The Afrikaner-only town of Orania was founded shortly before white minority rule ended in South Africa by Carel Boshoff Snr, an Afrikaner intellectual and son-in-law of Hendrik Verwoerd, known as the architect of apartheid.
The town was founded to preserve the “Afrikaner way of life” and prevent the dilution of its culture. Mr Verwoerd’s grandson told BBC in 2014 that, “in terms of Afrikaners who had been standing very close to the state, when policies such as black economic empowerment and affirmative action came into place, Afrikaners needed to seriously think about their future. It wouldn’t make sense not to.”
The town’s leaders insisted to the publication that Orania was misunderstood. “We are not against black people. We are for ourselves,” is their message.
The town, however, cannot be described as a travesty because the existence of Orania and places like it are protected by South Africa’s constitution in a clause that ensures the right to self-determination. This was introduced to reassure those who were worried about the transition to democracy and the rights of minorities.
In pursuit of self-determination, Orania has its own currency, the Ora. The name is derived from the Latin word “aurum”, which means “gold”. Although the currency is pegged to the South African rand, the deputy governor of the South African Reserve Bank, Francois Groepe, said the Ora was not a currency but rather a token.
“The only legal tender in South Africa is the South African rand,” Groepe said in a statement.
This means that the Ora is only accepted in Orania and some surrounding towns. To encourage its use, stores in Orania offer a 5% discount for items purchased in Ora, making it the preferred currency in the area.
Dawie Roodt, a self-proclaimed free marketeer, is the economist behind the E-Ora. The current president of the Orania Movement, Carel Boshoff IV, stated that the E-Ora Roodt helped develop will provide a buffer should the rand come “under great pressure or hyper-inflation”.
“If the rand became so weak that one were to decide to walk away from it, one could perhaps couple (the E-Ora) to something else, such as a basket of currencies out there, or something inside Orania; something comparable, which has value,” said the chairman of the Orania Chamber of Commerce, Daniel Dames.
He went on to point out that the ethos in Orania is self-employment and the community’s internal currency “underlines the thought of self-reliance that will stimulate an internal economy”.
For him and other officials tying the local Ora to a hard currency is a more attractive idea than aiming for a fully fledged crypto-currency without any central control. This is mainly because crypto-currencies are fuelled by speculation and is currently for the best, given that the South African Reserve Bank is still developing a position paper on crypto-currencies.