On 1 October 2021, the Cape Independence Advocacy Group (CIAG) announced that the Democratic Alliance, among seven other smaller but still significant parties, had pledged their support to hold a Cape Independence referendum.
The supporting parties are:
- African Christian Democratic Party
- Cape Coloured Congress
- Cape Independence Party
- Democratic Alliance
- Karoo Ontwikkeling Party
- United Independent Movement
- Vryheidsfront Plus
The Referendum for Cape Independence
Backing for holding the referendum itself does not necessarily mean support for independence, but rather, a recognition that the Western Cape people deserve the right to decide for themselves.
The CIAG press release states:
“The ANC has now governed South Africa for 27 years, yet most Western Cape voters have never voted for them. The Western Cape did not vote the ANC into power, and it has no viable mechanism by which to vote them out. The ANC is forcing down policies onto the Western Cape against its will, despite only having 28.6% of the provincial vote.”
The allowing of provincial referendums at all is a huge step towards increasing meaningful democracy and local autonomy. To support an open referendum on Cape independence itself shows a commitment by all eight parties towards respecting the will of the people of the Cape.
Phil Craig, spokesperson of CIAG, is delighted by the development:
“This is a victory, not just for the people of the Western Cape, but for ordinary South Africans everywhere. Over the last 18 months, there has been an awakening. People have simply had enough. As the state fails to fulfil its most basic duties, organisations are stepping into the void. In the Western Cape, we have the opportunity to sever ties completely with the ANC national government and to claim the right to elect a government of our own choosing, a government that will spend tax revenue on citizens rather than themselves.”
The ANC has stated that referendums are a “constitutional imperative” but have claimed that there are “no democratic wishes of the Western Cape people”. Only, “the democratic wishes of the South African people”. There is an implication that all the people of SA would have to participate in such a referendum, an idea as ludicrous as allowing a Durbanite to vote for the ward councillor of Hout Bay.
What is clear is that people are becoming increasingly frustrated with the idea of a united, incompetent South Africa. The ANC encroaches on the local autonomy of provinces all the time, increasingly eroding the point of having provinces in the first place. A move towards Cape independence may not result in a fully independent Cape republic, but if more and more South Africans and organisations push for it, we will achieve a more substantive level of local autonomy.
I am on record as not being fully supportive of the referendum approach. My fear has always been that it might be held too soon, before the voters understand how genuinely important independence really is. Like the unsuccessful Scottish independence referendum, a failure to win at the polls once can set back the movement by decades.
But, with so many big names backing this move, most notably the ruling party of the Western Cape, I may come around to the idea that a referendum could work. However, there are still plenty of things to see before I can make a more accurate prediction.
First, if the DA will actively support independence in the run up to the referendum. If they openly adopt the independence cause, then we’ve already won. But, if they oppose it, and want the referendum to serve as a method to nip it in the bud, then I’m fearful of the referendum’s success.
Second, in the run up to the referendum, it is incredibly important that all Cape independence advocates dedicate more and more of their time and energy to convincing as many people as possible that Cape independence is not only viable but beneficial.
This all assumes that the ANC allows the referendum to happen at all. But, if they do not, that is actually a small victory in its own way. For that will give the independence movement the ammunition to prove that the ANC does not respect the democratic will of the Western Cape people (which the ANC has already nonsensically implied). They will lose the last shred of legitimacy they have in governing the Western Cape and foreign governments, local organisations and the people will know that they have no right to govern.