OPINION | The Cape independence debate: Should the DA be renamed the Undemocratic Alliance?

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The writer asks if the Democractic Alliance should get a new name for ignoring voters who want Cape independence.
The writer asks if the Democractic Alliance should get a new name for ignoring voters who want Cape independence.
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The DA in the Western Cape has acknowledged receipt of a petition from the Cape Independence movement following a march earlier this year, but still has not formally responded to its content. Phil Craig writes that he is of the view that the DA is ignoring the wishes of its own voters by not holding a referendum


Democracy: government by the people, a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system. (Dictionary.com)

In eight provinces of South Africa, the Democratic Alliance (DA) is a political party aspiring to govern. It is entirely free to pack out its wares and entice would-be customers with all it has to offer.

In 2019, 16% of those electing to vote in these eight provinces indicated that they liked what the DA was selling. 84% rejected it, leaving the DA as the official opposition in four of these eight provinces, being the party placed second behind the ANC, and in the remaining four the third placed party, and therefore not even the official opposition.

The story in the ninth province is entirely different. In the Western Cape in 2019, the DA, with 55% of the vote, became, for the third term in succession, the elected agents of the people of the Western Cape.

Let us be crystal clear on one point, the DA's mandate to govern in the Western Cape is derived from the wishes of the Western Cape electorate, and not the South African electorate.

The other eight provinces did not elect the DA, and at no point whatsoever have Western Cape voters given the DA their consent to aggregate their votes with these other eight provinces to strengthen the DA's political hand nationally, while diluting it provincially. That would not be a democratic action, but instead a self-serving party-political machination.

DA petitioned to respect democracy in the Western Cape

On 5 December, the Cape Independence Advocacy Group, CapeXit, The Cape Party, the Vryheidsfront Plus and the Bruin Bemagtiging Beweging, collectively making up a large part of the Cape Independence movement, handed over a petition to the DA in the Western Cape calling upon them to respect democracy.

There are many who remain unsold on the idea of Western Cape independence, more often that not because they are yet to be convinced that it can be achieved, rather than they think it a bad idea. It is important to clarify that the independence movement was not calling upon the DA to grant independence, but to respect the democratic wishes of the Western Cape people, whatever those wishes may be.

The Cloetseville march for Cape Independence earlier this month culminated in the formal handing over of a petition whose first demand read as follows:

"... we call upon the Democratic Alliance to give the people of the Western Cape the following assurances:"

"That, in the event that there is reasonable cause to believe that the majority of Western Cape citizens wish to break away from South Africa and create their own independent state, the Democratic Alliance will call a people's referendum on independence, and agree to be bound by its outcome."

It would be hard to make a more democratic demand - if there is reasonable cause to believe that the majority wish, call a referendum of the people to establish whether the people do indeed wish it, and agree to be bound by whatever it is determined that the people want.

If you are a democratic party on what basis would you justify saying no to this request?

DA haven't yet formally responded to petition

Even if you are vehemently opposed to Cape Independence (and the DA most certainly are not vehemently opposed to it, by their own admission, they simply question whether it is either practical or achievable) then the principle of democracy would dictate that you hold the referendum, and should you lose and feel morally unable to enact the wishes of the people, you must resign as the government so a government genuinely representative of the people can take your place.

At the time of writing, the DA had not responded to the petition, although they have formally acknowledged its receipt.

In truth, the DA is playing hard and fast with democracy in the Western Cape. In the Victory research poll earlier this year, 53% of Western Cape DA voters who took part in the survey indicated they supported independence, whilst 64% of those questioned said they supported holding a referendum. 

The DA polls on a regular basis and these results have been in the public domain since September. The DA were privately provided with a copy of the results in August and have confirmed that they have both received and studied them. They have not queried a single number.

So where does this leave us?

It leaves us with the party of provincial government ignoring the wishes of its own voters, and a party not willing to promise to consult, by means of a referendum, with the province's voters on an issue as critical as Cape independence and be bound by the outcome. Perhaps a name-change is in order?

The Undemocratic Alliance?

ANC getting in on the act

The ANC are never knowingly undersold when it comes to hypocrisy and added the perfect footnote to the DA's undemocratic obfuscation.

On 11 December, the ANC released an official statement affirming the right to self-determination for the peoples of the Western Sahara and Palestine, stating:

"It is only the people of the Western Sahara that can make a decision about their own sovereignty and self-determination."

The party went on to state that "these matters (must) be resolved in a democratic, peaceful and urgent manner".

If there is an ounce of political integrity remaining in our land, I am looking forward to the DA announcing that they will indeed respect the democratic principles and be bound by the wishes of the Western Cape electorate when it comes to Cape Independence. I am also looking forward to the ANC then affirming that only the people of the Western Cape can make a decision about their sovereignty and self-determination.

In truth, the Cape Independence Advocacy Group won't be counting on either and will be working tirelessly on the ground to create a political reality which is not underpinned by the expectation of any political party simply "doing the right thing".

We started by reminding ourselves that democracy is "supreme power vested in the people". It seems like both the DA and the ANC are going to have to be reminded of exactly what that means.

Phil Craig is a family man, a serial entrepreneur and a co-founder of the Cape Independence Advocacy Group


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