POSITION PAPER: What role will the Cape Independence Advocacy Group (CIAG) play in the 2024 elections? What are the factors which have determined this position?
The CIAG has produced this position paper to communicate its intentions, and the factors which have formed those intentions, ahead of the 2024 national and provincial watershed elections which will almost certainly determine the success or failure of South Africa for the foreseeable future.
Table of Contents
- Executive Summary
- Primary Objective
- Key Enablers
- Political Realities
- The DA Conundrum
- WC Provincial Bills: Powers Bill and Peoples Bill
- Referendum Accord
- 2024 Elections
- The Referendum Party
It does not matter how good a DA-led government in Cape Town may be, if an ANC-led government in Pretoria makes all the key policy decisions. Without Cape Independence, the Western Cape will be unable to control economic policy, how its tax money is spent, how the province is policed, or put an end to large-scale illegal land invasions.
The key to Cape Independence is a referendum, and only the Western Cape Premier is constitutionally entitled to call one. Political realities therefore mean that the DA is the gatekeeper of Cape Independence.
The CIAG has spent several years lobbying and working with the DA.
In 2021, ahead of the local elections, it secured an agreement from the DA that they would call a referendum which included a question on Cape Independence.
Through the Western Cape Devolution Working Group (WCDWG), which the CIAG instigated, it has also explored the alternatives being proposed to Cape Independence including the greater devolution of power and constitutional federalism. This resulted in the tabling of the Western Cape Peoples Bill.
At the end of this process the DA has reneged on their promise of a Cape Independence referendum and have rejected the opportunity to deliver constitutional federalism to the Western Cape (by opposing the Western Cape Peoples Bill).
The DA will need to be placed under significantly greater political pressure to obtain a referendum on Cape Independence.
The 2024 provincial elections offer a perfect opportunity to place the DA under such pressure. In conjunction with other Cape Independence organisations, the CIAG will now establish a single-issue political party (Referendum Party). It will target DA voters, the majority of whom support Cape Independence. Its purpose will not be to remove the DA from power in the Western Cape, but rather to force it to listen to its own voters.
The primary objective of the CIAG is to ensure that a provincial referendum is held in the Western Cape asking all voters whether they wish the Western Cape to break away from South Africa and to forma new sovereign state.
The Western Cape and South African Constitutions empower the Western Cape Premier to call a provincial referendum. The Western Cape Premier is appointed by a political process and their appointment and subsequent actions are inherently political in nature.
To achieve a referendum on Cape Independence the Western Cape needs to either elect a Premier who is in favour of holding a referendum on Cape Independence, or alternatively, to place a Premier who would prefer not to call such a referendum under sufficient political pressure that they are forced to hold one regardless of their own opinion.
The range of realistic outcomes from the 2024 provincial elections is a known quantity.
The DA has held an outright provincial majority in the Western Cape for the last three electoral terms. It is almost certain that in 2024, the DA will either secure a fourth outright provincial majority, or they will be the dominant political force in a provincial coalition government.
Whilst under the control of a DA-led Western Cape Government, the Western Cape has significantly outperformed every other province, all of which are currently led by the ANC.
The primary political issue for most political voters in the Western Cape is to keep the ANC out of power in the province and this will almost certainly form the basis of the DA’s election campaign.
Asking Western Cape voters to prioritise the abstract concept of Cape Independence above the pressing political realities of daily government is a significant challenge to the Cape Independence movement.
The DA Conundrum
The DA has declared its opposition to Cape Independence.
In the run up to the 2021 local government elections, and under pressure from an increasingly powerful Cape Independence lobby, the DA publicly agreed that whilst it opposed Cape Independence itself, independence was a decision for the Western Cape people to make for themselves in a referendum.
In private discussions, the DA promised the CIAG that they would fix some technical issues with the referendum legislation, which they said would take about six months, and then they would call a referendum in the Western Cape which included a question on Cape Independence.
