‘There are 1.4 million estimated voters in the Western Cape who support Cape independence’ – Phil Craig

Phil Craig of the Cape Independence Advocacy Group joins BizNews founder Alec Hogg to discuss some big news in the political sphere. Craig recently told BizNews that the group had handed over a referendum request on Cape independence. While the DA has said it does not support the idea of Cape independence, it is open to the referendum itself. Craig discusses meeting with numerous political parties on the topic. “We asked them two questions – do they support Cape independence? Regardless of whether they support it or not, are they willing to allow the people of the Western Cape … to determine whether they want independence.” – Jarryd Neves

Phil Craig on meeting with the DA and other political parties to discuss a referendum on Cape independence:

We asked all of the political parties. We were producing an election guide for independent supporters. And as part of producing that guide, we contacted all of the major political parties and asked them their answer on two questions – Do they support Cape independence? And, regardless of whether they support it or not, would they support the people of the Western Cape (being consulted by form of a referendum) to determine whether they wanted Cape independence?

Given the political circumstances of the Western Cape – the DA is the party of provincial government – and the DA (along with seven other parties) confirmed that they were now willing to support a referendum on Cape independence, even though the DA at this point in time don’t support Cape independence outright.

On what the meeting was like:

In terms of what happened at the meeting, probably isn’t for us to tell. We’re a political lobby group first and foremost. We have regular communication with as many of the political parties as we can in the Western Cape. That includes most of them. We have relatively regular contact with the DA – and this formed a part of that process. This wasn’t a single conversation. This is part of discussions that have been going on for some time.

The DA themselves have alluded to that, at times, in the press. I mean there’s 1.4 million estimated voters in the Western Cape who support Cape independence [and] more than that who support a referendum. The majority of the DA’s own voters both support Cape independence and a referendum. Clearly, it’s entirely logical that the Cape independence movement would engage with the DA on a fairly regular basis – and we do.

On the DA supporting the referendum:

I think people have, in some ways, been taken taken unawares by this and therefore are perhaps struggling to find the context. But actually the DA, since 2016, have been heavily pushing the devolution of powers. In the 2019 manifesto, they pushed even more significantly for full devolution of powers to the Western Cape. We have seen that they’ve led a debate in the National Council of Provinces two weeks ago on devolution. They have brought a Private Member’s Bill before parliament to fix the referendum legislation.

When you put all of those things into context, it’s absolutely clear that the DA want to devolve powers and significant powers to the Western Cape. Whilst they still want to try and save South Africa – and therefore haven’t come as far as us who are pushing for outright independence – those principles are very compatible with each other. I think this is a logical conclusion, and I think it will be quite extraordinary for the DA to support devolution of power to the Western Cape, to fix the referendum legislation so they could consult with the people of the Western Cape and then have a question such as independence, where 58% of people in the province and 65% of their own voters want a referendum on Cape independence.

They do all of this and then not give a referendum on Cape independence? I think that would be far more remarkable. I think this really should be entirely expected of people. I just think it’s that people  have, for so long, written Cape independence off as impossible or a joke. All of a sudden we’re here. For those that are more intimately involved, this has just been a very logical process. Growing support, more parties and organisations coming in – this shouldn’t disappoint anybody who’s up to speed. But for those who’ve sat on the sidelines and dismissed it as nonsensical and a pipe dream, this is probably the rude awakening that this is the point where you realise, “hang on a second. A referendum on Cape independence is going to take place.” If you’ve always thought this is a pipe dream, that probably does come as quite a shock to the system.

On criticism of statistics and research on Cape independence:

I think this all forms a part of the ‘can’t’ narrative. For certain people, Cape independence is unthinkable. They can’t imagine that it would do it. Therefore, anything that we do as an organisation is going to be criticised and scrutinised – and that’s fine. We certainly don’t mind that, you expect it. As an organisation, we are really fact-based. We rarely ever make outrageous claims. People can go back and see [that] we aren’t given to sort of silly stories and so on. We’re very serious about what we do.

In terms of the research, it was independent research. We commissioned Victory Research. It wasn’t a cheap exercise. We’ve done it twice and we’ve published the summaries of the results. I think nobody that really understands how polling works is criticising this. The DA certainly aren’t criticising this. They certainly recognise the validity of the results. But there’s always going to be people shouting from the sidelines who just don’t want this to be true – and that’s particularly what we see. There’s not much we can do about that.

We can say, “listen, this was the methodology. This was the company that did. These were the results.” If people choose to to dismiss that, then that’s fine. From our point of view, the key thing for us – and actually our our raison d’etre in the first instance – our first obstacle as an organisation was to obtain a referendum on independence. We’ve not put ourselves in a situation where that now is a certainty and therefore we’re very happy and want people to celebrate with us. For those that don’t want to celebrate with us and don’t want to believe it, that’s their prerogative.

We don’t have to convince everybody. We just have to wait for the referendum and obviously our focus will then switch on to other things, part of which will be winning the referendum. Then obviously, there’s going to be the interim period between between this announcement – where we’ve been pushing for a referendum – as an organisation, [where] our focus will now change from winning a referendum to preparing the Western Cape for the referendum, if you like.

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