Sat Oct 21 12:38:15 SAST 2017

Proudly 'boer' - A lifestyle in tatters

2012-12-10 12:49:16.0 | Phalane Motale |

Sitting on the stoep next to a heap of wild morogo, 70-year-old Hester Miggels says she misses the good ol' days.

TROUBLED: Hester 'Ouma Toerie' Miggels (70) has lived in Onverwacht all of her life and is proud of her Afrikaans heritage - which is now being eroded. Pictures by Vathiswa Ruselo

Miggels, popularly known as "Ouma Toerie", says she was born and bred in Onverwacht, and misses the days when they used to share everything with their white Afrikaner neighbours.

"We lived peacefully together and shared everything, from culture to religion.

"We introduced them to pap and morogo and they showed us how to bake koeksisters, soetkoek and pannekoek, and how to cook bobotie," she says, quickly blocking her salivating mouth, in the process nearly bumping her dentures off her gums.

"Most of us lost our teeth due to too much sugar in the koeksisters, canned fruit, home-made jam and other Afrikaner goodies," she jokes.

On entering Onverwacht, a settlement of black Afrikaners about 40km north-east of Pretoria near the mining town of Cullinan, one sees dilapidated old houses, poor roads, vandalised public buildings and shabby infrastructure.

In contrast, there are two well-built church buildings that belong to the Dutch Reformed Church and the Lutheran Church.

Most of the original houses are in a bad state but painted in bright colours to keep the "blink kant bo" (bright side of life).

Onverwacht was established in 1886 and so named after an onverwacht (unexpected) announcement by then president, Paul Kruger, that the community of Onverwacht could remain on the land unconditionally.

The community had arrived in the area with the Voortrekkers as free slaves. During the Anglo-Boer War the Afrikaans citizens settled here until 1910. Then they left.

The black Afrikaners remained, working at the Cullinan diamond mines and on nearby farms.

Today, this unique community of about 100 families are proud of their history and unique Afrikaans language and traditions.

"We do the Boere dans and attend the local NG Kerk, where we have our regular nagmaal (holy communion).

"We're proudly Afrikaner and speak die taal laat die wind waai (the language fluently)," says Miggels, her eyes glowing with pride.

During the Anglo-Boer War (1999-1902) they were promised their own land if they helped the Boers. Despite the Boer defeat, they could still buy their land cheaply - a rare opportunity as black people could not own land at the time.

Most of these folk, who are descendants of Ama-Ndebele and Ba-Pedi farm labourers, are poor and face social problems such as unemployment, lack of service delivery and public amenities, education and economic problems.

The few that have jobs are farm labourers and domestic workers in and around Cullinan.

The prevailing water shortages restrict agricultural projects that could create more jobs.

Outspoken, dark-skinned and full-figured Patricia Machobane (late 40s) was born and bred in Onverwacht. She can speak Sepedi and Zulu, but prefers her "moedertaal" (mother tongue).

She says they value the "bloedgrond" land they inherited from president Kruger, but corrupt officials are illegally selling it to expanding informal settlements.

"This land is not for sale. But worst of all, the money isn't helping us but disappearing into the pockets of a few people who aren't even part of the community.

"And the squatters live on grazing land for which we've had grazing rights since 1919."

Machobane shows us a copy of the document that was referred to in the Government Gazette no. 657 of 21 June 1893, when Onverwacht was handed over to them.

"Now we're being called unprintable, derogatory names for being Afrikaners."

But the people of Onverwacht are not interested in the discrimination. They just want to farm.

"We've always worked on the surrounding farms. We know how to farm," she says.

After years of fruitless attempts to survive as a community, the people of Onverwacht are now planning to register the area as a heritage site to hopefully attract tourists in the near future.

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