Let the Cape of Good Hope go free

Andrew Donaldson on why he has embraced the cause of self-determination for Spesbona


THERE has been much derision directed at the Western Cape independence movement, especially from conservatives. The slightest suggestion, for example, that the region is perhaps entitled to tend to its own affairs elicits strong responses among those whose thinking is slow and orthodox.

This is to be encouraged. It is true that the snorting and lung-rattling can be noisome, and God alone knows what perils lurk in airborne expectorate these parlous days. But there may be benefits, too. Sinuses are cleared as dark, unhealthy matter is expelled from passages. As Donleavy advises, “Although ladies object … it is essential for you to void all dross, dottle and drast from your breathing system…” [The Unexpurgated Code: A Complete Manual of Survival and Manners, 1975].

These explosive reactions from those opposed to its liberation have encouraged me, in part, to embrace the cause of self-determination for Spesbona. The outraged yammering and spluttered outbursts are, to my mind, quite entertaining. Simply put, I am amused that people should be so fiercely exercised about a development they’re absolutely certain will never happen, not in a thousand years.

However, and that aside, there is a growing conviction that the greater the distance between Pretoria and Cape Town, the better. The principle perhaps holds for all the provinces. But it’s the obvious differences between the Western Cape and the rest of the South African project that captures the imagination and adds momentum to the Spesbona cause.

The road ahead will be difficult. The nationalists cavil. Their laziest, and dreariest objection to secession is that it’s racist. Here, for example, is UCT constitutional law fundi Professor Pierre de Vos “having fun”, as he put it, at the expense of the Cape Independence Advocacy Group: 

“The campaign is explicitly anti-ANC, and implicitly anti-black (the two things are not necessarily the same). It also fails to address important practical questions such as how this new state will finance all the trappings of an independent state — the creation and maintenance of a defence force, of a new department of home affairs, and of a department of foreign affairs with the vast expense required to finance foreign missions across the globe.”

It is, alas, all too easy to mock the CIAG. They’ve put together a slick promo video that visually wouldn’t be out of place at a tourism industry indaba. But the lushly-filmed Peninsula scenes — the oddly unpopulated vistas of bog standard travel porn — are contrasted with a catalogue of by-now familiar social ills, and you can’t help thinking: oh jeez, there’s crime and unemployment among the seals as well?

Browsing the CIAG website reveals a number of potential problems. The group claims the borders of the “new country” will be defined in a democratic process. It will start with the Western Cape’s existing interior boundary and then fan out to include adjacent communities. And we all know where this will end, don’t we? Pretty soon, most of the Free State and large tracts of the old Transvaal will be in the Western Cape.

As for citizenship, the CIAG states that anyone who resides within the new country’s borders can be a citizen, and that anyone who wishes to settle there can apply for citizenship, and their applications will be assessed in terms of “established international” immigration policy. Which is worryingly vague. 

A lot of this is quite familiar to the regulars at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”) as it appears to have been lifted wholesale from the Scottish independent movement manifesto. The CIAG have even copied the Saltire as a proposed national flag. This has puzzled those Spesbonan devolutionaries of a militant tendency. Why no surfboards? Where are the wine bottles? Can our national animal be a jackass penguin wearing Ray-Bans?

We digress, and we need perhaps to address De Vos’s concerns. Firstly, it should be noted that he is an unusually tall person. You expect academics to be stooped and wizened from years of poring over dusty books and the like. But not this professor. He has the stature of a Maasai herdsman; he can’t help but look down on others from a great height. Hence the smug condescension.

Secondly, it’s nonsense to suggest that a defence force, a home affairs department, foreign missions and the like are “important practical questions” for a newly independent state to consider. There are plenty of countries that do not maintain large armies, expensive diplomatic corps and lumbering overstaffed civil services. Part of the secessionist campaign is that such fat be radically trimmed. Besides, given that these these entities have been broken by the ruling criminal enterprise, it’s not as if they are currently of benefit to the citizenry.

More dismayingly, De Vos asserts the CIAG’s campaign is “explicitly anti-ANC”.

As if, like, this is a bad thing. 

But of course it’s anti-ANC. The Western Cape is resolutely anti-ANC. Consider the 2019 elections. It didn’t quite crack 29 per cent of votes polled in the province. That’s an emphatic #VoetsekANC, however you look at it. But is a rejection of the party of the corrupt and inept “implicitly anti-black” and therefore racist? 