Prior to the 2021 elections the DA then formally published their intention to table their ‘Referendum Bill’ (formally titled the ‘Electoral Commission Amendment Act’).
After the election, however, the DA failed to follow through on these promises.
Throughout 2022 the CIAG met regularly with the DA and was given repeated assurances that the Referendum Bill was on track, that it was a high priority, and that it would be tabled in the very near future. At one point, the CIAG and the DA jointly agreed on the wording of a press statement publicly committing the DA to a timeline.
However, behind the scenes the DA had in fact shelved the legislation, with internal communications revealing that the DA feared a ‘Brexit’ scenario unfolding.
The CIAG became aware of this in late 2022 and furiously protested. The DA reinstated the legislation, which was eventually tabled in April 2023, twenty-two months after originally promised.
These delays were significant, because whilst the DA was stalling its own legislation, the Western Cape Premier was using these delays to avoid being forced to make a decision on a referendum which he knew the majority of Western Cape voters supported. This included a formal written response to the CIAG.
The DA’s conduct around a referendum on Cape Independence has placed independence supporters and the CIAG in a difficult position.
It has never been the CIAG’s intention to oppose the DA and polling shows that 69% of Cape Independence supporters vote DA. The CIAG has never required the DA to support Cape Independence, just to agree to allow the Western Cape people to make the decision democratically for themselves.
The DA agreed to do exactly that, both in principle and in practice.
By breaking their promises, they have created a situation where Western Cape voters are being forced to choose between voting DA and being allowed to express themselves democratically on the issue of Cape Independence.
Given that DA leader John Steenhuisen has warned of an imminent and very real doomsday in 2024, which he says would make “Zimbabwe look like a picnic”, denying the Western Cape people a referendum which would allow them to avoid that doomsday would be unconscionable.
This is unfortunately the position we now find ourselves in.
WC Provincial Bills: Powers Bill and Peoples Bill
The CIAG has never been dogmatic in its approach to Cape Independence. Independence is not an end in itself but rather what the CIAG believes is the best possible means by which to improve the lives of the Western Cape people and to create a viable and prosperous long-term future.
The discussion around Cape Independence triggered a much wider debate about provincial autonomy in various forms. Rather than rigidly entrenching itself in one narrow position, the CIAG encouraged broader engagement and cooperation between the numerous groups who held ideologically similar views. This included the DA who had campaigned in the 2019 provincial elections on the devolution of powers, and who formally support federalism.
Once again, the CIAG engaged the DA behind the scenes, as well as numerous other organisations.
The CIAG instigated the Western Cape Devolution Working Group (WCDWG) which the DA, along with four other political parties, several civic organisations (including AfriForum) and academics took part in (and continue to do so). The purpose of the group was to deliver increased autonomy to the Western Cape and to set a precedent for any other provinces who wish to follow suit.
Outside of the WCDWG the DA attempted to convince the CIAG that a federal South Africa was a better solution than Cape Independence. The CIAG does not believe federalism to be a viable long-term solution, but once again was willing to engage in good faith. Many other voices were also proposing federalism as a solution.
Setting aside whether federalism would actually solve the Western Cape’s problems, the CIAG’s biggest concern was that the DA was not actually trying to achieve genuine federalism (by which we mean the South African Constitution being amended to turn South Africa from a unitary state into a federal one) and that it had no viable plan by which to deliver it.
The CIAG did, however, recognise that a legal and political synergy existed between the pursuit of federalism and the pursuit of Cape Independence. The initial steps required to achieve either are virtually identical. The CIAG therefore agreed to cooperate with the DA to try and deliver constitutional federalism. The WCDWG also unanimously endorsed federalism as a goal.
The CIAG researched and identified that constitutional federalism (at least for the Western Cape and any other province which was willing to vote for it) could actually be achieved in South Africa by the Western Cape people claiming their right to self-determination which was guaranteed in international law and which South Africa had repeatedly sworn to uphold since 1994.
