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To Louisa van Niekerk, it is a God-given fact that blacks and whites should be segregated and it is wrong to create a single nation that mixes the races in South Africa.

"God made us different. Why did God make us different if he wanted us together?" asked Mrs. van Niekerk, a farmer's wife in the conservative heartland of South Africa. "God made the sheep and the goats and the cattle, and they stay apart. Even the black birds and the white birds live apart."It is not a question of racism or hatred of blacks, she explained. "We love them, but we like to live separately. Because they're not like us. They're quite different."

Mrs. van Niekerk, 54, and her husband Manie, 61, are adamantly opposed to plans for a democratic South Africa, where everyone would vote and have equal rights regardless of race.

"Black people can't cope with all these changes. They're very slow people," said Mrs. van Niekerk, sitting in the study of the family's large farmhouse. "We must raise them up slowly. Even if they want to go fast, I don't think they can cope with it. I don't think they have the capacity."

Across the parched, brown countryside of the Orange Free State, a farming and mining region known for hard work and hardened views, thousands of whites share the van Niekerks' opposition to a new South Africa.

They hate the government's reforms as much as they hate the drought that destroyed this year's corn crop. To them, the reforms will result in the destruction of the whites, who are outnumbered 6-to-1 by blacks in South Africa.

Like many of their neighbors in the rural areas, the van Niekerks plan to vote against President F.W. de Klerk's reform program on March 17.