Gathered here at the hill where 150 years ago their forebears won the first major battle against black tribesmen in an epic inland trek, a small but resolute group of white South Africans heard Friday that they are again threatened and must fight for the survival of their Afrikaner nation.
South Africa's white minority has all but lost its struggle to remain in power, said Prof. Carel W. H. Boshoff, leader of the ultrarightist Afrikaner Volkswag, and Afrikaners should now stake their claim to that part of the country that could become the new, all-white Afrikaner fatherland.
"The pressure to include permanent (black) residents in the political structure of the country cannot in the long term be fought off," Boshoff warned, denouncing as "illusory" the government's hopes of retaining control through its step-by-step reforms.
"Citizenship (for blacks) will inevitably lead to a political takeover, and the Afrikaner will lose his freedom and his fatherland. In the long term, the black majority will take over here," he said.
Carve a New Country
The only realistic alternative, Boshoff said, is to carve a new country from South Africa for the Afrikaners, who number about 2.9 million, and for any other of the country's 5 million whites who wish to join them to escape the inevitability of a black-majority government here.
For Afrikaners, the descendants of Dutch, French and German settlers who came from Europe three centuries ago, giving up control of present-day South Africa might be traumatic, Boshoff said, but majority rule would mean their disappearance as a separate people. Only a new "Boer republic," modeled on those established by the Boers, or Afrikaner farmers, in the 1800s, could guarantee their survival.
However implausible such an all-white secessionist state may sound, the despair among many conservative white South Africans today is such that Boshoff was loudly cheered by the 500 Afrikaner Volkswag supporters here.
Boshoff is no crank, but an increasingly influential leader on the rapidly growing far right of white politics.
For 4 Million People
His plan for a new Afrikaner volkstaat, or national state based on the Afrikaners' history and traditions, would be a unified territory with defensible borders and have sufficient land, industry, minerals, water and other resources to support up to 4 million people.
A theology professor at the University of Pretoria, Boshoff, 58, is the son-in-law of the late Prime Minister Hendrik F. Verwoerd, one of the architects of apartheid.
In the 2 1/2 years since its founding, Boshoff's Afrikaner Volkswag, or Guardian of the Afrikaner People, has developed into a major political force on the far right as white fears of the future have grown with the country's continuing black unrest.
The answer to those fears, Boshoff and other speakers said, is a revival of Afrikaner nationalism. It was that same spirit that took the 19th-Century Boers on their Great Trek inland to escape British rule along the coast in Cape province, that steeled them for their battles with the black tribes of the region and that enabled them to develop their big farms here.
The Afrikaner Volkswag sought to invoke that spirit Friday by recalling the Boers' first major battle of the Great Trek here on Oct. 2, 1836, when 33 men and seven youths armed with muzzle-loading rifles fought off 5,000 Matabele tribesmen, losing only two men to 430 Matabeles.
Among the youths at Vegkop in 1836, it was recalled, was 11-year-old Paul Kruger, who became the symbol of Afrikaner nationalism and whose Oct. 10 birthday is observed as a public holiday.
Although the crowd here was not large--Kruger Day celebrations elsewhere drew four and five times the number--the ceremony at the symbolically important battle monument at Vegkop in a remote region of the Orange Free State about 115 miles south of Johannesburg enabled the Afrikaner Volkswag to bolster its claim to be the true embodiment of Afrikaner nationalism.