Alternative History
Republic of the Cape
Republiek van die Kaap
Timeline: 1983: Doomsday
Flag of the Cape
Flag of the Cape
Location of the Cape
Location of the Cape (2003)
Dit is ons erns (Afrikaans)
("This is our earnestness")
(and largest city)
Cape Town
Other cities Kimberley, Paarl, Upington
Language Afrikaans
President Peter Marais
Independence from South Africa
  declared 1988
Annexation to RZA, DSA, Volkstaat, OFS, Waterboersland
  date 2006
Currency South African Rand

The Republic of the Cape governed much of the western and central parts of Cape Province in the former South Africa between 1988 and the mid-2000s. It was declared in 1988 in Cape Town, replacing what was left of the Republic of South Africa. Although the Republic held multiparty elections throughout its existence, it was totally dominated by the Volkskongres Party and is indelibly linked to the name of Peter Marais, its founder and only president, whose personality largely shaped the regime.

The Republic lost its hold on the region at the start of the Cape Civil War in 2003, and it ceased to exist after the 2006 international intervention into Cape Town. In the wake of that operation, Australia-New Zealand and South America jointly set up the provisional RZA regime in the area immediately surrounding Cape Town. The rest of the Republic's former territory was annexed by neighboring states. Today its former territory is divided between Good Hope, the Dominion of South Africa, Volkstaat, the Orange Free State, and a small piece of Waterboersland.


The fragmentation of South Africa[]


P.W. Botha

Though South Africa itself wasn't hit by any atomic weapons during the Doomsday attacks, effective governance in the country soon began to collapse. In the global economic crash that followed the war, the government of South Africa imposed harsh austerity measures on the Black majority while trying to prop up White-controlled businesses and areas. Prime Minister P. W. Botha cracked down on Black unrest, helping to provoke its transformation into open rebellion.

In 1985, South Africa began to fragment. Following the lead of KwaZulu, Black insurgents began to create liberated zones outside the government's control. The parliamentary Opposition, operating from Durban, made a bid to set up a rival national government and unite the country behind it. This group would soon have to relocate to Port Elizabeth, where it would evolve into the Dominion of South Africa. In South West Africa, SWAPO forces crossed the border and declared the independence of Namibia.

The following year, South African rule crumbled in Transvaal as rebels seized control of Johannesburg and Pretoria. The government fled to Cape Town, the legislative capital. The region had experienced some unrest, but the government's rule at least was secure. Losses in South West Africa and in Transvaal had shaken both the military strength of South Africa and the level of confidence that the government could command. Even Botha realized that he could not maintain power through force alone. He would need to keep the support of the Coloured population, who formed a majority of people in the Cape.

Government propaganda portrayed South Africa's Black insurgents as the common enemy of all Cape residents, for good measure tying them to the Soviet Union, whose atrocities during the nuclear war were now well known. Some Cape Coloureds were persuaded. They assisted the government in maintaining order, putting down unrest by Black residents through intimidation and violence. Some Coloureds were aslo appointed to government posts, though the most important posts remained in the hands of Afrikaners.


However, not all of the Cape Coloureds were satisfied. This was the opportunity, they argued, to end White rule entirely. Clearly the White regime's weakness was showing. It sparked anger when Botha announced his intention to implement South Africa's new constitution, passed by referendum in 1984 but delayed due to the emergency. The constitution was to set up a tricameral parliament. The House of Assembly would remain for Whites only, but the Coloured and Indian communities would each get their own chamber. The constitution enshrined White rule and did not try to hide it. Coloured leaders, feeling their strength, started organizing to replace it.

Peter Marais, a 40-year-old Coloured politician, became the most vocal critic of the constitution and of the slow pace of change. He organized the People's Congress Party (Afrikaans: Volkskongres Party). Volkskongres organized rallies and marches demanding an end to White rule in the Cape. It announced a boycott of any elections for the tricameral parliament.

Meanwhile, other Coloureds were organizing outside the city, where they far outnumbered any other racial group. Turning to guerrilla tactics, they followed the lead of Blacks in Transvaal, carving out liberated zones and defying the government's authority. As the insurgency spread, the SADF found it increasingly difficult to maintain any order in the rural parts of Cape Province. The roads to distant cities still under government control, like Kimberley and Upington, became more dangerous. The government had fled to the Cape, and now even that seemed to be slipping out of its control.

As the power of the insurgents grew, Marais approached the government with an offer to negotiate. He would meet with insurgent leaders and work out a compromise that would restore them to loyalty to the South African state. He offered a power-sharing agreement: a combined cabinet made of both White and Coloured leaders, including some of the leaders of the rural insurgency, followed by elections to a unicameral Parliament not segregated by race. Out of options, Botha's government agreed, and the insurgents laid down their arms.

Peter Marais and the end of South Africa[]


Peter Marais

However, Marais did not keep his word to the insurgents. While an interracial cabinet took power in Cape Town, the Coloured component was dominated by Marais's own Volkskongres; people involved in the insurgency were sidelined. But the party had also aggressively organized in the rural parts of the province and kept much of the Coloured population on its side. The insurgency was kept down.

