It was a long trip for the Schlebusch family. They’ve been preparing for this journey for over a year – making presentations, writing emails and a memorandum to their friends in Russia – a distant country on another continent, where they’ve never been before, but which they like for its traditions and support of traditional Christian values.
Beyond the pastoral setting in Schlebusch family photos (part of their presentation sent to Russian friends), there’s also deep concern: these people love their land and lifestyle, but they are clearly afraid to lose it all. pic.twitter.com/MhJ7xfQ58O— Denis Bolotsky (@BolotskySputnik) July 10, 2018
The Schlebusch family are Boers – representatives of South Africa’s white minority group, descendants of Dutch and Belgian immigrants. The Boers and Afrikaners have been residing on the Rainbow Continent for many generations, but now many of them say that it is becoming a dangerous place to live:
“During the past three decades our people have been tortured, murdered and marginalized in South African society,” Schlebusch family members wrote in a memorandum sent to their Russian friends. “Our authorities are negative towards us, because we are maligned as former oppressors, and some radicals are even encouraging genocide towards us.”
When the delegation arrived in southern Russia, they were met by Vladimir Poluboyarenko, an aide to the Stavropol region’s ombudsman. The guests had a chance to meet with the leaders of local ethnic groups, including the influential Stavropol Cossacks and received assurances that they would receive any help they need should they eventually decide to settle in the region.
“Boers are very important for Russia,” Poluboyarenko told Sputnik. “They are hard workers, Christians. They possess knowledge of agricultural technology, which we currently don’t have here. Stavropol region is prepared to accommodate from 30 to 50 families immediately. I think they are a blessing for us.”
South African guests visiting the village of Donskoe. Founded in 1777 by Cossack settlers, this place and the neighboring communities could become new home for South African farmers. (Photo by Vladimir Poluboyarenko) pic.twitter.com/9qa4YFGkXj— Denis Bolotsky (@BolotskySputnik) July 10, 2018
However, Russians are not the only ones who have noticed pleas for help coming from the Boer and Afrikaner minorities. There are also Flemish activist groups, which raise funds and bring humanitarian aid to poor minority communities, organizing rallies in Europe. According to a Flemish activist and official representative of South Africa’s Kleinfontein community in the EU, Ruben Rosiers, there is currently a lack of understanding and almost no support for the cause from the international NGOs, businesses and politicians in Belgium:
“A Belgian politician will not win or lose any votes by caring for South Africa” – Rosiers told Sputnik – “But we are connected to them. There are still many people having businesses there. And I hope that those people will stand up and ask our Parliament to get in action, because there is a minority under threat – an Afrikaner minority.”
In May Belgian activists brought humanitarian aid to Afrikaners in need. Photos by Ruben Rosiers from the “Committee for the Afrikaner” who delivered food and schoolbooks to Kleinfontein, met with locals in Munsieville. pic.twitter.com/wo7Z1Ss3gt— Denis Bolotsky (@BolotskySputnik) July 10, 2018
News about Afrikaners planning to move to Russia quickly spread through Belgium’s social media. Ruben Rosiers says that if such “exodus” happens, he’s hoping that the farmers will be able to preserve their culture and identity in their new home country:
“I can’t blame people that they don’t want to sleep with the gun under their bed anymore, afraid to be killed, or raped, or burned alive. Russia has a tradition of being multi-religious and multi-ethnical federation. Russia shows that it’s ready to receive Afrikaner people, and I think it’s clever because they are disciplined, very strong and loyal people.”
Rosiers and other Flemish activists are preparing for a rally in The Hague this September to support Afrikaners. Meanwhile, Stavropol officials will be looking into possibilities of helping the Schlebusch family and other Boers, who would like to relocate to the region. But whether these and other measures will be sufficient in solving the problems of South Africa’s ethnic minorities remains to be seen.