Legal Process

The process of a country obtaining its independence is complex, but numerous countries have managed it successfully.

There is no ‘right’ to obtain independence per se, but all groups of people have a right to self-determination and South Africa has repeatedly sworn to uphold this right. It means that groups of people (referred to as ‘peoples’ in international law) can decide for themselves how they want to live and be governed. One way in which to exercise self-determination is through secession (breaking away from another country and becoming an independent state).

In practical terms this would include the following steps:

  1. The group of people wanting to secede would hold a referendum to establish whether the majority of them supported independence (the South African Constitution allows the Western Cape Premier to call such a referendum).
  2. If the majority vote yes, then the Western Cape Government (in conjunction with other interested parties) would negotiate the terms of Western Cape independence with the South African Government (no outcomes would be predetermined by law).
  3. In the event that the South African Government refused to negotiate in good faith, the Western Cape Government would be able to declare itself independent. If this happened, then the international community would decide whether to support Western Cape Independence or not (in a process called ‘International recognition’).
  4. Where the Western Cape had acted reasonably, democratically, and tried to negotiate in good faith, but where South Africa had been unwilling to do so, it is extremely likely that the international community would support Cape Independence, and South African would be unable to prevent it.