“No Old Flags, No New Flags” –  A Cape Nation Rising?

A first-hand account from the Cloesteville march. Lessons from history.

Cloetesville, 9.45am, Saturday, 5th December. Parked cars line both sides of Curry Street for as far as the eye can see. The South African police force (SAPS) and local law enforcement are present in numbers, but the mood is relaxed. For an hour, mini-bus taxis have been arriving and departing with increasing regularity. Many of the passengers are white and well dressed, perhaps their first experience travelling in a South African taxi, but coloured, white and the occasional black protestor all spill out together to form an increasing throng. Local residents are drawn out of their homes to examine the spectacle.

“Where are the toilets?” asks one lady wearing a Freedom Front Plus t-shirt. “Come inside, use mine” responds a Cloetesville Samaritan. “Anyone who needs the toilet can come to my house”.

A distinctly Cape Coloured 5-piece drum band announce themselves with their opening salvo. They start the day as unemployed youngsters from Cloetesville, they will later end it as heroes and giants, the embodiment of Cape culture, custodians of the Cape Independence spirit. This day, no hip will be left unswayed.

The Cape Independence Advocacy Group (CIAG) has permission for 500 marchers, and at 10am, Jordan Schouw, rock guitarist, car restorer, small business owner, and political activist bellows mechanically unaided from the bed of an old bakkie “Are we ready?” “Yes”. “I can’t hear you”. “YES”, and we were off.

No old flags, no new flags

A sea of blue, white and red flags seethed forwards, hypnotic rhythms amplified the palpable excitement, ear to ear smiles accompanied knowing glances, Cape independence had arrived. I was far from alone in holding back tears of unbridled joy. The route was 3.6 kms long, the victory was already won within the first ten yards.

The march rules were clear, No old flags, No new flags. There was no hint of either. As Cloetseville gave way, first to Tennantville, then to Stellenbosch, only one flag reigned, the flag of the Cape independence movement.

With each resounding beat of the drums, the symbolism became clearer. The old flag represented the racial oppression of the black majority. The new flag has come to represent the corrupt and disdainful government that replaced them. For the coloured people of Cloetesville it has been of little consequence. Both have been equally evil. They must be allowed to dance to the beat of their own drum.

On this day, Pandora’s box was prised open for the people of Cloetesville, and the whiff of hope scented the air.

3.6 kms flashed by in a heartbeat, we could have marched to the moon. Horns and sirens blazed out declaring unity, “Wie maak die jol vol?” and “Free the Cape” reverberated through the heart of DA run Stellenbosch, all the while driven onward by the irrepressible Cape marching band.

Lessons from history

Sounds fun, but so what?

Nazi Germany was the response of a humiliated and repressed German nation, Donald Trump was the response from a nation force fed a diet of political correctness, Brexit the response of a nation stripped of sovereignty.

The majority of Cape citizens despise the South African government. In 26 years, the majority of Cape voters have never given the ANC a mandate to govern, yet the ANC governs them nonetheless with just 28.6% of the Western Cape vote. They say in a democracy, if you don’t like the government you vote to change it. How do you do that when you never voted it in in the first place?

Once again, the so-called ‘coloured’ people of the Western Cape are bearing the brunt of this political abomination. Gross political mismanagement and corruption have all but collapsed the Eastern Cape, leading to the mass migration of black South Africans into the province. In the nine years since the last census, the black population has increased from 33% to 40% of the Western Cape population. Competition for land and resources has caused friction, with the national government’s empowerment policies giving newcomers a significant advantage over those native to the province. This is the cause of deep resentment.

No one in the mainstream independence movement is calling for restrictions to be placed on desperate black migrants, they too are victims of a corrupt and incompetent government, but advantaging them over equally desperate coloured citizens is asking for trouble.

