Phil craig writes that in just 24 months, greater provincial autonomy, including the option of outright independence, has shifted from political obscurity to the dominant political philosophy of the Western Cape.
It is only at the very end of a Sherlock Holmes novel that a series of seemingly harmless events is pulled together into what suddenly becomes an obvious truth. Until then, readers try to weave meaning into isolated incidents presented to them without sufficient context.
On May 7, 2021, and without fanfare, AfriForum quietly announced the opening of an office in the Western Cape via its website. The following sentence appeared discreetly in their statement:
“Afriforum also aspires to a growing autonomy in this province and sees the decentralization of power as a solution to the crisis in this country.
Considering that calls for outright independence are now ubiquitous in local political discourse, growing autonomy may seem relatively commonplace. Perhaps it now seems so banal is, in itself, meaningful. However, the real story is how the balance of political power seeking greater provincial autonomy has aligned without almost anyone realizing it.
DA leading the narrative of greater provincial autonomy
On March 2, 2019, the leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA) at the time, Mmusi Maimane, launched the provincial manifesto of the Western Cape Party, which placed strong emphasis on the devolution of power from the central government to the provincial government.
At the launch, new Prime Minister Alan Winde said: “The only thing stopping us from doing more in the Western Cape is the corrupt and broken national government.
“I will fight to delegate police powers and resources to the provincial government in order to establish a provincial police service that is modern, honest and professional.
“We have had enough of the ANC national government rail service in our province. We do not have enough trains and they are never on time.”
READ | Melanie Verwoerd: Wexit: Should the Western Cape become independent?
On September 3, 2020, the State Prosecutor’s National Political Conference resolved the following:
“DA at all levels takes a pioneering, courageous and militant approach to delegating more substantial powers from the sphere of national government to well-managed provincial and local governments with the demonstrated ability to deliver services effectively. This includes, but is not limited to, delegating control of police, railways, ports, water storage and power generation to the national government level.
“Any devolution of power from the national sphere to the spheres of provincial and local government must be based on the principle that ‘funding follows service delivery’, thus ensuring that all delivery mandates assumed by provincial and local governments are adequately funded. “
On October 16, 2020, following a legal battle with the DA, the national government published in the Official Gazette the right for Cape Town and other financially healthy municipalities to generate and purchase their own electricity. .
Broad political consensus formed organically
On November 10, 2020, Dr Corné Mulder announced to the Cape Town Press Club that the Freedom Front Plus (VF +) is supporting Cape Independence and will campaign for secession in the 2021 local elections.
On November 21, 2020, the Western Cape DA held its provincial congress, where it decided to allow local government to defy the law to protect the constitutional rights of residents of the Western Cape. Congress also decided to address issues with national legislation that prevented the Prime Minister of the Western Cape from calling for provincial referendums as permitted by the Constitution of the Western Cape.
On December 5, 2020, the Cape Colored Congress (CCC), the political wing of the Gatvol Capetonians movement, was registered as a political party. The Gatvol Capetonians have publicly expressed their support for Cape Independence, as has Cape Colored Congress leader Fadiel Adams.
On the same day, the Cape Party, Freedom Front Plus, CapeXit, Cape Independence Advocacy Group (CIAG) and Bruin Bemagtiging Beweging jointly organized the “Cloetesville March for Cape Independence” in Stellenbosch.
On April 21, 2021, the CCC recorded 20% of the vote in the Delft by-election, the first it contested, with the DA also retaining 50% of the vote. The following week, CapeXit announced that it now has more than 800,000 individual mandates from people calling for Cape independence (nearly 25% of all voters in the Western Cape).
On May 5, 2021, during a podcast to promote her new book, Helen Zille said:
“One thing on which we support them very fully (the independence movement) is the right to organize a referendum, and currently the Prime Minister has the power, in theory, to call a referendum, but only in terms of national legislation which does not exist, and we are therefore all in favor of tabling this national legislation so that referendums can be organized by the provinces. “
Strong support for Cape Independence among voters
So where does all this take the plot of our provincial thriller?
Quietly, and without any notable drama, the DA, VF +, Cape Party, CCC, AfriForum, and CapeXit, who together make up about 60% or more of all voters in the Western Cape, are now openly calling to a much greater autonomy for the Western Cape.
Before opening its branch in the Western Cape, AfriForum interviewed its members in the Western Cape. Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority supported Cape Independence. When Victory Research polled the Western Cape in August 2020 on behalf of CIAG, the majority of voters in DA, VF + and Good all voted in favor of Cape Independence.
GOOD leadership is fiercely opposed to independence, which is somewhat embarrassing since 75% of their voters polled were in favor, and one cannot help but wonder if direct competition with the Cape Colored Congress will influence this opinion.
The ANC and EFF have so far remained clearly silent on the issue in the opposing camp. Between the two parties, they only get 33% of the provincial votes. Both are strongly in favor of an increasingly centralized government.
Referendum legislation will be a catalyst
When the DA passes its 2020 resolution to correct national referendum legislation, that silence will be irrevocably broken and “greater provincial autonomy” will become a political battleground. The ANC will almost certainly drag its heels, but it ultimately cannot prevent referendum legislation since the constitutional right for the prime minister to call a referendum already exists. It’s just that the Referendum Act has never been updated to reflect the current Constitution and is therefore unconstitutional.
So the national government will have to allow referendums, and the provincial government will almost certainly call them. The DA is unlikely to fully support Cape Independence and has questioned the practical modalities of realistically and non-violently achieving or implementing independence, but it will come under immense pressure from its members. own voters and political allies in the province, all of whom favor independence.
On the other hand, the national ANC government will have to decide whether to compromise on greater provincial autonomy for the Western Cape, which would be anathema to them, or stand firm and risk supporting the DA in the corner of Cape Independence.
READ | Opinion: Dear Melanie, Cape Town’s independence stinks of democracy not racism
Nationally, the DA continues to consider its options through the prism of the South African Constitution. However, with their November 2020 resolution, provincial prosecutors have shown that they are more willing to weigh the law against moral imperatives rather than just blindly obeying it. AfriForum and Freedom Front Plus favor a de facto rather than constitutional approach to greater autonomy, taking power one bite at a time, while pro-independence groups openly support the option of a unilateral declaration of independence if the national government, in the event of a democratic provincial mandate of secession, do not want to negotiate. This is an action which in 2010 the International Court of Justice made it clear that it was not prohibited by international law.
In just 24 months, significantly greater provincial autonomy, including the option of outright independence, has shifted from political obscurity to the dominant political philosophy of the Western Cape, and, remarkably, hardly anyone is there. ‘have noticed.
They will, soon.
– Phil Craig is co-founder of the Cape Independence Advocacy Group (CIAG).
To receive Opinions Weekly, subscribe to the newsletter here. Now available to all News24 readers.
* Do you want to respond to the columnist? Send your letter or article to [email protected] with your name and city or province. You can also send a profile picture. We encourage a diversity of voices and viewpoints in our readers’ submissions, and we reserve the right not to publish all submissions received.
Disclaimer: News24 promotes freedom of expression and the expression of diverse opinions. The opinions of the columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent those of News24.