Campaign for Home Rule: Advocating for provincial autonomy in SA

Martin van Staden / Midjourney
Martin van Staden / Midjourney

This article was first published by BizNews on 17 April 2024

‘South Africa is a federation. Start treating it that way!’ That is the resounding message from an illuminating and powerful launch of the Free Market Foundation’s (FMF) Campaign for Home Rule.

On the 11th of April, at the Fire and Ice Hotel in Cape Town, the FMF concluded a roadshow that took them through Port Elizabeth (Gqeberha), Plettenberg Bay, Knysna, George, Mossel Bay, Hermanus, Paarl, and ended in the Mother City.

Head of Policy Martin van Staden, a legal scholar who has recently been recognised by the international community (including Liechtenstein royalty) for his contributions to legal theory, has made it clear that South Africa not only should embrace a federal system, but that its constitution already enshrines the right for provinces to govern themselves.

The ruling ANC has forced a corrupt system of centralised control on South Africa, insisting that the country is a unitary state, and opposing calls for a federal system, whereby provinces can responsibly govern themselves through home rule. This centralised control has led to nothing but strife in the country, where the ANC’s terrible governance drags everyone down with them.

Virtues of Home Rule

Home Rule would allow provinces to escape the clutches of ANC’s bad policies and bad governance. Local governments are closer to their people, providing more accountability and efficiency.

A visitor at the Home Rule Launch on the 11th described how he wanted to setup a transport hub between two underprivileged Cape Town communities, to help with day-to-day travel and to aid in economic upliftment. While the local government promptly approved the plan, they are still waiting years later for the national government to even notice the idea.

Why should local communities be beholden to some elites in Pretoria whenever they need to get something done?

As FMF CEO David Ansara said: “Nobody from Pretoria is coming to save us.”

So, we must embrace a system where all provinces can help themselves.

Home Rule would allow the quick adoption of good ideas, accountable governance on the ground, and the adoption of good policies that reflect the needs of a province.

Foolish legislation like Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) have devastated South Africa, enabling corruption, cadre deployment, and exacerbating the unemployment of the very people it claims it benefits. Home Rule would enable provinces to do away with such bad legislation, enabling economic growth and genuine deracialisation.

The decentralising factors of Home Rule is also necessary to solve violent crime, the energy crisis, and infrastructural collapse.

Provinces should be put in charge of local law enforcement, cutting the chain of corruption that rots the entire police force from the top down. The Western Cape, which has seen its SAPS devastated by the government in Pretoria, would finally be able to address gangsterism.

Eskom needs to be decentralised, debundled and privatised, with private electricity companies working with provinces and municipalities to provide electricity to local consumers. This works in other parts of the world, and it is insane that South Africa still thinks an electricity monopoly works.

Without needing to work with national government to get things fixed, provinces who benefit from their local infrastructure will finally have the power and incentive to fix roads, ports and railways.

Current limitations

The problem with adopting Home Rule and a federal system in South Africa today is while the constitution considers provinces autonomous and gives them the power to rule themselves, the ANC does not recognise this.

The ANC is a socialist organisation that wants absolute power over the country, so it can steal money through corruption, and push a racialised and Marxist ideological agenda.

Provincial autonomy is held back by threats from the national government, and the fact that provinces are currently required to give their tax revenue to the central government, receiving only a fraction in return. Local governments have to subsist on a fee attached to electricity sales, and local rates. This holds them back from funding projects to fill in the void that the incompetent national government has filled.

For Home Rule to become possible, provinces need be allowed to keep more of the funds they earn. This requires provincial governments to stand up to the national government.

As Martin van Staden puts it, they must “ask forgiveness, not permission” (the title of the FMF’s handbook on Home Rule).

The law is on the side of provinces to embrace Home Rule. So, provincial governments must start establishing local police forces, sidelining the national government where it has no right to have a say, and embracing increased autonomy. South Africa’s provinces would all benefit from Home Rule. And, hopefully, the FMF’s Campaign for Home Rule leads to a renewed cry for federalism and autonomy in a country that has existed for too long under the incompetent and unethical rule of corrupt and authoritarian central governments.


Fund the FMF

Help the FMF to promote the rule of law, personal liberty, and economic freedom.

For more content like this, Subscribe to the FMF

The views expressed in the article are the author’s and are not necessarily shared by the members of the Foundation. This article may be republished without prior consent but with acknowledgement to the author.




Help the FMF to promote the rule of law, personal liberty, and economic freedom.