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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid