DA promised a referendum on Cape Independence. It’s time to deliver.
In 2021, DA leader John Steenhuisen promised the Cape Independence Advocacy Group (CIAG) his party would fix the referendum legislation and then call a referendum which included a question on Cape Independence.
Following further discussions, it was then agreed that as part of the 2021 election campaign the organisations would announce that whilst the DA did not support Cape Independence itself, it did agree that secession was a matter for the Western Cape people to make democratically for themselves in a referendum.
Steenhuisen likened himself to British Prime Minister David Cameron, saying he would call the referendum, and then lead the campaign to vote against Cape Independence.
The CIAG, in conjunction with civic organisation CapeXit, then released a voting guide which effectively allowed Cape Independence supporters to vote DA without any conflict of interest.
Steenhuisen – People should have a right to a referendum
In its election campaign, the DA never referred directly to the Cape Independence referendum promise, opting instead for word gymnastics designed to minimise the agreement's political impact.
Steenhuisen said that Cape Independence was a waste of energy, but that “people should have a right to a referendum going forward”. Helen Zille responded to a question on Cape Independence by saying, “Where people don’t vote for [the] ANC, they don’t deserve to live under a failed state”.
Following the elections, which saw the DA re-elected in the Western Cape with an outright majority, the organisations continued to work together on the Western Cape Devolution Working Group (WCDWG).
The WCDWG pursued two lines of enquiry. Could substantive devolution be delivered in the Western Cape and was federalism a potential alternative to independence. The process reached some sort of conclusion with the tabling of the Western Cape Provincial Powers Bill and the Western Cape Peoples Bill.
Devolution is not deliverable
The first outcome was that, in the current political climate and for the foreseeable future, devolution could not be delivered.
In its 2019 Western Cape manifesto, the DA targeted the establishment of a Western Cape provincial police force funded from the national fiscus, and the creation of a safe and reliable provincial rail service which runs on time. When the DA made these promises, it had no idea how it was going to deliver them, and it is now a matter of record that it has failed to do so.
The Western Cape Provincial Powers Bill is a laudable attempt at moving devolution forward, but its Achilles heel has already been exposed. The Bill relies on section 238 of the Constitution and the voluntary assignment of power by the national government. Western Cape legal advisor Romeo Maasdorp has formally raised concerns that the Bill is not based upon constitutional rights, whilst the South African cabinet has rejected the Bill stating that South Africa is a unitary state and that it will not be devolving power to the Western Cape.
DA has rejected federalism for WC
The second outcome of the WCDWG was that federalism was theoretically possible, but that the DA was unwilling to do what was necessary to deliver it.
Federalism requires a change in the South African Constitution, which requires the support of two-thirds of the National Assembly and six out of nine provinces. Ordinarily this would be impossible to achieve, but there is a loophole. The South African constitutional order explicitly recognises international law and the right of all peoples to self-determination.
The Western Cape Peoples Bill claims this right to self-determination for the Western Cape people. It could then be followed up with a Western Cape Federal Autonomy Bill which would see the Western Cape people exercising their right to self-determination in the form of federalism.
But the DA was unwilling to pursue federalism unilaterally for the Western Cape. It refused to table the Western Cape Peoples Bill and announced that it would vote with the ANC against the Bill when the Freedom Front Plus tabled it instead. In doing so, the DA have rendered federalism undeliverable too.
Survival of democracy at stake
As the Western Cape now heads into the 2024 elections, the parameters of Western Cape autonomy are therefore now clearly defined.
Devolution is not possible because the national government will not consent to it, and realistically, nothing will change after 2024 in this regard. Federalism is not possible because the DA-led provincial government is not willing to do what would be required to deliver it. In any event, federalism would not deliver control of economic policy to the Western Cape, without which the province cannot save itself from South Africa’s self-destructive behaviour.
Steenhuisen and the DA have also clarified the considerable stakes in the 2024 election. “This is no longer about politics. It is about the survival of democracy, and the survival of South Africa.”
New poll on Cape Independence
Against this backdrop, the CIAG commissioned Victory Research to once again poll the views of the Western Cape people. The results were highly significant.
68% of Western Cape voters now support a referendum being held on Cape Independence, and 58% support secession outright. Amongst DA voters, support is even higher with 79% supporting a referendum and 61% independence. The poll was democratically representative and the margin for error was 5%.
Will the DA honour its referendum promise?
This brings us full circle to the DA’s 2021 pre-election promise of a referendum on Cape Independence. The DA cannot predict the end of democracy and then deny the only province which it governs the right to a referendum which it has already promised, and which would protect it from the end of democracy. It is clearly now time for that referendum to take place.
Accordingly, the CIAG, CapeXit, the Freedom Front Plus, the Cape Independence Party, the Cape Youth Front, and the Swartland Action Group have come together under the umbrella of the ‘Cape Referendum Alliance’ to remind the DA of their 2021 election promise, and to petition DA Western Cape Premier Alan Winde to call a referendum on Cape Independence on election day 2024.
Their plan is simple.
Step one is to rally an army of Cape Independence supporters behind the referendum call. The alliance has set up a shared website (www.capereferendum.org) for this purpose and thousands upon thousands have already added their voices to the call.
The message of the website is straightforward; 68% of Western Cape voters want a referendum, given the state of South Africa and the DA’s own predictions for the future we need a referendum, and in 2021 when the DA wanted our votes, we were promised a referendum. It is now time for the DA to make good on their promise.
The alliance will give Premier Alan Winde until 10 October to agree to call a Cape Independence referendum on election day 2024.
Independence movement to directly oppose DA if necessary
If Winde fails to do so, then step two of the plan will be enacted.
The army of Cape Independence supporting Western Cape voters will have witnessed first-hand the DA break its 2021 pre-election promise when their call for a referendum is denied. They will then know beyond any shadow of a doubt that obtaining Cape Independence is now incompatible with voting DA.
The Cape Independence movement will then stand together and for the first time actively campaign against the DA. Its purpose will not be to remove the DA from power, the DA have done a good job of running the Western Cape, its purpose will be to persuade people to vote tactically to force the DA to listen to the voters who elected them. A range of credible political options will be available for them to achieve this.
The alliance will ensure that there are no possible circumstances under which the ANC can come to power in the Western Cape. The DA will retain power, but the decision on Cape Independence must be taken by the Western Cape people and not the DA.
Without Cape Independence, the Western Cape will go down with the South African sinking ship. A more comfortable seat whilst drowning has very limited appeal.