The CIAG then drafted a white paper on how federalism could be achieved legally, had it reviewed by a number of highly qualified legal academics, and presented the white paper to the DA and other organisations for their review and feedback. The CIAG deliberately never published this white paper to allow space for the DA to develop a viable political plan premised upon the law.
Recognising that the DA had never driven any process to actually deliver federalism, and that it was unlikely to start now, the CIAG then drafted the necessary legislation.
The CIAG drafted the ‘Western Cape Peoples Bill (WCPB)’ (it was initially called the ‘Western Cape Cultural Recognition Bill’ but changed at the request of the DA who wanted to avoid any reference to the word ‘culture’) and presented it to the DA.
Once again, the CIAG never published a draft of the WCPB so that the DA were left with space to amend the bill taking into account their specific political considerations. From the outset the VF Plus were willing to table the bill, but agreed to stand aside and to allow the DA to table it if they were willing. This was an act of considerable political magnanimity by the VF Plus.
The DA did not make any suggestions on how the bill should be changed and continually stalled the process.
On several occasions during this time, the CIAG suggested to the DA that the VF Plus could table the bill and the DA just support it if the bill was ‘too hot to handle’ politically. Initially the DA said no because they wanted to take the lead on autonomy. Later they said they would support the bill if the ACDP tabled it, but not if the VF Plus did. The CIAG approached the ACDP, but they were unwilling to do so.
After eight months of stalling by the DA, the CIAG asked the VF Plus to table the bill and they agreed. The DA was now forced into taking a position on the WCPB and, for the first time, this did lead to meaningful engagement.
The DA articulated that their primary fear was that the bill would lead to Cape Independence ‘by the back door’ and would be seen as a secessionist bill. Taking these concerns into account the CIAG scoped out a ‘Western Cape Federal Autonomy Bill’ and presented it to the DA and the WCDWG. The purpose was to provide a clear and observable path from the WCPB to constitutional federalism, and to show that this solution would be available to any other province who also wanted it.
By linking the WCPB directly to federalism, the DA’s primary political objection was removed. This forced the DA to confront the realities of what delivering federalism (their own official policy) would entail.
When confronted with these realities, the DA backed away from federalism. The DA was willing to push for the devolution of powers, but they were unwilling to push for the full federal autonomy of the Western Cape. Their position was that it must either be federalism for all provinces, or federalism for no provinces.
This placed the DA at odds with almost every other organisation involved in the discussions, as well as all the legal advisors. Federalism was achievable if the Western Cape (and any other province who wanted to follow the same route) claimed the right to self-determination for themselves. It was not achievable for all provinces at once, because that would require two-thirds of the national assembly and six out of nine provinces to agree, and they do not.
This led to a stand-off. Federalism was supposed to be the DA’s policy, not the CIAG’s, and the CIAG was only proposing federal legislation as a mutually agreeable next step. If the DA was not willing to pursue its own policy, then clearly no compromise around federalism would be possible.
The CIAG and the VF Plus elected to press ahead with the WCPB unilaterally, thus forcing the DA’s hand. If the DA was going to oppose Western Cape self-determination, including the rejection of its own policy of federalism, they were going to be made to do so publicly.
In response, the DA finally asked to be allowed input in the WCPB (something the CIAG had been inviting them to do for a year at this stage). Several increasingly watered-down versions of the bill were circulated with the DA wanting to remove reference to the Khoi and San as the indigenous peoples of the Western Cape, and any reference to the other cultural groups associated with the history of the Cape. Ultimately, the DA rejected even these versions of the Bill.
Instead, the DA announced that they had written the ‘Western Cape Provincial Powers Bill (WCPPB)’ which they called their ‘federalism bill’ and invited comment, including from the CIAG.
On reviewing the WCPPB it was immediately clear that the Bill was not a federalism bill at all, but rather a devolution bill. The Bill created a legislative framework which required the Western Cape Government and the Western Cape Parliament to pursue the devolution of powers, but it still relied on Section 238 of the Constitution to obtain them.
Section 238 allows one sphere of government to voluntarily assign powers to another, but the Western Cape has been unsuccessfully asking the national government to devolve powers since 2019. Eventually the DA was forced to concede that this was not a ‘federalism bill’ but a devolution bill.
The CIAG then proposed that both the WC Peoples Bill and the WC Powers Bill be tabled at the same time as they were in fact very compatible and complemented each other perfectly.
The Powers Bill forced the Western Cape to seek additional powers and the Peoples Bill established the right to claim them.
Unfortunately, the DA was unwilling to agree to this arrangement and indicated to the CIAG that they would be voting for the Powers Bill but against the Peoples Bill.
Without the Peoples Bill the DA cannot deliver constitutional federalism, a fact which it reluctantly concedes. Instead, they say that they will continue to pursue incremental devolution of powers which they have now begun terming ‘functional federalism’.
Constitutional federalism is no longer on the table as an option for the Western Cape.
A democratic referendum on Cape Independence, where all parties recognise and accept the democratic will of the Western Cape people, has always been the primary objective of the CIAG.
The DA, although notably not the Western Cape Premier, also supports the use of referendums as a means to use the democratic will of the Western Cape people to create political pressure for greater political autonomy.
The CIAG wanted a referendum on Cape Independence, the DA wanted referendums on policing, rail, and potentially other powers such as taxation.
Referendums are a major logistical and financial undertaking and in practical terms can only be called periodically. Holding referendums alongside provincial elections reduces the burden on the state significantly.
The referendum legislation allows for multiple questions to be asked at the same time and this allows for the possibility of asking the DA’s questions, as well as the question of Cape Independence.
The CIAG lobbied the DA for a referendum and in early 2021 the DA agreed to hold a provincial referendum in the Western Cape which included a question on Cape Independence.
Understanding the sensitivity of this agreement, the CIAG chose not to make any public statement about the agreement. Instead, it communicated it to the key players in the Cape Independence movement, these being CapeXit, the VF Plus, and the Cape Independence Party, all of whom agreed to keep the agreement confidential allowing the DA the time and space to manage the decision politically.
By the time of the 2021 local government elections, several months after, the DA had still not made any public reference to the agreement. The CIAG wanted to ensure that Cape Independence supporters were aware of the progress which had been made and met with the DA again.
The DA agreed that the CIAG could formally and publicly articulate that, whilst the DA was opposed to Cape Independence itself, they supported the right of the Western Cape people to decide for themselves in a referendum. This included a discussion about how to limit any political damage to the DA that the announcement might cause.
At this stage, all of the DA’s communications were lining up. They had privately promised a referendum on Cape Independence, they had publicly announced that they supported the right of the Western Cape people to decide for themselves on Cape Independence in a referendum, and they had published their ‘Referendum Bill’ in the government gazette.
During the course of 2022 all of these positions began to unravel. The referendum legislation was not tabled as had been promised (and we now know it had in fact been cancelled) and many DA officials, including the Premier, began to publicly dismiss the idea of a referendum on Cape Independence, seemingly unaware that their own party had already agreed to one. This culminated in the Western Cape Premier informing the Western Cape Provincial Parliament that any referendum on Cape Independence would need to be national (which is factually incorrect).
In late 2022 the CIAG formally wrote to the DA, raising all of these matters, requesting that the 2021 agreement be formalised into a public written accord so that there was complete transparency around a referendum on Cape Independence. The CIAG suggested that the conditions of the referendum and the referendum question be included in the accord.
Understanding that this was a significant undertaking, and once again allowing the DA the political space to manage the process sympathetically, the CIAG gave the DA several months to conclude this process.
The DA finally responded in June 2023.
The DA was not willing to honour the private agreement it made in early 2021, nor were they willing to give effect to the public agreement they made before the 2021 elections (it is meaningless to say Cape Independence is a choice for the Western Cape people to make if you then intentionally deny them the opportunity to make that choice).
The DA had broken its word and reneged on its agreements around a referendum on Cape Independence (but at this stage the Western Cape electorate remained unaware of this).
In order to move this conversation into the public domain, the CIAG (in conjunction with CapeXit, the VF Plus, and the Cape Independence Party) then launched a public campaign calling on DA Premier Alan Winde to call a referendum on Cape Independence on election day2024. Members of the public were invited to sign up and in the 4 weeks that the campaign ran, over 30 000 did so.
The letter was handed over to Premier Winde on 3 October 2023 and he was given a deadline of 10 October 2023 to confirm whether or not he was going to agree to do so. As anticipated, he did not agree to do so.
Despite their previous promises, the DA are not going to voluntarily call a referendum on Cape Independence.
The political situation in the Western Cape has now been clearly defined for Cape Independence supporters.
The status quo is that the DA is not going to call a referendum on Cape Independence, and they are not going to pursue constitutional federalism which was the only possible compromise position on a mutually agreeable ‘next step’.
For as long as the DA enjoys political hegemony in the Western Cape, they will pursue the gradual devolution of powers (which so far, they have been largely unable to deliver) rather than independence, and they will balance the interests of the Western Cape people against the political value of DA voters in the rest of South Africa. In short, at a provincial level, they are not willing to act solely in the best interests of the Western Cape people.
This leaves the CIAG with no option. If it wants to deliver its primary objective of a referendum on Cape Independence, it must now directly oppose the DA in the 2024 elections.
This is not an ideal situation, but it has become an unavoidable one.
The CIAG recognises that the DA have generally done a good job running the Western Cape and that the majority of Cape Independence supporters do not want to remove the DA from power (even if this were possible which it is not).
However, if the DA maintains complete political dominance of the Western Cape, then Cape Independence effectively becomes undeliverable.
There are two primary ways in which the DA can be placed under intense political pressure on Cape Independence.
The first and most powerful is to remove the DA’s outright majority, bringing them sufficiently below 50% so that they have no other realistic option but to form a government in coalition with parties which support Cape Independence and who are willing to leverage their support to force a referendum on Cape Independence.
In practice this will mean that the DA must fall below 48%, denying them the option of a coalition with just the ACDP (who will not demand an independence referendum), and forcing them into a coalition with the VF Plus and any other Cape Independence parties which secure sufficient votes.
The second option (which is less impactful in the short-term, but mathematically easier to achieve) is to ensure that a single-issue Cape Independence party is elected to the provincial parliament, and if possible, also the National Assembly.
This takes the fight for Cape Independence inside the system, where motions calling for a Cape Independence referendum can repeatedly be moved, and a change to the constitution can be tabled which would allow citizen-initiated referendums. This would offer the possibility of eliminating the DA roadblock to independence. Many countries have this provision and New Zealand’s system could work perfectly.
The question then becomes: who could potentially fulfil this role?
There are two political parties playing an active role in the Cape Independence movement, but both present different challenges.
The VF Plus achieved 3% of the vote in 2021. They already have representatives in both the national and provincial parliament, are in coalition governments with the DA in 11 Western Cape municipalities, tabled the Western Cape Peoples Bill, and have already told the DA that the terms of their cooperation post-2024 is a referendum on Cape Independence. As such, they are a formidable ally.
The challenge with the VF Plus is that their heritage as a special interest Afrikaner party imposes a glass ceiling on the realistic level of support which they are likely to achieve. This is despite the significant and genuine efforts that have been made to build a bridge into the coloured community. Alone, they are unlikely to garner sufficient support to force a Cape Independence referendum.
The Cape Independence Party (CIP) achieved 0.6% of the vote in 2021 and has largely failed to convert support for Cape Independence into votes for the party. In 2021 they did manage to get two councillors elected in the City of Cape Town.
