NATIONAL NEWS - The Western Cape might be appear to be handling the Covid-19 pandemic better than the rest of the country at the moment, but their insistence on steering their own ship might create the notion that they want to alienate themselves from the rest of the country, analysts have said.
The province has on several occasions taken its own route despite imposed regulations which were followed by the rest of the country.
The latest incident of this being Premier Alan Winde recently announcing that he would be asking the national government to lift the ban on alcohol sales, as opening the industry would save jobs.
In a previous case of contrarianism, the province went ahead and re-opened schools for Grade 7 and Grade 12 pupils on the Gazetted date 1 June, despite basic education Minister Angie Motshekga postponing the reopening to a week later.
During the initial level 5 21-day lockdown, the provincial government interpreted its own lockdown rules and allowed for the sale of tobacco products provided they are purchased with other essential goods. The move was heavily condemned by police Minister Bheki Cele.
Running their own course, however, is entirely within the Constitution and opposing some lockdown regulations may simply be meant to prevent economic suicide, said political analyst and professor at the University of the North West, André Duvenage.
“It is an opposition government in charge of the Western Cape and they are not following national rules but promoting the federal principles which are also present in the Constitution. The other reason is they are the best managed province in South Africa, the best provincial government and governance, if you were to look at the governance criteria,” Duvenhage says.
“I would like to argue that the approach of the Western Cape, according to my assessment, is more scientific than that followed in the rest of the country… In the way we are managing Covid-19, it is an economic suicide – and the Western Cape is not taking that,” Duvenage said.
The province’s attempt to operate according to a federal system may, however, create a notion that it is mainly white leadership that did not want to associate with the rest of the country, political analyst Somadoda Fikeni said.
“Them trying to operate as if it’s a federal system and wanting to do their own thing at all times, may create a notion that because it is mainly white leadership and a white constituency They don’t want to associate themselves with the rest of the country and that in itself could become another challenge,” he said.
Insistently lobbying for the resale of alcohol and tobacco could create an impression that the province is more concerned about the economy than saving lives, while fueling allegations that the governing party was funded by the industries involved, said Fikeni.
“Remember that they have focused more on the issue of saving the economy and less on saving lives, which is what [US President Donald] Trump and others have adopted as a strategy.
“They may not have the same levels of corruption as we have seen with places where comrades are concentrated, but their consistent clamouring for the opening of liquor and cigarettes may open them to a charge that they are linked to the [industries]. Should there be, at a later stage, a connection between the funding of the party and these companies funding the DA, it may in the long run damage their reputation,” said Fikeni.
No plans for a Republic of the Western Cape
In response to calls from a fringe group, calling exactly for the kind of alienation Fikeni warns against, Winde has said the Western Cape government has absolutely no intentions of seeking to make themselves an independent state.
Winde was responding to a social media group, Free The Western Cape, which had called for the province to be independent, along with its own satirical flag designed to look similar to the controversial American Confederates Flag.
But as opposed to seeking independence, Winde said he aimed to rather share knowledge and expertise with other provinces.
“South Africans fought 42 years for a united country, a country where the government could no longer use barriers to divide us.
“Passing a referendum to make the Western Cape an independent state will not only revive the barriers from our history, it will create a sense of us versus them and we can no longer ignore the plight of our fellow South Africans.”
“My work as the Premier of the Western Cape is to lead a government that cares for its people. A government that seeks to improve the quality of life for its residents. But I am not only the Premier of the Western Cape. I am a South African, and proud of it,” Winde said.