In Cape Town, a clamor for independence

A Cape Town political party is hoping to turn the differences between the Western Cape and the rest of South Africa into electoral votes and, ultimately, independence for the region.

Residents of the Western Cape have long seen themselves as different from the rest of South Africa.

With its more laid-back lifestyle, wine estates, white beaches and predominantly white and Cape Coloured population, it’s less African than the eight other provinces. It's difference is highlighted by the hold that opposition party Democratic Alliance has on provincial and Cape Town politics.

But while the DA taps into disillusionment with ruling African National Congress central governance, a fledgling party in the Cape is hoping to turn that disenchantment into full-blown independence and a separate state.

Set up three years ago, the Cape Party based in Cape Town says it is fed up with racial quotas, black empowerment and affirmative action and argues that there was never a mandate from Western Cape residents to join the Union of South Africa in 1910. It wants a full-fledged Cape Nation set up, complete with border posts, immigration policy and its own national budget – although a decision on what to do with the Western Province rugby team in this rugby-mad region remains unanswered.

Party founder Adrian Kay, 24, who describes himself as Cape Coloured, says he is deadly serious. “This is my home and my ancestors’ home for generations. We are different from the rest of South Africa and we do things much better here whether it’s education, household income, lower unemployment.

“We are more western-oriented and people acknowledge that informally. When people say they are going to Johannesburg, they often say they’re going back to Africa. This is a new party, but I think we do represent what people are thinking.

“We are a grassroots party and don’t have high powered figures to grab the limelight. We will build our support from campaigning and argument. Both the ANC and DA accept the unitary state and national government, but we don’t. The Division of Revenue Act robs the Cape of 40 percent of its revenue by giving it away to other provinces. We don’t think that is fair.”

Despite the rhetoric, the party, which has 4,000 members, has a long electoral road to travel before it can claim legitimacy. In provincial elections last year it attracted just 2,552 votes (0.13 percent of the votes cast) – probably not enough to get President Zuma or opposition leader Helen Zille manning the barricades quite yet.

However, as a populist party, its claims could tap into a deeper malaise evident at white middle class dinner tables and barbecues, as well as among Cape Coloureds who claim prejudice from blacks. Growing corruption, nepotism, spiraling electricity prices and the threat to a free press under new media laws may well push voters into the arms of more radical parties like Mr. Kay’s, rather than the DA.

The would-be head of state certainly hopes so. “We need to get our message out there to people who share our aims. Obviously we are small party at the moment but we’ll be fielding candidates in elections and maybe by getting people elected, we can hold the balance of power in municipalities.

“The Cape is my home and I think it can stand alone. We just need to convince the Cape electorate that it can be done.”

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