Western Cape’s Independence Movement Gains Steam: A Possible Future CBI Jurisdiction?

David Bonellie

Earlier this month, we raised hypothetical questions of the value a citizenship by investment program in Bougainville, which is a prime candidate to become the world’s newest independent country. Today, David Bonellie raises similar questions of another prospective sovereign state; The Cape of Good Hope.

The Cape Independence Advocacy Group (CIAG) and CapeXit, which for more than a decade have worked actively towards bringing about a referendum for South Africa’s southernmost province, the Western Cape, has seen interest in their cause rise markedly in the last two years. In May 2021, CapeXit gathered more than 800,000 signed mandates for an independence referendum, equivalent to about 12% of the whole province’s population. An unofficial poll earlier this year indicated 58% of the Cape’s inhabitants would support a referendum and 47% would support independence outright.

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The groups are not political parties (though they do have the explicit support of several political parties) but are instead focused on coordinating and supporting people and organizations working towards Cape independence and secession from South Africa, forming a new, sovereign state named “The Cape of Good Hope”.  

The Cape Independence Movement is among the more plausible, near-term independence movements out there. Should they succeed, would the newly formed country be an interesting candidate for a citizenship by investment program?

Citizenship refers to the position or status of being a citizen of a particular country. The relationship between the citizen and the state is typically governed by nationality laws. New countries typically need brand new nationality laws as well. Who would be eligible for citizenship in the Cape of Good Hope in the event that a referendum results in the formation of a new state?

Scotland’s White Paper on citizenship offers some hints as to how it may answer that question should the country gain independence from the United Kingdom. It proposes various routes for someone to claim citizenship, ranging from being born in the country to living there for a certain number of years, to having ancestral links to individuals born in the country. A few possible routes to citizenship could include categories of persons such as:

  • Those born within the boundaries of the Cape of Good Hope, based on ius solis, perhaps with caveats as to the parents residential or citizenship status at the time of the birth;
  • Those who are registered to be able to vote in the referendum and who have been habitual residents in the Cape of Good Hope for a certain number of years (likely 5-10 years), following the citizenship principle of naturalization; 
  • Those who qualify by virtue of their descent, such as by having a parent or grandparent born within the boundaries of the Cape of Good Hope following the citizenship principle of jus sanguinis; 
  • Those who marry citizens of the new country, possibly getting an expedited route to naturalization, as is the norm in many Common Law countries, including the UK.

What would a Cape of Good Hope passport be worth?

To evaluate the new country’s hypothetical eligibility for a citizenship by investment program, we might consider what sort of visa-free travel its passport could offer. Of course, a strong case can be made against the residual value of nominal visa-free travel coverage in 2022 (see: Visa-Free Travel Is Dead in The Post-COVID World). Nonetheless, the visa-free count has conventionally been an important proxy measure for the relative value of a citizenship. It’s readily quantifiable, after all.

Since the Cape is currently part of South Africa, it would be reasonable to expect its passport to “inherit” much of the same status as its progenitor. The South African passport today has visa-free access to 103 destinations, none of which are in the Schengen area.

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But the population of the Western Cape has characteristics different from the rest of the country that might make its citizens more welcomed in destinations around the world:

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  • It has the country’s highest Human Development Index score;
  • Though its population is only 11.5% of South Africa’s total, the province’s GDP amounts to 14% of the national total (Cape Town’s alone accounts for 10% of the national total);
  • Average annual household incomes in the Western Cape is the second-highest among all the country’s provinces;

The South African passport has slowly lost visa-free travel to multiple countries over the years, including to the United Kingdom and New Zealand. If one has to look at other African passports, Mauritius and Seychelles should be the Cape of Good Hope benchmark. Mauritius was ranked 30th and Seychelles 26th respectively in terms of Global Rankings for passports in 2019.

Both Mauritius and Seychelles have visa-free access to the UK, Schengen areas, China, and New Zealand. Mauritius also has visa-free access to Japan, making it the only country with visa-free access to Russia, China, Japan, and New Zealand. 

These visa-free travel areas are some of the top destinations South Africans travel to but for which they need visas. To garner additional support for a referendum, the Cape Independence Advocacy Group could get positive indications from countries that would allow visa-free travel for an independent Cape of Good Hope. 

Key support for a strong passport

International support is one of the critical elements needed to enable a referendum. Essential support from international organizations like the United Nations, the British Commonwealth, or the African Union, and countries such as the UK and US would be critical in bringing about a referendum.

It is plausible that the Cape of Good Hope would apply to and become part of the Commonwealth if they were independent. This would secure many key partnerships worldwide for the new sovereign state. Support from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, and many SADC countries would bolster the chances of a referendum.

There should be a push towards obtaining the UK Working Holiday Visa, a two-year visa by which travelers can work over 12 of its 24 months of validity. South Africa’s agreement on working holidays ended in 2009 as the country did not improve immigration and passport security, even after ample warning.

Passport design and security features

The passport will need to have all of the latest security features to ensure that it is ranked among the world’s most secure. The new British passport, made in France, has the most advanced passport microchip to ensure the person is who they say they are, and there is secure biometric data to correspond to this. 

Additionally, there will need to be stringent citizenship protocols to ensure no fraudulent citizenship and thus passports given to those who do not qualify. Fraud and corruption in Home Affairs were significant reasons for South Africa’s downward trend in its passport strength.

The design of the passport would more than likely have the Western Cape “Coat of Arms“, which has been in use since 1998. Passport colours are typically either maroon, green, or blue. If one has to look at potential major partner countries in the Commonwealth, it is more than likely the Cape of Good Hope would be a Navy Blue. Recently post Brexit, the United Kingdom has “Gone Back to Blue” for the British passport. India, Canada, Australia, Mauritius, and most Caribbean Commonwealth nations have a navy-blue passport.

David Bonellie AuthorSubscriberParticipant

David is a South African blockchain and crypto analyst working on innovation and business strategy consulting from Dubai. He also helps clients with investment migration.

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