive

By Nkepile Mabuse, CNN
updated 6:43 AM EDT, Fri May 31, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The South African community of Kleinfontein is accused of keeping apartheid's ideals alive
  • Apartheid was a policy of systematic racial discrimination
  • A Kleinfontein spokeswoman says it is a "cultural community" for Afrikaaners only
  • Its residents are accused of using culture and heritage to discriminate against black people

(CNN) -- More than two decades after the death of the systematic racial discrimination policy of apartheid, a community living southeast of South Africa's capital Pretoria is being accused of trying to keep its racist ideals alive.

White men clad in military uniforms stamped with an old South African flag guard the gates of the controversial settlement known as Kleinfontein.

All the signs within its boundaries are written in Afrikaans, the language that developed out of the Dutch dialect spoken by early colonizers and which is spoken by the town's 1,000 white inhabitants.

A bust of Hendrick Verwoerd, the assassinated prime minister considered the architect of apartheid, greets visitors upon entry.

"Kleinfontein is a cultural community," explains its spokeswoman Marisa Haasbroek, "if you are not an Afrikaaner you cannot live here." Afrikaaners are white South Africans of mostly Dutch descent. The private settlement has made headlines in recent weeks after it was exposed by a local newspaper. Haasbroek defends its existence saying residents simply want to live among their own kind.

The 50-year-old mother of two tells CNN she moved to Kleinfontein six years ago shortly after her car was stolen in the city center.

"I was just sick of crime," she says. "My parents-in-law were already living here and they told us Kleinfontein is safe," Haasbroek, her engineer husband and their children packed their belongings and moved to the "whites only" enclave.

Anti-apartheid activist supports women
The lawyer who battled apartheid
How photographers documented apartheid
Legacy left in post-apartheid S. Africa

The area has been in existence since the 1990s. It was formed on the eve of democratic elections at around the same time as its better-known sister settlement, Orania, in the Northern Cape. Most South Africans knew Orania but have only recently learned about Kleinfontein.

Its residents are accused of using culture and heritage to discriminate against black people.

There were even reports that the community has once refused to be assisted by black police officers.

Read more: How S Africa avoided bloody war

"That's simply not true," Haasbroek says. "We do not discriminate, we differentiate."

South Africa's official opposition recently held a protest at Kleinfontein vowing to "liberate" residents from their "apartheid mindsets."

The mayor of Tshwane -- the municipality Kleinfontein falls under -- has also conducted a site visit, saying he supported the residents' right to "conserve their heritage but that it must be balanced with the freedom of others to reside anywhere in the republic."

Despite differing opinions on the matter their right to self-determination is protected by the constitution and the government has said they have the right to live this way.

Race is still an emotional topic in South Africa and Haasbroek has been at pains to explain that residents are screened based on culture, language, religion, history - but not race.

Read more: The cricketer who took on apartheid regime

"We are trying to preserve our own identity," Haasbroek says. "We are swamped by people who are not like us. We are a minority like the people of Tibet in China and like the Palestinians. But we don't want our own state. We respect the laws of South African and we want to remain here."

Orania and Kleinfontein represent about 2,000 people, a tiny minority of the overall Afrikaaner community in South Africa. Haasbroek says crime and affirmative action have left them feeling left out of the so-called "Rainbow Nation."

"We don't really feel welcomed in the new South Africa so we are saying, just give us a little bit of independence."

They already run their own school and they build their own infrastructure. They want to be recognized as a self-contained municipality -- something the local government has said will not happen.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:01 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
The U.S. has promised to supply and train "acceptable" rebels in Syria to counter ISIS. But who are they and are can the strategy work?
updated 10:57 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Do the Chinese really like to mix their Bordeaux with Coca-Cola?
updated 3:48 AM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Al Qaeda's new Syrian branch, Khorasan, is seeking new ways to attack America and Europe, with a top U.S. intelligence official saying it has "aspirations for attacks on the homeland."
updated 8:39 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Branded an "extremist" by China's state-run media, Joshua Wong isn't even old enough to drive.
updated 2:55 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi surprised political pundits with his rapid rise to power. CNN meets the man behind the enigma.
updated 7:44 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Liverpool's Italian forward Mario Balotelli reacts during the UEFA Champions League Group B match between Liverpool and Ludogorets Razgrad at the Anfield stadium in Liverpool on September 16, 2014.
British police launched an investigation into abusive tweets sent to Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli.
updated 7:44 PM EDT, Sun September 21, 2014
A woman who was texting her husband before he was killed reflects on the Westgate attack.
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
The real secret to a faster commute has been with us all along -- the bus.
updated 9:16 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
13 brands retained their Top 20 status from last year, according to an annual survey.
updated 11:49 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Think your new tattoo is cool? Look at how our ancestors did it and think again.
updated 7:00 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT