The possibility, perhaps even probability, of the ANC falling below 50% and losing their outright majority in the 2024 General Election is now widely accepted.
Where does that leave Cape Independence?
ANC a symptom of the problem, not its cause
There are many people who have sought to reduce Cape Independence to escaping ANC rule, and if the ANC are to be removed, the primary reason for Cape Independence no longer exists. In reality, the ANC were never the cause of the problem which Cape Independence sought to address, they were a symptom of it. The easiest way to illustrate this is simply to ask, if an EFF government were to replace the ANC, would the Cape’s problems have been resolved?
The essence of Cape Independence is allowing the people of the province to be governed according to their democratic will. Article 20 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) sums this up perfectly when it states,
‘[All people] shall freely determine their political status and shall pursue their economic and social development according to the policy they have freely chosen’.
Western Cape must be governed according to its own democratic will
There is a clear ideological divide between the Western Cape and the rest of South Africa. Since 1994, the province has been governed according to the democratic will of the rest of South Africa, and against the wishes of the provincial majority.
For the Western Cape to be governed according to its own will, it needs to be able to elect its own government.
The ideological argument is clear, Cape Independence remains essential, but there are also many practical considerations.
Without doubt, the prospect of the ANC falling below 50% has fundamentally changed the prevailing political environment. Many people have once again become hopeful and are imagining that a national coalition government will usher in a positive new era for South Africa.
Do the maths on coalition governments
The CIAG is concerned that some simply haven’t thought through the maths of coalition government and are disappointed that a number of politicians are actively misleading the electorate and providing false hope. Only last week, Western Cape Minister of Agriculture Ivan Meyer promised that in 2024 there would be a national coalition government without either the ANC or EFF. He must know that this is virtually impossible.
Regardless, it would also be irresponsible for the CIAG not to recognise the changing mood of the electorate and to adapt its strategy accordingly.
Unless something radically changes, it is unlikely that much political progress can me made in delivering Cape Independence before 2024. Instead, the focus of the CIAG must be on the legislative environment.
To achieve Cape Independence we need two things; the support or democratic will of the Western Cape electorate, and a legal framework via which to enact it.
To some extent support for Cape Independence will look after itself. Each new disaster which befalls South Africa creates increased urgency amongst Western Cape voters. If in 2024 South Africa wakes up to an ANC/EFF government, then Cape Independence is on.
Creating the framework for Cape Independence
What we need to do now, by way of preparation, is ensure that the framework is already in place. Here, the current political environment is very helpful.
Whatever the main political parties may say in public, privately they know better than anyone the challenges of coalition government and the associated risks. The parties which are key to delivering Cape Independence are also actively fighting for greater provincial autonomy and in theory federalism.
To deliver either autonomy or federalism you need to establish a viable mechanism. Whatever the outcome in 2024, the opposition parties are not going to have enough support to change the constitution, so they find themselves in exactly the same boat as secessionists. They need a solution.
The DA is already busy with the referendum legislation which will address the process of establishing the democratic will of the Western Cape electorate on any given issue. What they lack is a mechanism to enact it.
Western Cape must claim the right to self-determination
The CIAG proposes that the Western Cape uses the provisions of international law, which are given authority in the South African constitution, to formally claim the right to self-determination. This can be done using provincial legislation and is therefore within the power of the DA to deliver. Once claimed, the national government is then obliged by international law to grant self-determination.
According to the UN, self-determination can then be exercised in one of four ways; autonomy, federalism, secession, or unification.
In the coming months the primary focus of the CIAG will be pushing hard to establish the right for Western Cape voters to make decisions for themselves, regardless of what voters in the rest of South Africa want (and extending this same right to other groups and provinces).
At the very least, this is an essential insurance policy against adverse outcomes in 2024.
Whether they choose to use it for autonomy, federalism, or secession will be up to them, and undoubtedly what actually happens in 2024, will be a major factor in their ultimate decision.
In answer to our initial question, ‘Is Cape Independence still necessary?’; our answer is yes, but events may need to first unfold before a majority realise it. We must make sure that everything is in place for when they do.