Readers will recall that, in March 2010, Mzwanele “Jimmy” Manyi, then director-general of labour, declared that there were too many coloured people in the Western Cape and implied that a spot of ethnic cleansing in the region may be in order. Manyi was being interviewed by KykNet’s Freek Robinson on amendments to the Employment Equity Act. At the time, there were concerns that about a million coloured people stood to lose their jobs if these amendments became law. Manyi responded: 

“Let me just make some few comments here on the last discussion on coloured people. I think it’s very important for coloured people in this country to understand that South Africa belongs to them in totality, not just the Western Cape. So this over-concentration of coloureds in the Western Cape is not working for them. They should spread in the rest of the country … so they must stop this over-concentration situation because they are in over-supply where they are so you must look into the country and see where you can meet the supply. This Employment Equity Act is a very good act in this country.”

Some not-so-few coloured people were greatly alarmed. One of them was then finance minister Trevor Manuel — helpfully described by the BBC as “the most senior member of South Africa’s coloured community in the government”. In a letter to The Star, Manuel said, “I want to put it to you that these statements would make you a racist in the mould of HF Verwoerd. I now know who Nelson Mandela was talking about when he said from the dock that he had fought against white domination and that he had fought against black domination — Jimmy, he was talking about fighting against people like you.”

Manyi has since left the ANC, and these days is policy chief with the African Transformation Movement, a bunch of messianic churchy types who wish to bring back hanging and the flogging of schoolchildren. But his ideas about the province live on comfortably at Luthuli House. 

De Vos argues that, from a constitutional perspective, an independent Western Cape is not achievable; neither the president nor the premier of the province will allow a referendum on the matter, he says, as this is against their interests. I wonder, though, if he is aware of the developments that led to the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in January 1993? Here is a recent lesson from history that Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC should consider. 

At the time, the Czech president Václav Klaus regarded the Slovakians as an obstacle to to his new-fangled, Thatcherite economic policies. The Slovakians had favoured the old ways, a strong interventionist state and a massively subsidised public sector. Rather than deal with them, Klaus just got rid of Slovakia, cunningly provoking their negotiators into making impossible demands which meant their secession and subsequent independence was unavoidable. The result? Not one, but two newly independent European nations.

Perhaps Squirrel could follow suit, and just engineer the ousting of the Western Province? Think of the advantages. Not only would it do away with all that unecessary campaigning for referendums and what have you, but the ANC would be able to substantially increase its majority in the National Assembly, now situated in Orania, in the middle of the country, and the party could then set about tinkering with the constitution as planned back in the day. 

It is possible, though, is that this might give the Zulus ideas. But then that is not Spesbona’s problem.

The Bullingdon factor

Further to the above, a report on the “growing case” for an independent Western Cape recently appeared on The Spectator’s website, greatly exciting the CIAG types and fuelling further debate on the issue. The 200-year-old British political magazine could well be “on to something”, BizNews’s Jackie Cameron enthused. 

The Spectator argues that, if secession occurs, it will be a result of coloured — not white — support,” Cameron writes. “This is because they have been discriminated against by Black Economic Empowerment and Affirmative Action policies. ‘If the ANC’s affirmative action aspirations were fully implemented in Scotland, as a point of comparison, the arrangement would lead to 90 per cent of jobs in Scotland being held by English people, as 90 per cent of UK citizens are English,’ it says.”

It is perhaps unfortunate that no-one paid much attention to the author of the Speccie’s article. He is one Darius Guppy, an old Etonian who first befriended Boris Johnson when the two were members of Oxford’s notorious Bullingdon Club and who subsequently served time in the US for attempting to defraud Lloyd’s in a £1.8-million insurance scam in 1990. More alarmingly, when Guppy learnt that a journalist, Stuart Collier, was planning to profile him and expose his underworld activities, Guppy telephoned Johnson, then still a journalist, and begged him for Collier’s address so that he may be taught a lesson.

Their conversation was recorded, and is now in the public domain. Guppy tells Johnson he wants to scare Collier by getting heavies to give him “a couple of black eyes” and a “cracked rib”. Johnson appears to want to help his old friend and find out Collier’s address, and tells him, “Okay, Darry, I said I’ll do it. I’ll do it, don’t worry.” 

Fortunately, nothing came of Guppy’s threats, and Collier has refused to press charges. Guppy is now living in Cape Town. Accordingly, if Spesbona is to be independent, care should be taken that it doesn’t become, as Somerset Maugham once said of the Riviera, a sunny place for shady people. There will be plenty of that sort of thing north of the border, beyond Beaufort West.