Melanie, Cape Independence Stinks of Democracy, not Racism!

A response to former ANC MP Melanie Verwoerd's comments on Cape Independence

Melanie; Cape independence stinks of democracy, not racism!

(This article is a response to a previous article written by former ANC MP Melanie Verwoerd)

Melanie Verwoerd is not your archetypal former ANC dignitary, and, as a rule, I enjoy reading her honest and sincere insights. South Africa might be in a much better state were the majority of her former ANC colleagues to share some of these qualities, but they don’t and it isn’t.

I was very happy to see that she decided to add her two pennies worth on Cape independence, and I think, as she often does, she got right to the heart of the matter, albeit not perhaps in the way she intended.

“The problem is that this ideology stinks of racism and privilege” she wrote. “Can it be that this is just a crude attempt to keep the Western Cape culturally and linguistically in the hands of the more privileged minorities?”

“These kinds of narratives are hugely damaging”.

And there we have it, the crux. It even had Pierre de Vos quoting her verbatim on twitter.

Looking on from the heart of the Cape independence movement, I found these observations deeply ironic.

Protection of Culture and Language is a Human Right

I am a co-founder of the Cape Independence Advocacy Group (CIAG), and precisely because we understand that ‘minorities’ has such a loaded meaning in South Africa, we usually avoid the topic. It is all but impossible to have a rational discussion on the subject, whereas you can simply reference the empirical evidence of three decades of election results to establish the clear and obvious ideological divide between the Western Cape and the rest of South Africa, without needing to stray anywhere near the minefield of race.

However, in this context, let us just understand this. Preserving cultural and linguistic heritage is not some grubby hangover from the apartheid era, it is a fundamental human right, enshrined in almost every aspect of international law and civil and political rights. South Africa has repeatedly committed itself to this principle, and it is the cornerstone of every international secession protocol.

Article 1, paragraph 1 of the ‘Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic Religious and Linguistic Minorities’ (UN resolution 47/135), for example, reads:

“States shall protect the existence and the national or ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic identity of minorities within their respective territories and shall encourage conditions for the promotion of that identity.”

The Western Cape is sub sub-Saharan Africa. The majority of its population are not black African and never have been. Just as the north of Africa is primarily Berber and Arabic, so the Western Cape is primarily ‘Coloured’. There should be absolutely no stigma to this, it is a statistical and historical fact, but of course there is.

If Melanie wants to bring culture and language into the independence debate, then she needs to understand that, in the Western Cape, her former party is, very deliberately, the cultural oppressor, and perhaps she should reflect on these words issued by the South African constitutional court before she vilifies independence supporters, 60% of whom we know to be ‘coloured’. There is nothing wrong whatsoever with defending yourself against race-based injustice.  

Judge Nugent, with Judge Cameron concurring, wrote:

“I see no rationality in restricting half the population of the Western Cape to 8.8% of employment opportunities in that province.”

And then

“In the Western Cape 9 of each 100 work opportunities are made accessible to some 2.8 million coloured people, while 1.9 million Black African people have access to 73”.

But let me rather return to the ‘clear and obvious ideological divide’.

Cape Independence Movement is against racism

The new democratic South Africa was built on the dream of a ‘Rainbow Nation’. We know from polling that the majority of Western Cape citizens want to live in a non-racial society. It isn’t they who have given up on the dream of non-racialism, it is the ANC who have further entrenched and exasperated racial division.

In the poll the CIAG commissioned from Victory Research last year, 70% of all Western Cape voters believed “Minority race groups are treated unfairly in South Africa”.

There is something inherently hypocritical about anyone linked to the ANC trying to paint Cape independence as racist and immoral. The Western Cape isn’t trying to perpetuate racism, it is trying to escape it and the ANC!

The ANC is an utter disgrace. It has presided over economic decline, rising unemployment, state capture and rampant corruption, dysfunctional local government, decaying infrastructure and more. It is currently arguing with itself over whether its Secretary General should or shouldn’t step aside after being charged with 74 counts of fraud, theft, corruption and money laundering. The previous president is being charged with more than 700 counts.

In 27 years, the Western Cape has never given the ANC a majority, and the ANC currently has 28.6% of the vote in the province. Semantics aside, the Western Cape has never voted the ANC into national government, and, without independence, it has no way of ever voting them out.

And for those who think the ANC will soon be below 50%, I say this; an ANC with 49% of the vote is much more dangerous than an ANC with 51%. John Steenhuisen won’t be getting the call, Julius Malema will.

Cape Independence is about the Western Cape wanting to be able to elect a functional and competent government who can build rather than destroy, so that our people, regardless of their race, religion or culture, can have a better life.

So Melanie, the next time you see ordinary citizens taking to the streets to try and find a way to escape the damage your former party has inflicted on our country, instead of focusing on their race, perhaps you might consider this well-known verse from the bible.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own?”

If it wasn't for the ANC, there wouldn't be an independence movement

This article first appeared on News24 https://www.news24.com/news24/columnists/guestcolumn/opinion-dear-melanie-cape-independence-stinks-of-democracy-not-racism-20210413