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Cape Independence
Aerial view of entrance of the port of cape town. Commercial docks of cape town harbour.

Africa

Cape Independence: Is It A Good Idea?

Everybody in South Africa knows that the Western Cape is not like the rest of the country, which is why a movement for Cape Independence is gathering momentum in the hopes that the Western Cape can jump the sinking ship that is the ANC-run South Africa.

And, as any advocate for Cape Independence will tell you, it’s not a terribly radical idea either. In fact, the Cape was an independent nation-state for hundreds of years before the Union of South Africa was established in 1910. And there are a number of reasons why self-governance and self-determination can radically improve the lives of Capetonians of all creeds and colours.

What would it take to create an Independent Western Cape?

According to the CapeXit movement, they “need the support of 1 600 000 people to force a referendum with the SA Government. Failing the government’s approval [they] will seek the support of the United Nations, The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.”

Many people might be a bit skeptical, but the movement is adamant that any secession would be based on solid legal foundations.

“The quest for Independence for groups indigenous to the Cape, sharing a common language or languages and culture will be achieved through a legal process which is completely legal and legislated in the South African Constitution through the:

South African Law:
Article 235 of the South African Constitution

International Law:
Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Article 20 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights”

The CapeXit movement claims to be “nonpolitical” and is not interested in governing. On their website, they call for holding a referendum and setting up an interim government to keep the wheels turning while citizens of the newly established Cape of Good Hope will vote for a new government.

Does the referendum have enough support?

According to polling from another advocacy group for Cape Independence, the creatively named Cape Independence Advocacy Group (CIAG), “more than 1 in 3 Cape citizens (36%) [say] they support Cape Independence and almost 1 in 2 (47%) [support] a referendum on the issue.”

And these numbers could grow even higher, should a major political party, such as the DA, who have governed the Western Cape at a provincial level since 2009, lend support to the movement.

Is it viable?

Naturally, this is the sticking point at the heart of any conversation about any secession… and Cape Independence advocates insist that it is.

“As an independent country the Cape of Good Hope will be much better placed to develop and fund workable policies to address our many issues,” the CIAG says. “It will have a much larger financial budget, no longer having to subsidize South Africa as it currently does, and the government will be closer to the people ensuring that we develop local solutions to local problems.”

“Undoubtedly, the advantages of independence outweigh the current situation in South Africa. It is legal, feasible, fair, practical, and necessary,” says the CapeXit party.

“The newly elected Government will be directly accountable to Cape Citizens, the tax income generated in the Cape will be used for the benefit of Cape citizens, improved education system, police forces, healthcare system, zero tolerance for lawlessness, racism and discrimination and effective changes in housing benefits, recognition of property rights and closed borders to prevent the influx of illegal immigrants.[sic]

CIAG co-founder Phil Craig, tells BizCommunity‘s Alec Hogg that “the Western Cape produces 13.9% of South Africa’s GDP. It houses 11.2% of South Africa’s population and when the government funds are allocated to the province, the Western Cape gets 10.1% of the allocation of provincial funds. So, the Western Cape is paying in 13.9% and it’s getting 10.1% back. So, first of all, just at face value, there’s a net gain by not being part of South Africa.”

So that pretty much settles it right? Well… not quite.

Where the wheels start to fall off…

To many of us Capetonians, bearing witness to high levels of economic immigration from other parts of the country, knowing that we did not vote for the national government that sets our provincial budgets and takes our money, this seems to be a pretty logical idea. But the CapeXit/CIAG movements conveniently leave out many details – the kinds of details that one might guess supporters of a referendum either don’t have the time or couldn’t be bothered to research.

Firstly, the polling figures that the CIAG cite, where one in three Capetonians support secession and half support holding a referendum, come from a sample size of little over 800 respondents and was “conducted telephonically, using a single frame, random-digit-dialing sampling design.” By 2015 estimates, the Western Cape has a population of roughly 6.2 million people. To claim that dialing random numbers 800 times constitutes a representative sample is a massive stretch.

Secondly, to consider a secession constitutional is laughable. Plenty of people in the Western Cape identify as South Africans before they identify as Capetonians. Many were born in other parts of the country or have family residing in other parts of the country. Even a 50% +1 vote in favour of secession forces half of the province to decide whether they are going to form part of this new nation-state. If they aren’t in favour, they have to quit their jobs, sell their homes, uproot their entire families to repatriate to the “real” South Africa. Not to mention, closing the Western Cape borders is a direct violation of the freedom of movement, enshrined in the bill of rights. For every Capetonian who has to travel to the Eastern Cape to attend a funeral, for example, they would now need to apply for some kind of visa and actually own a passport book (which many South Africans do not).

