Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Cape Secession

The Cape of Good Hope till 1910 was still a separate entity to the rest of South Africa. In fact, the nation of 'South Africa' as we know it today did not even exist.   

The Anglo-Boer War ended in 1902 and the surrendering Boer states of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal were incorporated as part of the British Empire. They were promised a degree of self-autonomy as part of the conditions of surrender and would each be a separate colony in the region together with the Cape Colony and Natal Colony. Both of which had been under direct British control during the war.

In 1910 the South Africa Act came into effect creating the Union of South Africa, meaning that the four colonies were now joined together to form a single state and a self-governing dominion of the British Empire.

None of the population voted for this unification, neither from the former Boer republics nor those from the Cape or Natal. It was decided by Britain; and so the four states were joined together to form the Union of South Africa.   

However, Southern Rhodesia (modern Zimbabwe) did have the choice via a referendum on whether to join the Union as the fifth province and they voted not to join, choosing to rather stay as a separate colony. 

When South Africa became a Republic, the borders remained the same until the creation of the Homelands or Bantustans by the government in the late 1970's and early 80's. These were officially recognised as independent Black tribal homelands by the government and had their own governments, police and army but were however not recognised internationally or at least only to a limited degree in certain countries.
In 1994 they were all reincorporated with South Africa though there was some resistance from two of the local governments which resulted in military intervention from the South African Defence Force.
This framework of four provinces lasted until 1994 when these provinces would then be carved into a further nine provinces.
Along with the new Constitution that set these new provinces into effect came less autonomy than was had before, to be replaced by a more centralised version of government to which the revised Constitution that followed even further limited self-autonomy.
Today, all but one of the 9 provinces is ruled by the African National Congress (ANC), a thorn in the side of their vision of a centralised state and one party political hegemony over all sectors of society.
And that province is the Western Cape. 

The majority of it's population unlike the rest of the country does not have a Black majority but is instead comprised mostly of  Coloureds. 

The most spoken language is not a Black African language but nevertheless still an African language, namely Afrikaans and it is the first language of the majority of Coloured and White people in the province.
It is thus widely spoken in every day life, and for those whose first language is English among the rest of the Whites, or Xhosa for the Black people, most can speak it to some degree as a second or third language and almost all can understand it. 

The Democratic Alliance is the party that currently holds power in the Western Cape and they are also the official Opposition nationally. Unlike the centralised vision of the ANC, their policies are based on free-market concepts that favour less government intervention in the economy.
Some of the DA's detractors still refer to it as a 'white' party but the reality is that in the Western Cape, the majority of it's support base are in fact Coloureds. With an ever growing percentage coming from Black people even though political intimidation in the townships and squatter camps is still a dangerous reality for them. 

In the last two elections a new political party decided to contest in the Western Cape, the Cape Party.
A secessionist party whose aim is for the province to hold a referendum to decide whether the population wish to secede from the rest of the Republic in accordance with Resolution 235 in Chapter 14 of the Constitution which recognises and guarantees the “the right of self-determination of any community sharing a common cultural and language heritage, within a territorial entity in the Republic” 

They only managed to get a very small percentage of votes (0.14%) in the last municipal elections but nevertheless they have stirred up the issue and raised the topic many have been talking about amongst themselves in the Cape to national debate. 

The topic has been heavily mauled by some sectors of the press, who have thrown all kinds of allegations and have been keen to shoot down the issue as soon as possible. Comments on various forums and articles seemed to be mixed from outside the province, with some using the opportunity to openly express their dislike for the people and the region, but within the province, where the opinion ultimately matters, it seems there is wide support and interest in the idea. 

The Cape Party's main reasoning is that the Cape of Good Hope was forced into a Union with the other Colonies without having a say in the matter, unlike Southern Rhodesia who had the option. Likewise, both Lesotho and Swaziland also voted against being part of the Union and are now independent republics within the borders of South Africa. 

A further rationale would be the claim that a Cape Republic would be more economically viable than the rest of South Africa, it has a GDP of R 239 Billion and in almost all measures performs better than the other provinces. And for every R 100 in taxes given to the central government, only R 58 returns back to the Province. 
It also argues that smaller states perform better and allow a more direct form of democracy without the bloated bureaucracy needed to run a large centralised country.

Not elaborated on, but mentioned is the cost of Black Economic Empowerment as an example.
Which in itself has lead to mass foreign disinvestment and the flight of billions of Rand from the country, steadily increasing every year while foreign companies have even cited BEE as an 'investment risk'.

As a result they are moving their headquarters overseas to be exempt from the quota's while selling their assets in South Africa and moving as much capital as they can abroad and investing in other countries instead. This has occurred most strikingly in the mining sector where shares have hastily been sold at a discount to BEE groups, and mining companies have simply redirected investment to more investor friendly countries.

Not to mention that BEE has only benefited a very small group of well-connected families and a small political elite and has not made a difference in alleviating poverty or increasing the living standards or job opportunities of the vast majority of Black people. In fact, unemployment has doubled since 1994. 

Another of their main arguments is that the Cape has historically always had a different ethnic make-up and culture to the rest of the country. The original inhabitants of the Cape were the Khoisan and now the majority are Coloured with the vast majority of the current Black population being a relatively recent phenomenon as a result of migrant labour from the rest of the country. 
As a result the Province is the hardest hit by BEE, Affirmative Action, the various quota's and all the other racial laws. 
The crime-wave that has hit South Africa since the ANC has come to power was however not mentioned in their manifesto nor the sudden surge of drug cartels that have entered the country. If the issue was one of theft most could probably still tolerate it, but 'crime' in South Africa means armed robbery, car hijackings, rape and murder in homes and on farms.

If a government cannot even protect it's own citizens and still takes almost half of their taxes to distribute to the rest of the country, it's easy to see why the population can feel they're not getting a very good deal out of their relationship with the government. And why it's easy to consider the option of a national police force with national resources over a smaller territory with more funds in order to tackle crime more effectively and provide safety to it's tax payers and citizens.

They therefore believe that the population of the Province should be given the choice on whether to remain a part of South Africa or to secede and be independent. 

The DA, as representatives of the people who voted them into power in the Western Cape, should consider the idea of a referendum to see what the will of their electorate truly is. 

And instead of undermining each other, the Democratic Alliance and the Cape Party as well as other smaller opposition parties should consider working together to end the unchallenged rule of a one-party dominant state. 
Just a shade away from being under one-party rule.

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