From the archives: Western Cape Independence lobbyist Phil Craig sees another step toward Cape secession – and antidote to ANC/EFF alliance

This article was first published on the 28th of September 2022

It’s been two years since the Cape Independence Advocacy Groups Phil Craig was first interviewed on BizNews. Back then his secessionist-focused organisation was viewed as part of the lunatic fringe. No longer. The CIAG is among role-players who coalesced this week to create a working group which intends using SA’s Constitution to force Pretoria to devolve key centralised responsibilities it has failed to supply – including the critical area of policing. Craig explains why he sees the new body as another step towards secession, and takes us inside the meeting where parties representing 60% of the Western Cape’s voters committed to being a group of action – motivated by the prospect of a ANC/EFF alliance ruling SA after the 2024 national election.

Phil Craig on the Cape Independence Advocacy Group being a part of the Western Cape Devolution Working Group 

Desperate times call for desperate measures. And, I think, 2024, as I say, the mists are starting to clear around 2024. Perhaps not publicly yet, but privately there is now a recognition that we’re not likely to get this cuddly coalition government that some people would wish for. And the reality is that 2024 is going to find some version of an ANC government still in power, either the ANC itself or the ANC and a few smaller parties or perhaps worst of all, the ANC and the EFF. And if you run the numbers, I mean, there’s no possible way that we’re going to end up with a coalition government that doesn’t include at least one of the ANC or the EFF. And I think in those circumstances, you know, we’ve got to look forward to 2024, at least understand that there’s a distinct possibility that things will get decidedly worse in 2024, not better. Whatever people may be publicly saying, I think privately that’s acknowledged across the board and people are starting to make plans. And it’s quite a different sense of urgency. I’m sure that’s been a major factor in coming together to push for devolution and get power away from that central government and towards the people, where it can serve them better.  

On how potentially strong this movement is

Well, I think that it’s very powerful. I think let’s take this context of the Western Cape. I mean, we’ve got the political parties that account for about 60% of the vote. That means they can pass provincial legislation without needing to have any permission from the ANC or the EFF. And that’s quite significant. In some contexts. you’ve got AfriForum, you’ve got the Cape Independence Movement, you’ve got the Cape Forum. There are a number of legal minds there. So collectively, you know, you’ve got some academic and some legal minds, you’ve got civil society and you’ve got multiple political parties cooperating. I think that makes for a very, very powerful group of people who can fundamentally change the political status quo. And, of course, that’s the idea of the group in the first place. We decided right from the outset that this isn’t a group that’s focused on talk. It’s going to be a group that’s focused on action. 

On where he draws the line between devolution and secession and when he thinks other groups will start seeing things his way

I’m not sure that our intention is to necessarily make them see it our way. I think clearly from this group of people, there are going to be a whole broad range of perspectives and opinions. And that perhaps is that strength. If we look at some of the you know, let’s look at the traditional way of working. Yeah, we’ve seen that the DA for argument’s sake, Alan Winde elected in 2019 and Geordin Hill-Lewis in 2021, both of them on tickets of devolution and devolving powers with a big focus on policing. And we’ve actually seen, being fairly blunt, that they’ve run into a brick wall in that they can’t deliver the policing powers. Bheki Cele has been absolutely clear that he’s not going to grant policing powers to the Western Cape government or the city of Cape Town. And last week, Cyril Ramaphosa chipped in and said the same thing. And so I think that you have to start now saying, well, how do we do that? How do we actually deliver these powers? What do organisations such as ourselves do? Well, one of the things that we’re pushing and pushing quite strongly is for the Western Cape to claim the right to self-determination.We’re saying that the Western Cape doesn’t need to ask for permission from Bheki Cele or Cyril Ramaphosa to make decisions on behalf of the people that self-determination is a constitutional principle, it’s a foundational principle of international law. 

And if the Western Cape people call for self-determination in the Western Cape Legislature, then the South African national government will be obliged to grant self-determination under international law. It has no right and then that could be exercised. And yes, self-determination in international law can be exercised in four ways: autonomy, federalism, secession or unification. And clearly, everybody in the working group wants one of those things, and I think we accept that and so in many ways, as an organisation ourselves, we’ve split up, let’s call it executive authority. So at this point in time we say, look, let’s work together and let’s  get executive authority, let’s get power to the people of the Western Cape to make decisions. And ultimately their elected authority in the Western Cape government is going to execute those decisions. And at this point in time, the Western Cape government wants the devolution of power and it wants federalism, and therefore we support them and say, look, we’ll come, let’s go, let’s go and deliver those things. And if somewhere down the line as a secessionist organisation we want secession, then really we’ll need to influence the Western Cape government in its support for secession. But let’s make a start. I think the key thing is for us not to argue about our differences and where we’re going to end up. The key thing now is actually with 2024 looming and the possibility of an ANC EFF coalition, we need to make a start and we need to protect ourselves against the worst possible outcomes in 2024. We need to take hands to do that and I’m delighted that the working group, we’re going to make a start in doing those things. 

On the potential for a drawn out process regarding secession

I think there’s a real urgency in this group to make changes before 2024. So I don’t think anybody is seeing a really drawn out process. Now, obviously, you know, they say no plan survives contact with the enemy. Clearly, not everything is within the control of the parties in the group, but there’s a clear intent to make quick changes. And I think from the CIA, you know, from our point of view, this is clearly one string to our bow. You know, it’s not that we’re going to discontinue our other efforts. But I think this is a group where we’ve decided to come together and put aside our differences, it doesn’t really matter where we ultimately want to end up. We all want to start at the same place and let’s at least move forward and help each other to start making progress. And for argument’s sake, if we can successfully get control of policing and actually against the government’s will, take power away from it, that’s a precedent that actually is is very, very significant for people in other provinces and regions and for other powers and certainly for people like ourselves, who are asserting that actually the national government has failed us. We didn’t elect it. And actually we don’t really need their authority to govern ourselves other than taking power away from them. To govern ourselves better on an issue such as policing clearly has implications beyond that. 

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