Secession has a Long History of Success

Opinion by Nicholas Woode-Smith

Secession has a Long History of Success
Secession has a Long History of Success

Secession is not a pipe dream. For the Cape, and for many other territories around the world that find their local political identity at odds with their national government. Yet, many opponents of Cape secession have repeatedly stated that secession is so unlikely that it is bordering on impossible. Some are even arrogant enough to not even entertain the possibility! Worst of all, these opponents attempt to use history as a tool to show how secession is unlikely. Yet, history is rife with secessions, break-away states and the shifting of borders, powers and governments.

No reasonable person thinks secession is going to be easy. Opponents are correct in arguing that national governments don’t like supporting the precedent that their territory can just break-away. But that doesn’t mean this campaign is impossible to achieve.

There are many reasons that Cape secession is viable and desirable, and those are explored in other articles. The focus of this article is to dispute the claim that secession is an historical impossibility, which cannot be further from the truth.

History is a process of migration, conquest and secession. People move, people change, and people interact, all with varying results. And as they do, nations form, disappear and shift. If secession was impossible, then that would assume that nations remained the same, never splitting up, never changing. If that was the case, wouldn’t the world map now have looked the same a thousand years ago, with only the slight changing of borders due to conquest?

Those with a cursory knowledge of history know that a lot has changed. And a huge reason for that is secession.

It is peculiar that South African intellectuals are so adamant about denying the prevalence of secession historically when they live on a continent rife with secession. A century ago, this continent was dominated by European empires, but after the mid-20th century, many of these colonies and imperial territories demanded independence. Some went violently, but many others departed peacefully.

Decolonisation and the breakaway from empire is secession. And Africa is an historical case study for its prevalence. And while one may argue that modern African nations are not testaments to good governance, that has very little to do with secession itself, but more in the manner that they were governed after they seceded.

Seventeen African countries gained independence in 1960 alone. Many more followed. Before them, India and Ireland seceded from the British Empire. And way before them, the Thirteen Colonies seceded from their British overlords and formed the United States.

Some may argue that these cases are not equivalent to Cape secession as the Cape is in close proximity to South Africa. Well, so was Ireland to the UK. And if one considers the arbitrary sovereignty of nations owning territory to be worth any merit, all land held by empires were their territories. Until it wasn’t.

More recently, we saw swathes of secessions from the break-up of the Soviet Union in the 90s, many states formed from the break-up of Yugoslavia, South Sudan left its abusive national government…the list goes on. History is full of successful secessions. All of which in some way determined the modern world. Imagine a world in which the English hadn’t seceded legally and peacefully from the Roman Empire (without legal precedent, I might add).

It is the height of historical ignorance and belies a severe lack of political creativity and insight that so many public intellectuals refuse to entertain the possibility of Cape secession, despite its decades long commitment to being politically different from the rest of South Africa. Even its climate is different!

South Africa is a relic of an old imperial experiment. Considering its size and the diversity of the people forced under its motley regimes, it is an empire in its own right. But while many empires were strong, prosperous and effective, the South African Empire is clumsy, corrupt and bloated.
It needs to end.

Secession is not a dream. It’s a political reality that needs to be embraced. History shows it is possible, and the political reality of South Africa today shows how drastically it is needed.

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