Onverwacht

  • April 22, 2013

Onverwacht

The small village of Onverwacht, nestled in the Dinokeng region, is one with an unusual story, especially given South Africa’s Apartheid history. It tells a tale of peaceful coexistence between the races, which was unheard of as well as prohibited by the then government.

Hester Miggels

Onverwacht was established in 1886 by President Paul Kruger, with a proviso that the community could remain as it was indefinitely, as free Malay slaves had accompanied the Voortrekkers on their journey. White Afrikaners remained in the town until 1910, and black Afrikaners stayed on to work on the mines and farms in the surrounding area. The village was also the site of the Battle of Onverwacht which took place on the 4th January 1902 during the Anglo-Boer war. It was the last great clash between the Boer and British forces, and interestingly the actual battle only lasted a mere twenty minutes. During the war, the black community were promised their own land if they helped the Boers in their fight. Despite the Boer defeat, they were still able to purchase the land cheaply, a rare opportunity considering black people were not allowed to own land at the time.

Elderly couple in Onverwacht

Today, Onverwacht is populated primarily by black Afrikaners, approximately 100 families who are fiercely proud of their heritage and language. Many are of Ndebele or Pedi descent, whose ancestors were farm labourers in the region. The town unfortunately is run down and dilapidated, with vandalised buildings and sub-standard infrastructure that contrasts starkly against the well maintained churches in the area. Along with this come the socio-economic challenges of unemployment, and after decades of battling to preserve their traditions and community, the people of Onverwacht have petitioned the current government to have their town declared a heritage site so they can share tales of their proud heritage with tourists.