/ 10 June 2011

It’s our party — we’ll secede if we want to

It's Our Party We'll Secede If We Want To

You might have missed its recent election campaign. And considering that it landed 0.14% of the vote in Cape Town, it appears you weren’t alone. But that doesn’t mean the Cape Party has abandoned its dream.

Its platform: to break the Western Cape away from the rest of South Africa and turn it into its very own country. Well, the Western Cape, plus a section of the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and the Free State — “an area roughly the size of France”, according to its manifesto — but then, who’s counting?

Jack Miller, head of the Cape Party, a 27-year-old model and actor is.

Miller, who started the party in 2007 because of a sense of “deep disillusionment with South African politics” feels that “self-determination is [the Western Cape’s] only hope”.

“There are many people that share our vision,” he says. The many people he’s referring to are 3 381 voters, which is a lot if we’re talking about a yoga class. But we’re not. So there won’t be a parliamentary seat for this ambitious youngster, who is joined by Adrian Kay, a full time Cape Party member and the party spokesperson. Kay started off as a Facebook fan in 2008, but became a fully-fledged member by the end of that year.

Seceding from South Africa may seem a bit drastic, but the Cape Party’s logic is straightforward: the Cape does better than the rest of South Africa economically and is unique in terms of language, culture and vegetation and so, they believe, is working as an “independent entity” anyway.

They claim that for every R100 sent to state coffers only R58 make it back to the Cape. The party believes that small states work better than big ones, that direct democracy must be implemented as the current system of proportional representation is “outdated”, and that South Africa is not looking out for its citizens, pointing to the high crime rate as evidence. They don’t like black economic empowerment and think the current prison system is coddling prisoners and encouraging gangsterism.

“Has [the Cape Party] got a hope?” asks University of Pretoria political science lecturer Roland Henwood. “Not likely.”

Seceding is constitutionally illegal, says Henwood, something the Cape Party may have overlooked. But Miller believes the Constitution is on his side. Chapter 14 recognises the right of self-determination of any community sharing a common cultural and language heritage, within a territorial entity in the Republic, a clause Miller interprets differently to most.

“We need to get the majority in the Western Cape and hold a referendum. People can choose to be self-governing or remain part of South Africa,” he says.

But Democratic Alliance federal council chairman James Selfe summed it up best in a recent Business Times article: “Quite frankly, and with all due respect, the Cape Party is not a party we take seriously.”

And in a weird way, the Cape Party agrees, with a quote taken from Gandhi found in its manifesto: “First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.” It’s fair to say we’re at stage two.