Cape’s race tensions fuel ‘Wexit’

Gatvol Capetonians spokesperson Fadiel Adams says they’re pushing for an independent Cape but want it done peacefully and legally for the betterment of all people in the region. (David Harrison/M&G)

Gatvol Capetonians spokesperson Fadiel Adams says they’re pushing for an independent Cape but want it done peacefully and legally for the betterment of all people in the region. (David Harrison/M&G)

Coloured nationalist group Gatvol Capetonian will not contest the 2019 elections because it says the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) doesn’t like its name.

“Gatvol only means fed-up,” group spokesperson Fadiel Adams says.

The IEC said, “The CEO [chief executive officer] was of the view that while the etymology of the word gatvol may be benign and in its literal sense intended to convey a sense of being fed up, it may nonetheless have vulgar and unsavoury connotations that may offend the intrinsic values of the Constitution and cause offense to sections of society.”

The IEC says Gatvol Capetonian initially appealed the decision, but later withdrew it.

But its supporters are adamant no prudish IEC officials can stop them from throwing their weight behind other political formations that share their values of a “Wexit” — Western Cape exit from South Africa.

Several political movements are calling for greater autonomy for the province.

Adams says: “I’m not going to take offence if you call me a coloured nationalist because nobody cares about the so-called coloured people. We care about Capetonians. We don’t care about your race, your religion or your sexual orientation. But this influx from the Eastern Cape is killing us.”

The secessionist Cape Party has begun electioneering. It campaigns on a platform of greater economic and political independence for the Western Cape, followed by a move to full autonomy from the rest of the country.

Cape Party leader Jack Miller says campaign funding donations are flowing in fast. “We started talking Cape independence in 2007 when we were formed. And people thought it was an absurd idea. But support has rocketed.”

There has been a surge in populist, isolationist politics in the province, which could play a role in swaying voter sentiment.

Freedom Front Plus Western Cape premier candidate Peter Marais stopped short of calling for Cape independence; he says he would prefer a confederate state.

Marais said the one-man, one-vote principle in a unitary state had failed. He called for more rights for language and cultural minority groups to seek self-determination as prescribed by the Constitution.

“Until this government passes legislation that defines what self-determination means … no one can say confederalism does not qualify.”

He bemoans the marginalisation of Afrikaans-speakers, and the migration of people to the Western Cape from other provinces to the detriment of local workers.

Although not pro-independence, the Democratic Alliance has been criticised for its campaign poster calling on voters to “Keep the ANC and the EFF out of the Western Cape”.

The DA’s Western Cape premier candidate, Alan Winde, says the poster describes what the DA sees as the province’s future if the ANC and the Economic Freedom Fighters were to form a coalition government.

“Children die in pit toilets because a corrupt ANC government steals the money meant for school infrastructure. We cannot allow this province to go back to a party that only wants to enrich itself,” he said.

“The province has the best government hospitals, schools ... and ... basic services. There’s still a long way to go, but we are making progress, because we work hard to keep our promises.”

Ntsikelelo Breakfast, a senior lecturer in Stellenbosch University’s politics department, says race relations feed separatist ideas. “There are still social cleavages which are characterised by race. Race is being used as a tool … to garner votes.”

He says the government has not dealt well with ensuring that coloured people benefit from black economic empowerment legislation.

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