Aidan van Niekerk, a maths student at Unisa, who lives in Cape Town, started the petition, titled “Sell the Northern Cape to Namibia for R420 billion to erase Eskom’s debt” on change.org last week.
The petition states “Eskom has too much debt, taxpayers are tired of paying, and nobody lives in the Northern Cape. I don’t know, tell the Namibians it has a desert and a big hole or something,” as a motivation.
By Wednesday afternoon, more than 1 200 people had signed the petition, giving various reasons for doing so.
“Namibia’s government will do a far better job supporting the NC. Need the desert for solar, can sell back to Eskom,” Jan Steenkamp wrote.
An article about the petition, published on the DFA, on Monday afternoon, shattered all previous records, with more than 14 000 views by Wednesday afternoon.
Van Niekerk Wednesday told the DFA that the idea to start the petition came about during Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni’s Budget Speech, delivered last Wednesday.
“Mboweni was discussing the unbundling of Eskom and I had a light-bulb moment - sell the Northern Cape to Namibia instead. I crunched some numbers and worked out that the Northern Cape was worth about R420 billion - coincidently the same amount Eskom was in debt for,” Van Niekerk said.
He added that while the idea started out as a joke between him and a colleague, he was surprised how seriously South Africans (and Namibians) took it and how viral the petition went.
“The process (now dubbed Nexit Cape) remains a satirical view but I think that the idea of selling the Northern Cape to Namibia is practical and simple - something people can relate to and understand. They can see it as a possibility (however small) in contrast to the idea of unbundling (Eskom), that is a foreign concept to many - that is what made it so popular,” Van Niekerk said.
He said that while he did received a barrage of hate mail (with most asking “How dare you?” and “Who do you think you are?”) the overwhelming response, even from Northern Cape residents, was positive, with thousands supporting the idea.
The young Capetonian indicated that he would now have to start figuring out how to get the petition to Ramaphosa, after promising to deliver the petition personally after getting 1 000 signatures.
He also wrote a tongue-in-cheek post on Facebook on Wednesday, marketing “Make South Africa Great Again #SellNCToNam” merchandise, subtly referring to United States president, Donald Trump’s popular slogan.
“We have some good news. Due to overwhelming requests, we have designed official merchandise. All proceeds will go to the funding of a border wall between South Africa and what will be known as Southern Namibia (currently the Northern Cape),” van Niekerk wrote on the official “Sell Northern Cape to Namibia to erase Eskom’s debt” Facebook page.
Meanwhile, in reaction, another petition entitled “Declare the Northern Cape Province an Independent Country” was started, also on change.org.
The motivation of the petition, also to President Ramaphosa, states the following: “Firstly, a big thank you to Mr Aidan Van Niekerk who was brave enough to start the petition in order to have the Northern Cape Province sold for R420 billion to the country of Namibia but no thank you. Unfortunately we reject your idea. Instead, as the Northern Cape Province we would like to counter your petition with our own to buy our freedom for R421 billion (we will pay in diamonds, oh and keep the change) and declare the Northern Cape as an independent country. We’ll keep our big hole, dusty roads and deserts and you can keep your Eskom. We will trade with our neighbours, Namibia and Botswana. We have an abundance of empty land and sun. We will build factories and invest in solar energy. Energy that we will in turn sell as electricity to your country (that R420 billion won’t go far.) We have our own coastline unlike some of your provinces and overpopulation will never be a problem here, since there’s ‘barely anyone living here’. In a few years time “South Africans” will flock to our newly established country. To you Mr Aidan Van Niekerk, I wish to say, welkom in die Republiek van die Noord-Kaap”.
Van Niekerk said that while he had not previously had much interest in politics, the last week had given him some insights.
“Should the Northern Cape gain independence, and become its own country, I might just run for president, with Pofadder already my prime choice as capital. But in the meanwhile, I think Lesotho and Swaziland should watch their backs, as I have plans for them,” Van Niekerk concluded.
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