Thirdly – again, this is the most critical point – it is simply not viable. If you want an example of why, let’s look at Brexit, which has been haunting the United Kingdom for the last four years and created incredible turmoil. And Brexit isn’t even a bona fide secession, as the EU doesn’t own any of the public infrastructure, such as the London underground. The EU has no control over the internal decision making in the UK. Perhaps one could say that there would be a net gain in terms of tax revenues going to an Independent Western Cape, but no consideration has been made for all of the businesses headquartered in the Cape that could opt to move to Johannesburg, nobody has considered what will happen to public infrastructure.

Home Affairs, public transport networks, the electricity supply… the Western Cape doesn’t just get to keep all of these nationally run public departments/programs/services. After the Cape wins its independence, it would have to buy everything from the South African government – because it belongs to them. This undertaking would cost hundreds of billions of rands and would set the new Independent state back a very long way, creating an immediate deficit which would mean that this new country would start on very shaky ground.

And this is just the start of the financial costs. Factor in things like repatriating citizens to and from the Western Cape, according to which government they prefer to live under. Then you have to erect a border, as well as people to ensure they’re secure, you’d have to create a new defence force. Everything that the national government is involved in when it comes to managing the Western Cape has to be completely overhauled and, forgetting how incredibly complicated it would be to pull off even if the money was there, there simply isn’t money to do this. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Whenever asked for data, roadmaps, and cost projections, Cape Independence advocates will refer you to arbitrary percentages and numbers for which they have no sources– that is if they don’t dodge the question entirely. It seems they are only going to start planning and drawing up solid frameworks for the very complicated process of starting a new country once the referendum has been successfully conducted.

Towards an ethnostate…

One of the primary reasons that any region chooses to secede from its parent country is because they do not share a national identity.

In Spain, you have various autonomous regions, most notably Catalonia, who speak a different language and culturally identify differently from the rest of the country. The same can be said for the Republic of Ireland/Northern Ireland protestant/catholic divide, as well as places like Bavaria in Germany, Corsica in Italy, Scotland in the United Kingdom, Tibet in China… the list goes on and on. One thing is for certain though: every time an attempt is made at secession, we see an outbreak in violence.

Ireland was decimated over the course of the 90s, courtesy of the Catholic/Protestant divide. The ETA in Spain, a separatist group calling for a free Basque country, has been labeled as a domestic terrorist organisation on multiple occasions, engaging in countless violent campaigns of bombing, assassinations, and kidnappings. The human rights violations in Tibet are also very well documented. Another very notable example, in Africa, that has led to a legitimate genocide that began in 2003 and continues to this day is that of Sudan, specifically in Darfur. The Darfur genocide, the first genocide of the 21st century, has led to somewhere between 80,000 and half a million deaths and over three million people have been victimised by the Khartoum government. Worse yet, rape has been used as a tool for genocide and a country with a high rate of gender based violence simply cannot risk taking on some of these consequences. Furthermore, the issues in Sudan have carried over into other countries on the horn of Africa, such as Ethiopia, Eritrea and even Egypt.

And, of course, perhaps the most noteworthy secession of all, the American Civil War, cost more lives than any other event in the country’s history with well over 600,000 people losing their lives following the Confederate secession. One can never say for certain, but there is a clear distinction in terms of racial and cultural identities between the Western Cape and the rest of the country. The Western Cape, obviously, has a big coloured population and has more white people, relative to their population, than any other part of the country.

Unsurprisingly, the directors and advocates of the Cape Independence movement seem eerily monochromatic. And, funnily enough, the CapeXit’s and CIAG’s anti-South Africa messaging seems to be limited to a criticism of how the ANC has run the country, no consideration for the historical context of how the pale-faced apartheid government ran the province. I believe this infographic that the CIAG provides in their poll results says it all.

This graph is incredibly telling when it comes to the rabbit hole of white supremacy that Cape Independence advocates lead ill-informed citizens down. These assertions appear reasonable, but either reinforces or even creates racism in the malleable minds of frustrated Capetonians.

The “minority race groups are being treated unfairly” idea is a clear dog whistle, while the CapeXit part’s FAQ page also gives an interesting answer to the question, “What will happen to BEE and AA policies in the newly independent country?”

“It will be totally abolished,” they say.

What does that say about the CapeXit’s statement on its homepage, where they claim that they are a “movement for all people of the Western Cape, regardless of race, religion or political views.”

And when the polling questions such as “do you believe your quality of life will improve in an independent Western Cape?” or “which do you think is more likely? Cape Independence or a DA-run national government”

Those are leading questions. Journalists do this in Q&A interviews. There’s an answer you want and you frame the conversation to get what you want. The questions, more than likely, were posed after a short, appealing, devoid of detail, discussion over Cape Independence. After all, I myself may have said that I support Cape Independence as little as six months ago perhaps, until I started digging a bit deeper.

