Self-determination the Key to Devolving Powers

RIGHT TO REPLY: We have fought (unsuccessfully) for nearly 50 years to deliver federalism says DA's Geordin Hill-Lewis. Claim it using provincial legislation and international law say CIAG.

RIGHT TO REPLY: (We are responding to this article by Geordin Hill-Lewis in the Cape Argus, which in turn referred to this article by the CIAG)

In responding to my comments around the devolution of policing powers, it appears the Cape Town Mayor, Geordin Hill-Lewis, has erred by responding to the headline as opposed to the substance of my comments.

I submitted my article under the headline ‘Déjà Vous on DA Policing Promises’, and the crux of my argument was that the DA are talking a good fight on the devolution of policing powers but have fundamentally failed to deliver them. Hill-Lewis’s own assertion that his party, in one guise or another, has fought unsuccessfully for federal powers for almost 50 years only serves to emphasise my point.

Federalism is a form of government built on the concept of self-determination. At its heart is the recognition that decisions affecting a specific region, in this case the Western Cape, should be taken by a government elected by the people who actually live there.

In countries which are ethnically and culturally diverse such as South Africa federalism takes on an even greater significance in that it protects minorities, including political minorities, from having the views of the national majority forced upon them against their democratic will.

As Hill-Lewis points out, the overwhelming majority of voters in the Western Cape support the devolution of policing powers. The only reason Police Minister Bheki Cele has been able to dismiss both Hill-Lewis’ and Premier Winde’s pleas on policing out of hand is that South Africa is a unitary state. Cele primarily derives his powers from voters in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Eastern Cape.

We must not become entrenched in political dogma. In the CIAG poll to which Hill-Lewis refers, 76% of respondents supported power being taken from the national government and given to the provincial government.

In 2024, there is a reasonable probability of an ANC/EFF coalition becoming the national government of South Africa. Both fervently believe in centralising government power in Pretoria. Less than one in four Western Cape voters support these parties. The provincial government must take steps now to protect them for the disastrous consequences that would inevitably follow such an outcome.

If the DA can deliver federalism, then they should do so and we will support them. They know they cannot and have therefore downgraded their own ambitions to ‘functional federalism’. If they can deliver ‘functional federalism’ then they should do so and we will still support them.

If, however, they can’t even deliver control of policing in the province, then they must not deceive the Western Cape electorate by creating the impression that they can.

Instead, they must investigate the other available options. There is a means by which the DA can deliver federalism if they really want to.

Self-determination is a fundamental principle of international law, is recognised in the South African Constitution, and is one which South Africa has repeatedly sworn to uphold. It can be exercised in the form of autonomy, federalism, or secession, and if the Western Cape formally claims it, which it can do by using provincial legislation, then the national government is obliged by law to grant it.

We must claim the right to self-determination before we find ourselves governed by an ANC/EFF coalition. We can argue later whether federalism or secession is the best way to exercise it.

When it comes to Cape Independence, I must correct Hill-Lewis on his understanding of his party’s position on the subject. Whilst the DA may well be opposed to secession, they have agreed to allow Western Cape voters to decide for themselves in a referendum. Surely this is a position which no-one can find fault in? Self-determination in its purest form, or, in Hill-Lewis’ own words, “taking control of our own destiny”.

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