News / Africa

Afrikaner Farmers Migrating to Georgia

South African farmer Piet Kemp inspecting baby corn in Sartichala, Georgia, July 28, 2011.
South African farmer Piet Kemp inspecting baby corn in Sartichala, Georgia, July 28, 2011.
James Brooke

A South African court on September 12 convicted Julius Malema, president of the African National Congress Youth League, of hate speech for singing "shoot the Boer, kill the Boer" at a rally last year. But some Boers (white South African farmers) say they have had enough of violence and racial tension in South Africa and are planning to move out. VOA's James Brooke visited one Afrikaner who started farming this year in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.

Piet Kemp's family farmed in southern Africa for three centuries. But now at age 66, this Afrikaner farmer has traded South Africa's Eastern Transvaal for Eastern Georgia. Here, he is reviving wheat and corn production on what was once a Soviet collective farm. Kemp says he has no regrets.

"I have a new life here," he explained. "I try to make friends with all the people in Georgia, learning their culture. I have been here since 3rd of March, and I have not heard of one murder in Georgia in this time. I didn't hear about any bank robbery. I didn't hear about any one hijacking."

It was not just high crime rates that prompted Kemp to leave South Africa. 

"There is no security of land, absolutely no security of land in South Africa," he stressed.

Kemp said that over the last decade he successfully helped hundreds of white farmers hold on to their farmland in face of legal challenges from black farm workers and squatters.  But now, he says white farmers face threats of farm seizures by ANC Youth League President Julius Malema and other politicians.

"With a youth leader like Malema, he can go up and stand and say to anyone I want this land for South Africa, for the future of South Africa," noted Kemp. "He can take just what he wants. For me, I just say no."

The Bill of Rights in South Africa’s 1996 post-apartheid constitution protects land ownership rights, stipulating restitution for land that is redistributed.  This law, defenders say, has limited land expropriations.  A two-thirds vote in parliament is needed to change the constitution, a majority the ruling ANC does not have.

Georgia is playing on these insecurities, actively recruiting Afrikaner farmers to help revive the nation's moribund agriculture. In the 20 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, half of Georgia's farmland has gone out of production.

"They have done exceptionally great job over the years in South Africa, and to give them an opportunity to do the same thing here and for Georgian farmers to learn from the experience they will receive from their new neighbors, from the South African farmers," said Georgia's Canada-educated Economy Minister, Vera Kobalia.

Kobalia praises Sandra Roelofs, the Dutch-born wife of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, for promoting the program.  Dutch is the mother language of Afrikaans.

"It helped in terms of making them feel more secure in Georgia," Kobalia noted.  "There is definitely that connection, the Holland connection in Georgia."

South African farmer Piet Kemp inspects grain seed in Sartichala, Georgia, July 28, 2011.
South African farmer Piet Kemp inspects grain seed in Sartichala, Georgia, July 28, 2011.
Kemp says that Georgia's Dutch-speaking first lady impressed a visiting group of Afrikaner farmers last year.

"Sandra, she was touring a week with us," said Kemp.  "We pick[ed] grapes together. We spoke Netherlands."

Kemp is a devout Protestant and feels a strong connection to Georgia's overwhelmingly Christian Orthodox population.

"We believe in the same thing, believe in the same God," said Kemp.

Kemp says he and other Afrikaner pioneers feel welcome. But Mariam Jorjadze, who runs a farmers' aid organization, worries that the 10 Afrikaner families here now could lead to a big influx of foreign farm directors. As in the Soviet days, Georgian farmers could again be reduced to laborers on big industrial farms.

"If the trend will be many South Africa farmers coming and there will tendency to convert people in rural areas again into labor force for foreign investors, I don't think that this system is viable. It resembles the former Soviet system," said Jorjadze.

Kemp believes that Afrikaners will help jump start Georgian agriculture. But he cautions that they must integrate into Georgian society.

"We must go into Georgia as Georgians - in Georgian culture, in Georgian language - so that they see us as Georgians, not as South Africans coming to Georgia," Kemp explained.

Kemp adds that he does not want his new life in Georgia to be like his old life in South Africa, where he was part of a successful minority envied by the majority population.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid