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Cape Independence: Fool’s errand or Survival strategy?

Love it or hate it, Cape Independence has now firmly been established in the South African political discourse. 

To some it is a silly and unobtainable pipe dream, to others an article of faith essential to our very survival. 

The most recent polling, which was conducted in August last year found 68% of Western Cape voters now favour a referendum being held on Cape Independence, with 58% in favour of independence itself, and every major political party has felt it necessary to publicly comment on the subject.

As co-founder of the Cape Independence Advocacy Group, and more recently leader of the Referendum Party, I’ve been intimately involved in the campaign for Cape Independence.

Today, I’d like to briefly address four questions which should give us all a better understanding of Cape Independence:

  • Is it possible?
  • Is it necessary?
  • Is it desirable?
  • Is there an alternative?
Is Cape Independence possible?

The answer is of course yes, almost anything is possible, and when it comes to Cape Independence the process is relatively simple (which of course is very different from saying it will be easy, because it will not).

Those who claim independence isn’t possible tend to do so based upon a very formulaic reading of the Constitution which totally disregards both political realities and the wider legal universe which includes international law.

I could lay out for you in great detail the legal argument that explains why they’re wrong and how Cape Independence is legally possible, but in doing so, we’d all be missing the point

And this is because most of us have totally underestimated the sheer political magnitude of what the Western Cape people, voting legally in a referendum for Cape Independence, will mean.

There hasn’t been a single referendum in the entire democratic era.

So I want you for a moment to imagine waking up in South Africa the day after the Western Cape has voted to leave.

It is the end of a hard fought six month referendum campaign, Cape Independence has dominated the new cycles every single day of those six months, and now under the watchful eyes of international observers, the IEC have announced the result. 

The world’s press are reporting that the Western Cape has voted to secede from South Africa, and thousands upon thousands of people are now wildly celebrating in the streets.

I want you to put yourself in that moment, to imagine how it will feel, then tell me that you honestly think, as some people would have us believe, that South Africa can simply ignore the entire event and go about its business as if nothing has even happened at all!

A referendum on Cape Independence is a legal revolution.

This is exactly why, when considering the significance of independence referendums, the Supreme Courts of both Canada and the UK have effectively found that in a democracy, you simply cannot ignore their outcomes, because they are the clearly demonstrated democratic will of the people.

So, is Cape Independence possible?

If the Western Cape people vote for Cape Independence in a referendum, it’s not just possible, it’s not even just likely, Cape Independence will be inevitable!

Is Cape Independence necessary?

Cape Independence supporters are often accused of having a laager mentality.

Well if anyone accuses me of having a laager mentality, they are 100% correct. I absolutely do, and so should you.

A laager is a highly successful strategy, through which vulnerable groups of people operating in hostile territory where they are greatly outnumbered, organise themselves to defend everything they hold most dear, from destruction.

This is exactly the situation which ideological minorities in South Africa find themselves in today.

We need a laager.

South Africa is divided into two camps

The largest and politically dominant group is the African nationalists. 

The African Nationalists at best pay lip service to the concept of non-racialism, and at worst reject it outright. They support race based-policy, the centralisation of power in the state, they are inherently hostile towards business, and intent on weakening or removing property rights. 

On their agenda is expropriation without compensation, privatising the reserve bank, the destruction of the private health service, and an increased role for state owned enterprises. Extreme elements are literally threatening genocide. Their global outlook is Eastward, not West.

And we mustn’t fool ourselves into thinking that this is some fringe group and that the South African populace is somehow benign.

If we are to understand the scale of the threat African nationalists truly pose, we must not just look at South Africa election results as a whole. Instead, we need to remove the Western Cape, which is the only province where the African nationalists do not hold sway, and then examine what remains.

In 2019, 73.1% of voters outside of the Western Cape voted either ANC or EFF, whilst only 16% voted DA, with most of those votes being cast in areas where ethnic minorities are highly concentrated.

It is also critical to recognise that African nationalists are not becoming more moderate, they are becoming more radical.

In 2021, we asked Western Cape voters, ‘do you believe South Africa belongs equally to everyone regardless of their race, or, do you believe it belongs to primarily to Africans and other races should behave as guests?’

In 2021, 45% of black voters said that other races should behave as guests.

When we asked the same question in 2023, that number had increased from 45% to 69%, with only 31% of black voters in the Western Cape believing in non-racialism.

And the dream scenario for African nationalists is exactly the one which is likely to unfold in 2024. That the ANC cannot form a government on its own, but instead its hold on political power becomes dependent upon its more radical allies. 

And that should terrify us.

Why? Because Almost everybody in this room belongs to the other camp, and has everything to lose when a more radical version of the African nationalists inevitably comes to power.

Our camp believes in genuine non-racialism, that South Africa really does belong equally to all regardless of race, that property rights are an essential element of a vibrant economy and that economic success is the only viable foundation for a prosperous future for all. We believe that the state should have limited capacity, that power should be decentralised, and that the free-market can address most of our challenges. Our global outlook is Westward, not East.

We currently hold one province, where for now, we form an ideological majority, but for how long will that remain true?

We must not blind ourselves to the realities of our situation.  

A toxic mix of economic desperation, the breakdown of family values, and illegal land invasions on a vast scale, means that our ideological hegemony in the Western Cape will at best last another 10 years. This is a point which Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis readily conceded to me when he said, Phil, in 10 years time you may have been right and I may have been wrong. The trouble is, by then it will all be too late.

So, It may be an uncomfortable truth, but if we as non-racialists and capitalists want to have a future at Africa’s southern tip, then we need to create an ideological homeland for ourselves, which we can control, before the opportunity is lost forever.

We don’t need to imagine what the alternative would be, because Zimbabwe stands in living testimony of what our future will look like without it.

Is Cape Independence necessary? Well if you want to keep on living the life you currently live, and if you want a future for your children on the African continent, then it is time to circle the wagons.

Cape Independence is quite literally essential to our very survival

Is Cape Independence desirable?

The essence of the fight for Cape Independence is the inalienable and unquestionable right of all peoples to self-determination.

In 2014, the United Nations described self-determination like this:

In its essence, the right of self determination means that individuals and

Peoples [us] should be in control of [our] destinies, and should be able to live out [our]

identities, whether within the boundaries of existing States, or through independence.

Since 1994, the majority of Western Cape voters have never once been governed at a national level by the party they voted for, and they have no reasonable prospect of it ever happening in the foreseeable future. 

Phrased differently, the Western Cape people are at the mercy of voters in the rest of South Africa.

Working purely with empirical data, what have the consequences been to the Western Cape people of not being able to make their own decisions?

Economic growth over the last decade has averaged 1.1% in the Western Cape, whilst population growth has averaged 1.6% - the Western Cape people are getting poorer

35% of the Western Cape’s income is used to subsidise other provinces which are being mismanaged under ANC rule - and that money could’ve be spent on providing services to the people of the Western Cape

Unemployment in the Western Cape (expanded rate) is currently 25.6% compared to 25.7% a decade ago - 1 in 4 Western people remain needlessly unemployed. 

In 2023, the Western Cape had an uninterrupted electricity supply for just 33 days out of 365 - the Western Cape people could have had electricity

The murder rate in the Western Cape, at 56 murders per 100k, is higher than in any other nation on earth and the Western Cape High Court has declared that the senior management of SAPS in the province is corrupt - the Western Cape people are living in fear for their lives

Passenger rail services in the Western Cape have collapsed with journeys down from 49.2m a decade ago to just 3.2m now - trains no longer serve the majority of Western Cape people

Who is responsible for each and every one of these atrocious statistics? The national government which the majority of the Western Cape people have never once voted for

Is Cape Independence desirable?

Let’s consider how different these statistics would look in an independent Western Cape.

Controlling economic policy and creating a business environment conducive with investment and employment will almost instantly increase revenues and reduce unemployment.

Removing the state owned monopoly on electricity and embracing IPPs will increase the electricity supply

Taking control of the police service, reinstating merit as the key selection criteria, removing corrupt officers, professionalising the service, and increasing convictions will, together with reducing unemployment, drive down crime rates

And Partial or full privatisation of the rail service will bring our part of Africa’s largest rail network back into productive use.

In short, an independent Western Cape will quickly become an African utopia.

But please don’t take my word for it. Instead, I want you to listen to those who are most opposed to Cape Independence.

What do they say? What do the DA say?

How are you going to keep all the people out? Everybody will want to go there.

Doesn’t that sound like exactly the sort of country we should be creating?

Are there any alternatives to Cape Independence?

If you listen to our political opponents there are three; devolving powers to the Western Cape, federalism, or somehow saving all of South Africa.

If we could have saved all of South Africa, wouldn’t we already have done it? It is now clear from polling that in 2024 elections, the majority of South Africa voters will once again vote for either the ANC, the EFF, or Jacob Zuma. 

We simply have to accept that the majority of people in South Africa do not think like we think, and do not want the solutions that we consider essential to our prosperity, and to our survival.

The DA claims that the devolution of powers is a viable solution, but this is pure fantasy.

If we cannot control economic policy, if we cannot choose our own international allies,  and if we cannot control our own borders, but instead leave them all in the hands of the ANC and EFF, then how on earth can we possibly save the Western Cape?

And even if devolution were the solution, the DA simply cannot deliver it. How can I say this with such certainty? 

Because the DA have held an outright majority in the Western Cape for 15 years, yet despite having the collective support of civil society, academia, and several other political parties through the WC devolution working group, they have spectacularly failed to deliver devolution.

Devolution is simply not possible without the consent of the national government.

What then about federalism?

Like devolution, federalism will not deliver control of the key levers of power, leaving them instead in the hands of the ANC and the EFF.  

In any event, Federalism is actually harder to achieve than independence because it requires a change in the constitution where independence does not.

The inescapable reality is this, if we want to create a prosperous and functional non-racial society, which recognises the critical role which business and investment plays in improving the welfare of the people, where law and order is respectfully but firmly imposed, where the global outlook is westward not east, and where we can imagine our descendants living contentedly for generations to come, then there is simply no other alternative to Cape Independence.

And If you aren’t planning to emigrate, then you need to help us save the Western Cape whilst we still can.

[Closing remarks]

This should now leave one final critical question. How can we deliver Cape Independence?

And if I have made my case for Cape Independence clearly enough today, then I hope the answer is already clear.  

We must ensure that a referendum on Cape Independence is held, which we are then virtually certain to win.

Many of the people in this room will be DA funders, many more of you DA voters. Whilst not perfect, the DA have done a good job of running the Western Cape. Certainly incomparably better than the ANC.

So what I say next is critically important to understand.

The biggest single obstacle to Cape Independence is not the ANC, and it's not the EFF, the biggest single obstacle to Cape Independence is the DA.

Unlike many other countries around the world, the Western Cape does not need South Africa’s permission to call a referendum on Cape Independence. Instead, the Constitution empowers the Western Cape Premier (and only the Western Cape premier) to call one.

The DA can deliver Cape Independence, but it is choosing not to.

Which then brings us to the business end of this speech

Cape Independence is a practical and viable solution to the problems which confront us. And in truth, it is the only viable solution, but activists like me cannot deliver it alone. 

So in the final reckoning, it is you who will determine whether Cape Independence succeeds or fails.

Are you willing to leverage the donations and votes which many of you are giving to the DA to force them to call a referendum on Cape Independence?

And if the DA aren’t then willing to listen to you, just as they have ignored the 68% of Western Cape people who want a referendum to be held, then what are you going to do about it?

I hope the answer is that many of you are going to vote for the Referendum Party.

We created the referendum party to offer voters a safe way to pressure the DA-led Western Cape Government into calling a referendum on Cape Independence, whilst not removing them from power and risking the return of the ANC.

At the Referendum Party, we've promised that we will vote with the DA to help them form a Western Cape Government, 

And we have promised we will vote with the multi-party charter to help remove the ANC from power nationally,

Our sole purpose as a political party is to force the DA to call the referendum on Cape Independence which will establish an ideological homeland for people who think like we do, and in doing so, to allow us to determine our own destiny.

Our message is very very simple

You can choose a first-world future in an independent Western Cape, 

or you can choose to live in a failed South African state, 

and how you vote in 2024 will determine which one of these two very different futures becomes your reality.