Orania's existence challenges ANC's commitment to non-racialism - ActionSA

Recognizing Orania sets a precarious precedent, says Andrew Louw

The Silent Erosion of Democracy: The Politics of Identity in South Africa

22 June 2024

The ANC, once the vanguard of South Africa's liberation struggle, has seemingly done the unthinkable by aligning with the Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus), a party traditionally rooted in Afrikaner nationalism. This unexpected partnership, driven by the ANC's desperation to bolster its dwindling support, reveals a troubling duplicity that should give every South African a pause.

Historically, the ANC has vehemently opposed Orania, an Afrikaner-only enclave in the Northern Cape, for its exclusionary policies. Founded in 1991 during the fragile transition to democracy, Orania stood as a stark reminder of apartheid's divisive legacy. The ANC's mission was clear: dismantle apartheid's remnants and promote a unified, inclusive society. Endorsing a racially exclusive town would have flown in the face of everything the party stood for.

Orania's very existence challenges the ANC's commitment to non-racialism. Its policies explicitly bar non-Afrikaner residents, making it a symbol of ongoing segregation. For a party that prided itself on fostering a non-racial South Africa, recognizing Orania was inconceivable. The ANC's principles and the town's exclusivity were irreconcilable, and acknowledging its legitimacy would have sent a contradictory message about the party's stance on integration versus cultural preservation.

Yet, shortly after the 2024 elections, the ANC's precarious hold on power has led it to forge an alliance with a party that staunchly defends Orania's right to exist. This newfound camaraderie smacks of political expediency. The ANC's willingness to join hands with a party that champions the very principles it once opposed exposes a disconcerting readiness to sacrifice core values for numerical advantage.

Recent developments concerning the recognition of Orania bring to light a significant and troubling development in South African politics. Orania seeks constitutional recognition, leveraging Section 235 of the South African Constitution. This section provides for the right to self-determination, allowing communities to preserve their culture and language. While such provisions are vital in protecting cultural diversity, their potential misuse can lead to the silent erosion of democratic values in South Africa.

Recognizing Orania sets a precarious precedent. It suggests that any group with sufficient political leverage can claim a similar status, potentially fragmenting the nation along tribal lines. If the Orania model is legitimized, what prevents other communities, such as the Nama in Namakwaland or the Barolong in Thaba Nchu, from demanding autonomous regions under the banner of self-determination? This could lead to a balkanization of South Africa, undermining the very essence of our democracy, which is built on inclusivity and unity.

The politics of Identity, while important in acknowledging and preserving cultural heritage, becomes dysfunctional when it drives people to conform to narrow group identities instead of making informed choices. In a democracy, the power of the vote is paramount. When citizens cast their votes based on identity politics rather than informed decisions, the democratic process is compromised. This conformity can lead to the entrenchment of divisions and the erosion of a collective national identity.

In contrast, ActionSA offers a refreshing alternative. ActionSA's policy values inclusivity and actively considers the diversity of South Africans. Our slogan, "Act as One," encapsulates the idea that our diversity should complement and complete our actions. By promoting policies that unify rather than divide, ActionSA exemplifies how diversity can be a strength rather than a point of division.

This move forces us to question the ANC's integrity and commitment to its foundational principles. Is the party now so desperate that it is willing to embrace the ideologies it once fought against? Such political maneuvering undermines the ANC's credibility and raises doubts about its dedication to a truly non-racial, inclusive South Africa.

In conclusion, while the right to self-determination is an essential aspect of our Constitution, its application must not compromise the unity and democratic values of our nation. The recognition of Orania by is a step that must be carefully reconsidered. It is a reminder that the politics of identity, if left unchecked, can silently erode the democratic fabric of our society. We must strive for a South Africa where diversity is celebrated within a united national identity, ensuring that democracy remains vibrant and inclusive for all.

Statement issued by Andrew Louw, ActionSA Northern Cape Provincial Chairperson, 22 June 2024