The party has been strategically poor and is badly under-resourced. It has alienated key independence organisation CapeXit, who have one-in-four Western Cape voters on their opted-in mailing list and spent too much time and energy driving peripheral and often contentious issues. Despite performing badly (to the extent that the DA often offer them up as evidence of the lack of electoral support for Cape Independence), the CIP has failed to introspect. It is not capable of securing sufficient votes to seriously pressure the DA.
Recent CIAG polling has established that 69% of Cape Independence supporters vote DA and 79% of DA voters support a referendum being held on Cape Independence. Disenfranchised DA voters may well vote for the VF Plus, but loyal DA voters will not.
If we wish to remove the DA’s majority and force it into a Cape Independence coalition, then a political option that is attractive to DA voters who remain supportive of the DA but want Cape Independence is essential.
In early 2023, as the CIAG pressed the DA for a written accord on a referendum, the likelihood that a stronger political proposition in 2024 would become necessary became increasingly likely. The CIAG began making contingency plans for a single-issue political party which could complement the VF Plus, and collectively force a referendum on Cape Independence. These plans are now at an advanced stage.
In the light of the DA’s refusal to honour their referendum pledge, those plans will now be implemented. As a result, the ‘Referendum Party’ will be launched later this year and contest the 2024 elections.
The Referendum Party
The Referendum Party will be a single-issue party aimed at DA voters who support Cape Independence. It will propose keeping the DA in power (by supporting it as a coalition partner) but forcing them to listen to their own voters and call a referendum on Cape Independence.
Its key messaging will be that it does not matter how well a DA government in Cape Town performs, if all of the major decisions are being taken by an ANC government in Pretoria. Without Cape Independence, the Western Cape will ultimately share South Africa’s fate.
The party will specifically focus on four critical issues:
- Without control of economic policy, the Western Cape cannot grow its economy sufficiently to create prosperity for all.
- Without control of policing, the Western Cape can never impose law and order.
- Without control of taxation and spending, the Western Cape cannot stop its revenue being used to fund ANC corruption rather than improving services to the Western Cape people.
- Without control of borders, the Western Cape can never stem the influx of illegal land invaders which deprives legal residents of limited provincial resources.
Cape Independence will deliver control of each of these to the Western Cape Government, and by doing so, will create a better future for the people of the Western Cape.
The CIAG exists to promote Cape Independence and it has an obligation to itself, its supporters, and its funders to do so to the best of its ability.
In the current political climate, now more than ever, Cape Independence is essential to securing a viable and prosperous long-term future for the people of the Western Cape.
There is very substantial support for the concept of Cape Independence.
As the party of government in the Western Cape, the DA is the gatekeeper of Cape Independence. As interest in and support for Cape Independence rose in 2020 and 2021, the DA came under increasing political pressure which resulted in them agreeing to fix the referendum legislation and to call a referendum on Cape Independence.
After the 2021 elections, during 2022, the CIAG worked closely with the DA, taking a broad and collaborative approach to Western Cape autonomy. The purpose was to exploit common ground and to make practical strides on the ground towards meaningful autonomy, accepting that the different organisations shared differing end goals.
This inevitably reduced the political pressure on the DA over Cape Independence. Unfortunately, the DA chose to take advantage of this by reneging on the agreements they had made before the 2021 elections.
As we now approach the 2024 elections, the CIAG needs to again increase the pressure on the DA to call a referendum on Cape Independence. Given that the DA broke their pre-2021 election promise, there would be no point in trying to secure a similar pre-2024 agreement.
The only realistic option that remains is to directly challenge the DA politically in 2024. The purpose will not be to remove them from power, but rather to force them to call the referendum they promised in 2021.
The CIAG has had contingency plans for this in place for some time, and it will now implement them in the form of a single-issue ‘Referendum Party’.
You can download a copy of this position paper here