Likely due to the fact that the Western Cape Provincial government has been run by the DA for over a decade, the province has unquestionably done the least to redress the racial inequalities brought about by the Apartheid regime and the effects of the Group Areas Act, Bantu Education Act and all the other despicable Apartheid-era legislation that continues to this day. Compare Constantia to its neighbouring suburb, Wynberg, and it’s plain to see. The student bodies of former Model C schools in Cape Town remain as white as ever. Correcting these problems doesn’t seem to be high on Cape Independence advocates’ list of priorities and, in fact, actively resisting redress appears to be their modus operandi.

I have no doubt at all that I’ll be accused of playing the race card, but it’s pretty clear to see that these movements are motivated by protecting white interests by reclaiming power from the black government that has threatened those interests for nigh on three decades.

Taxes

One Twitter user, @NotVanVeen, dug into the details of taxation in a discussion with Phil Craig on Twitter.

There’s also the fact that CIAG claim to be a registered NPC, but doesn’t appear to be registered as one on the department of social development’s website. While we wait for an explanation on why this is the case, we will not draw any conclusions, but falsely claiming NPC or even NPO status is a fraudulent offence.

Where is their international support?

Considering that the rest of South Africa is going to be opposed to any Western Cape secession, the movement will need to gather international support. Phil Craig, when asked about who the CIAG will be backed by in the international community, has said that private negotiations are ongoing and refuses to disclose anything publicly. But here’s the reality:

There will not be support from the EU, because it will open a can of worms that could add fuel to the secession movements in Catalonia, Bavaria, Scotland, and other potential breakaway states. The United States will not be supporting it, because of the threat of starting a separatist movement in places like California, Texas (both of which were originally part of Mexico), or even Alaska. China will not be interested, considering their issues in both Tibet and their long-standing claim that Taiwan remains a Chinese province. So what you’re left with, in terms of major nations are Russia, Brazil, and India… all of whom are ANC allies. So perhaps Craig’s CIAG is negotiating with Mauritius or Namibia… your guess is as good as mine. Sadly, none of the remaining countries of the world yield any significant power when it comes to geopolitical affairs.

When Craig was pushed for details on Twitter, he was unable to produce any facts and figures (saying details are not up for public discussion), resorted to personal insults and blocked Twitter users for scrutinising his plan.

Cape Independence Cape Independence Cape Independence Cape Independence Cape Independence

Education

This is a particularly important subject, because we all know that education is perhaps the most effective way to escape poverty and succeed. But what does a Cape secession mean for the education system on either side of the newly erected border? How will the curriculum change? An Independent Cape will likely teach history in a different way to South Africa. And more so, what does this mean in terms of costs of education around the world? Maps have to be redrawn, atlases will need to be changed. It’s basically the same argument that a conservative will make when arguing against the renaming of streets, airports and cities. Cartographers need to be employed en masse – it’s a hidden cost that the separatists need to take into consideration when drawing up their yet-to-be-published cost projections.

Trade routes

Being a coastal province, the matter of the ownership of sea trade routes are critical. Cape Town harbour is a massive trade portal for South Africa and shipping giants like Maersk have a massive presence. The same goes for who is in control of air-space. The entire logistics industry will be feeling the effects of a secession.

And it also needs to be asked if the separatists have done any marine research or looked into marine farming conservation. They need to provide answers about how finer details like this will be ironed out.

Other impacts

Where are the environmental impact assessments? This is standard practice for any simple construction project, never mind a project of this scale. How will a secession impact global warming and the environment and pollution levels?

Has anyone studied the impact it will have on the happiness and mental health of the citizens? Will we stay in the same timezone? How will it affect our families and culture? How will internet privacy legislation differ? The list of unanswered questions seems to have no end.

An elaborate grift

It shouldn’t surprise you that both CapeXit and CIAG have fundraising pages on their website for their supporters to make contributions towards… well, clearly not research.

CIAG ask their supporters for a monthly contribution of R90 or a R500 once-off payment, while CapeXit doesn’t specify what figures they’d prefer, but with 630,396 members (at the time of writing) a R1 donation from every single one of them makes advocating for Cape Independence a fairly profitable enterprise, even if its a pipe dream.

So, at the end of the day, if you’re still sold on the Cape Independence idea and, in spite of all the evidence, consider it feasible and moral, don’t forget that someone is making money off of the people who may not be informed enough to know that this is a terrible idea that isn’t even remotely grounded in reality.

 

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