Devolution: delayed or denied?

The DA have promised federalism since before they were called the DA, and always said it would happen once they were in national government. When will they act?

Leo Barnes


Leo Barnes


Jul 6, 2024

Devolution: delayed or denied?

The DA has reached its pinnacle of National prominence thus far. Steenhuisen’s iteration of the party has developed the groundwork for tremendous progress. They have successfully kept out the kleptocratic and radical economic transformation forces of the EFF and MK, at least for the time being. Notwithstanding that, it would be amiss to conclude those gains with just the six ministries they have settled for in the Government of National Unity.

A party in government should focus on delivering on the promises it has been making on the campaign trail. It is, in fact, the duty of an elected body to effectuate the change it has been delegated to enact. The Democratic Alliance is no exception.

Devolution, particularly that of policing power, has been central to the political messaging of the country’s second-largest party. It has been the cornerstone of the DA's operations in maintaining its Western Cape stronghold. In fact, the policy goes back to before the present regime, when thee party was called the Progressive Federalist Party.

Subsequently, Western Cape voters, who have been steadfast in their fealty to the party, deserve to see something of this promise realised. The DA are charged with a straightforward objective: in the interest of satisfying their bastion out west, deliver devolution of policing power.

When it comes to the national level, the DA does not have the final say, of course. This policy is not achievable through sheer determination. Without approval from the ANC, nothing will change. However, devolution of policing powers was supposedly a prerequisite for joining this GNU. Surrendering on fundamental issues is not just about optics; it is a direct affront to the voters who put you in this position to begin with.

We would all hope that in addition to ministerial positions, intense negotiations have occurred and continue in earnest over a united policy platform that includes concessions to both sides. From an outsider's perspective, the DA has already conceded a great deal to be part of this government. Now, it is the DA’s responsibility to take the next step and force the ANC into concessions themselves. Chief among these must be the devolution of investigative powers to the municipal police.

Policing is an important start and, at this point, a non-negotiable. The Western Cape is becoming more violent by the week, major gang wars are breaking out, our people are suffering while SAPS is unresponsive.  Devolving investigative, or better yet full policing powers, presents a unique opportunity to do something extraordinary (particularly in the context of SA politics): making an immediate and tangible difference for the betterment of the general populace.

Perhaps you could object that the DA are an impotent and toothless appendix to the ANC's policy agenda, but this isn't true in the Western Cape.

National government notwithstanding, many opportunities to devolve power have been passed up. From defeating the Peoples Bill, to refusing to exercise the Premier's powers of special investigation to combat police corruption, missing the opportunity to establish municipal police forces outside the City, and delaying power generation for a whole decade after winning the province, the DA have demonstrated a clear lack of desire to pursue their oldest policy objective.

My message to the negotiators and the executives is a shared message from the people of this loyal province: We have waited long enough for devolution. There are no more reasonable excuses. We need this. You need this. Get it done.

For all the criticism people such as myself have for the DA, finally tackling this long-overdue challenge will undoubtedly go a long way in repairing the trust which has deteriorated between many and the party.

“Those who wait for perfect weather will never plant seeds; those who look at every cloud will never harvest crops.” - Ecclesiastes 11:4, NCV.

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