The messenger logo

Waiting for Boers

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, November 17
Georgia has enough problems itself; however some fresh problems are appearing and quite often the ruling administration is the instigator behind them. A new headache could be the possible emigration of Boers from South Africa to Georgia. It appears that the idea of migration and settlement of Boers into Georgia belongs to Georgia’s high level authorities and some analysts as well as the public think that these steps could create serious problems in the country that could backfire. Up until now the ordinary Georgian has known little about the Boers. There was one legendary person – Georgian prince Niko Bagration-Mukhraneli who, at the beginning of the 20th century, went as a volunteer to fight in the Boer war of Boer against Britain. In his memoirs he described episodes of this war. Romantic Georgians like stories that portray the struggle of small countries against imperialistic forces, and so within the Georgian community there existed a natural sympathy for the Boer struggle against the British Empire, and in addition Niko Boer was Georgian.

Now however it seems that the romanticism is over and Georgians are waking up in a new reality; it appears that Boers may emigrate and settle in Georgia. When local media recently broadcast the information, people thought it a joke. Some weren’t even aware of the fact but recently the British newspaper The Independent published an article on the issue and suddenly people began to realise that Boers in South Africa really are seriously considering this option. A delegation will be traveling to Georgia for a recognizance mission.

Many here in Georgia now realise that when the ruling administration says, “We want and we will do it,” it is not joking but is serious about acting on this principle. So far the ruling authorities have done whatever they have decided to do, so their dream might come true and pretty soon. Newspaper Kviris Palitra carried out express polling with the question how do you assess possible migration of South African Boers into Georgia. Only 3.2% of respondents were positive about the issue; 85.1% were negative.

Maybe a more professional poll would give a different picture but presumably a negative attitude will prevail. A first glance at Georgian situation could explain this negative attitude. There is serous number of unemployed people in the country; there are problems in industry and in the agricultural sector. More than a million people have abandoned the country. Yet against this background the government is thinking of introducing Boers to Georgia instead of encouraging the native population to return home. As The Independent reports, the Georgian Government’s motivation is that the Boers have years of expertise in developing the agricultural sector and have become very successful in South Africa. However some sceptical analysts think that if the Rose Revolution administration provides the Boers with the same conditions as the local rural population, the successful Boer agricultural experience will be useless here. And if the Georgian government plans to create extra beneficial conditions to the Boers, then why can it not offer such benefits to the local farmers and peasants who have been on the land for thousands of years and managed to survive despite the horrible hardships during the country’s turbulent history.

Georgian agriculture lacks investment; it is in desperate need of machinery, fertilizers, and irrigation systems. What is most serious, however is that it has lost its market and local markets are not protected from cheap genetically modified products entering the country from elsewhere. So, these challenges should first be tackled appropriately on the state level and support should first be given to the locals rather than foreigners.

Boer emigration is unlikely to solve the problems and maybe it will create extra problems for the country on an ethnic level. In the Georgian mentality this Boer project gives birth to different allusions, connected by some to introduction of foreign occupiers in the middle ages and later, which almost always caused antagonism and bloodshed. Some critics of the current administration consider this step unpatriotic and it could mobilise and unite opponents under an interesting slogan. The Labour Party has already organised a briefing on the issue and presumably if the Boer delegation visits Georgia really happens and is publicised this could trigger some serious discontent.