SA staring down barrel of a gun but Western Cape has another choice

DA leader John Steenhuisen delivered a chillingly honest assessment of South Africa’s current circumstances, says the writer. Picture: Timothy Bernard/Independent Newspapers

DA leader John Steenhuisen delivered a chillingly honest assessment of South Africa’s current circumstances, says the writer. Picture: Timothy Bernard/Independent Newspapers

Published Apr 2, 2024


Phil Craig

As John Steenhuisen concluded his speech at the BizNews conference, my Referendum Party colleague remarked, “we could just add ‘and that is why we need Cape Independence’ at the end and use the video for promotional purposes”.

Steenhuisen delivered a chillingly honest assessment of South Africa’s current circumstances. It was highly unlikely that the Multi-Party Charter (MPC) would assume power nationally after the 2024 elections, instead a doomsday coalition of the ANC, EFF, and MK was a terrifying and far more likely scenario, free and fair elections would probably not take place in 2029, and we must all “vote like our lives depend on it”.

The question and answer session which followed clinically exposed the DA’s lack of any real solutions to the challenges which their leader had so eloquently articulated. As someone who deeply appreciates the respectful consideration of God in our politics, I was delighted to hear that Steenhuisen is regularly on his knees praying for divine intervention. I would however have felt decidedly more comfortable were those prayers to be accompanied by a credible plan.

My own political journey started in a church, and the message which drove me to action is perhaps pertinent. “There is no point coming to church on Sunday and praying that God will save our country,” challenged the dominee, “if you are going to go home on Monday and do nothing about it yourself.”

South Africans do not all want the same thing

The DA’s entire vision for South Africa is built upon a false premise, that despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, deep down all South Africans somehow want the same thing and voters will eventually come to their senses.

The reality is something entirely different. Not even crippling levels of unemployment, violent crime levels only usually found in active war zones, rolling blackouts, and a widespread collapse of service delivery, can convince the 6 out of 10 South African voters to endorse any party in the MPC, let alone the DA.

South Africans do not want the same thing, they never have, and, for the foreseeable future, they never will. The only thing that remains is for politicians to accept this inexorable reality and to plan accordingly.

Were the DA to genuinely be a federal party, this point would be trite, but the DA is federal in name only. In the last few years, most significantly through the Western Cape Devolution Working Group, there has been a concerted effort to reanimate the pursuit of federalism. Those efforts failed, not because a legal solution could not be found, but because the DA actively stymied every viable proposal.

Cape Independence – the elephant in the room

The absence of any even remotely viable solutions cried out for the elephant in the Western Cape room to announce itself. The elephant did not disappoint.

“Given that we are aware of the possibility of the doomsday pact happening, what would the DA stance on Cape Independence be in the event that something like that happened?”, came a question from the floor.

In the run-up to the 2021 elections, the DA actively deceived Western Cape voters over secession.

Whilst campaigning, the DA said it supported the right of the Western Cape people to decide the matter of Cape Independence for themselves, and the DA was going to table the referendum legislation which they said was necessary for this to happen.

Privately, Steenhuisen had personally promised that a referendum which included a question on Cape Independence would be called.

After the elections were over, everything changed. The referendum legislation was quietly sidelined (only being reinstated when the deception came to light), the DA now openly opposed Cape Independence, and Premier Winde formally refused to call a referendum.

Less than 80 days before the 2024 elections, we seem to have come full circle and DA déjà vu is palpable.

DA willing to look at Cape Independence?

Within five months of Winde’s flat-out refusal to call a referendum, Steenhuisen returned to the DA’s 2021 messaging. His party is clearly well aware of how enthusiastic its own Western Cape voters are about Cape Independence and obfuscation was the order of the day.

“Well I suppose we’d have to look at it (Cape Independence)”, proclaimed Steenhuisen before moving onto the legislation. If the doomsday pact gets elected the referendum legislation will never be passed, he asserted, before incorrectly stating that the Constitutional Court had recently ruled that there cannot be a provincial referendum without the passing of enabling legislation. (The court ruled no such thing. A referendum can be called today should the DA’s premier so wish.)

If the MPC gets in, we can get the legislation through in the first year, Steenhuisen continued, and then we can have an informed debate. (In 2021, the legislation was supposed to be passed within 6 months. It wasn’t even tabled until 2023.)

Perhaps more pertinently, does the MPC know its critical role in preparing the way for Cape Independence? In February, it unanimously rejected the Referendum Party’s (RP) application to join the charter on the basis that the RP proposed holding a referendum.

Has the MPC made a complete 180 too?

DA pursuing policy of containment on Cape Independence

Host Alec Hogg pressed Steenhuisen further, pointing out that the momentum for Cape Independence was growing as people in the Western Cape increasingly realised that they were being ruled by a government they didn’t vote for.

Steenhuisen’s response muddied the waters further.

“I am saying to you it is going to be very difficult to lead an independence movement where you have a government in place that implacably opposed to it”, “You can’t just secede without a referendum”, “(that’s) why we tabled the Referendum Bill in Parliament”.

Was Steenhuisen suggesting that the DA were going to lead the independence movement, or was he suggesting they were going to do the groundwork so that others could lead more easily? Both notions seem somewhat far-fetched given the DA’s previous opposition to Cape Independence.

A far more likely reality is that the DA is simply reverting to its 2021 playbook and pursuing a policy of containment.

Polling shows that 79% of Western Cape DA voters support a referendum being held, and 61% support Cape Independence outright. In a scenario where the DA’s eggs are all in the multi-charter basket, and the MPC is now by their own admission virtually certain to fail, they are more vulnerable than ever to the independence lobby.

Referendum Party offers DA voters safe alternative

Convincing Cape Independence supporters that secession might be an option with the DA has worked once.

It appears that the DA is going to try the same trick again. This time around it will have to contend with the Referendum Party. The party was formed as a direct result of the DA failing to honour its 2021 promises.

Where the DA does not have a viable plan, the RP most definitely does. Its intent is not to remove the DA from power in the Western Cape (no sane person wants the ANC back instead), but rather to force the DA into a proCape Independence coalition which will see the DA retain power, but have no choice but to call a referendum on Cape Independence.

To reassure DA voters, the RP has made it an election pledge that it will vote with the DA in the Western Cape to allow it to form a provincial government, and against the ANC to keep them out.

South Africa might be staring down the barrel of a radical socialist and African nationalist government which will complete the destruction of what was once the most advanced country in Africa, but the Western Cape has another choice.

There is no prospect whatsoever of the Western Cape electing the ANC / EFF / MK doomsday coalition but without Cape Independence, that soon enough will be its ultimate fate too.

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

* Craig is the leader of the Referendum Party

Cape Times