'Coloured' vote decides Western Cape politics

Politically, in the Western Cape the DA is wholly reliant on the coloured vote to maintain power. The emergence of a broad independence coalition spells trouble for them. The march was jointly hosted by the CIAG who organised it, the Cape Party, the Freedom Front Plus, and CapeXit. Fadiel Adams, leader of the Cape Coloured Congress has also openly endorsed independence, whilst polling earlier this year showed that 53% of the DA’s own Western Cape voters also want the Cape to secede from South Africa.

It is perhaps therefore not surprising that the DA is quickly realigning itself. In the last six months it has decided to oppose race based appointments, support federal autonomy for provinces, resolve legislative issues to clear the way for a provincial referendum, and voted to oppose national government in the Western Cape when it acts illogically or immorally.

The independence drum is beating loudly, and so it should. The alternative is much worse.

Both the Cape Independence Advocacy Group, and the other mainstream independence groups, are all committed to achieving independence by peaceful and democratic means. Worryingly, noises are increasingly being made by those less democratically minded to defend their culture by force. The tacit approval of the EFF’s recent antics by national government has not gone unnoticed, and increasingly, behind the scenes, some are calling for fire to be met with fire.

Peace is not guaranteed 

Veteran firebrand politician Peter Marais, in comments not endorsed by the CIAG, did not mince his words when he addressed the sizable crowd. Julius Malema, we are not scared of you. If you bring knobkerries, we will bring pangas. It will be one hell of a fight. Marais is by no means alone in feeling this way. Many of us present felt deeply uncomfortable hearing comments like these, entirely out of character with the joyous and peaceful nature of the march. Privately though, on the campaign trail, this is a sentiment that is growing, and worryingly so. If you beat your dog for long enough, sooner or later it will bite you.

Much has been made of the police containing the EFF in Brackenfell with water cannons and tear gas. That a large number of heavily armed Brackenfell residents were lying in wait at the other end of the street if the police didn’t contain them is less well understood. I witnessed first-hand a police colonel pleading with the residents to go home. They refused. “Don’t you trust us?” asked the colonel. “No, we don’t” replied the residents and they stood their ground.

Independence movement as a moderator

Opponents of Cape independence, and most especially left-wing political commentators, fall over themselves to paint the independence movement as racist right-wing extremists. The reality is that groups like the CIAG are actually hated by far-right organisations. Our brand of racial inclusiveness, respect for democracy, and a Cape nation comprising all those who call the Western Cape home is the antithesis of all they aspire to.

Only last week, Dan Roodt of Praag suggested the CIAG was secretly sponsored by the British government, the result of an agreement between the UK and China to split South Africa’s spoils. If this gives the impression that it is only far right-wing Afrikaners who are getting restless, let me disavow you of that notion. Peter Marais spoke about how the bruin people stood with whites at the Battle of Blood River, and that the future of the Cape lay in them standing together now.

Cape independence is about genuine democracy for all of the people of the Western Cape. Only when the Western Cape voters can elect or remove their own government will they have the means to address the myriad of social and economic issues which have been left to fester for far too long. Denying the Cape people their political will can never be a long term solution to anything.

Legacy for the people of Cloetesville

So, what was the legacy of the Cloetesville march for Cape independence to those that mattered the most, the community of Cloetesville itself?

The day’s foremost heroes, the marching band, had recently disbanded as marching began to wane in popularity. Inspired by all that they themselves had achieved, they have now re-formed and will be marching again soon for Cape independence. There is little doubt, having showcased their immense talent, that they will also be taking other commissions. Community leaders, under the stewardship of traditional medicinal healer Brian Damonse, have vowed to use this march as a catalyst for the community to again stand together and address the issues they collectively face. Die Brieghel community centre will once again become the political epicentre of a people who have re-discovered how much power they hold in their very own hands.

This is exactly as it should be, a glorious caricature of all the independence movement represents. Power devolved to the lowest practical level.

What does the DA say in its stated values and principles? “Federalism is the devolution of power …… to the lowest effective level”, and, “This value demands a commitment to bring government closer to the people”.

Less words, more action please.