The very first change instituted by the coalition government was to plan elections for a new Parliament. It would have only one chamber, not three. White, Coloured, and Indian voters would be represented proportionally and votes would count equally. Some leaders hinted that suffrage could ultimately be extended to the Black part of the population (a minority in the area now actually under South African control), but no such policy was ever introduced.

In the first post-Doomsday elections, held in 1987, Marais's People's Congress Party won the most seats but was short of an absolute majority. Botha's Nationalist Party finished second, and the Coloured-dominated Labour Party finished third. Surprising both friend and foe, Marais formed a coalition government with the highly Afrikaner nationalistic Conservative Party of South Africa (Afrikaans: Konserwatiewe Party van Suid-Afrika). A controversial liaison among Conservative politicians, this move caused over half of their parliamentarians to cross the floor to the National Party. But it accomplished an important goal for Marais: it allowed him to form a pluriracial government without Botha or the Nationalists. White rule in South Africa was over.


Inaugural ceremony at the Afrikaans Language Monument.

Now firmly in charge, with only a severely weakened coalition partner to keep into account, Marais continued to amass power. An important step was giving up on outlying parts of the country that were pursuing independence, concentrating instead on the western parts of the Cape, where the Coloured population dominated and his popularity was highest. The government of the Orange Free State, still thoroughly under the control of the National Party and the apartheid regime, rejected the entire arrangement and disavowed the pluriracial government. Marais made no effort to get them back. He gave tacit recognition to the the breakaway republic of Waterboersland and the rival Port Elizabeth government, which soon would rename itself the Dominion of South Africa. Reconquering the eastern part of the country - the Black-majority areas that had separated into a set of mutually hostile states - was out of the question.

In 1988, Marais formalized this more local orientation. He pushed a bill through Parliament dissolving the Repbulic of South Africa and replacing it with a new nation: the Republic of the Cape. The government renounced all claims to territory outside Cape Province, and the Oranje, Blanje, Blou was lowered for the last time. South Africa was over, and its replacement was being made in Marais's own image.

He began to consciously craft a national identity based around the Afrikaans language that would unite Coloureds and Afrikaners. He exploited a failed attempt to blow up the Afrikaans Language Monument in the town of Paarl, calling for a united front against the state's enemies, identified with the Progressive Federal Party (associated with the Dominion) and Black parties (associated with the new republics in Transvaal). Afrikaans became the sole official language of the Republic; English was formally set aside.

Marais also expanded on his populist base, creating the beginnings of a cult of personality. His face and voice became ubiquitous in the Cape. Supporters organized rallies in Cape Town and outlying towns and villages to push for his favored legislation and deride his opponents.

Opposition and civil war[]

Some opponents voted with their feet. Many Anglophones headed to the Dominion; the restoration there of the British monarchy marked it as an explicitly anglophilic state. Some Afrikaners headed north; a cluster of displaced Whites around the town of Springbok was operating as an independent state by 1991, called Volkstaat. As with Waterboersland and the Orange Free State, Marais did not try to prevent this secession. If it drew away hostile voters, so much the better for him.

However, Marais could not afford to lose the support of the army, the core of which were still held over from the apartheid era. New recruits could only partially offset this - the world economy was still moribund, and the republic could not afford to expand the army. New elections in 1993 allowed Volkskongres to govern without a coalition partner. The republic's first all-Coloured cabinet raised so much outcry that Marais had to relent and name some White ministers.

Over the next decade, these tensions would only increase, even as the economy began to recover and foreign ships again began to stop in Cape Town. Volkskongres was electorally unassailable, maintained by Marais's popularity among Coloured voters and an expanding patronage network made possible by that growing trade.

In 2003, Marais believed himself strong enough to attack the last stronghold of White power in the Cape: the army. A plan to fire several top brass en masse was leaked. The response was a mass mutiny among White officers and soldiers. The mutineers seized control of the city. In a remarkable political feat, they gained the cooperation of Cape Town's Black population, by now utterly frustrated at their continued oppression under the Volkskongres government. Marais fled under the protection of some soldiers still loyal to him, confident that he would soon regain control.

But things spiralled out of control quickly. The Cape descended into an ugly race war. The Orange Free State sent in troops to support the insurgency. Volkstaat never gave its formal support, but individual fighters did cross the border to join in. An attempt to retake Cape Town in 2004 became characterized by intense fighting street by street. The city became a war zone. Neither side was capable of capturing the entire city, and neither side was willing to retreat.

The chaos deepened late that year. Guerrillas carried out a bomb attack in Beaufort West, the Republic's temporary wartime capital where Marais had taken refuge. The blast killed the president. The Republic of the Cape had very much been a one-man show; with that man out of the picture, it disintegrated. The Cape Civil War continued, and with the Coloured population disorganized and leaderless it only grew more savage.

Occupation and Partition[]

The war destroyed the progress that Cape Town had made as an international port. And with the centers of world power now in the Southern Hemisphere, this became a major disruption to the slowly-recovering global economy. The Australia-New Zealand Commonwealth and the South American Confederation had emerged as the clear leaders of the new world order. They had come close to a military conflict over the control and use of the Panama Canal; now, they were looking to reset their relationship in pursuit of shared goals. Restoring order at the Cape would serve this purpose and benefit both their economies.

In 2006, both the ANZC and South America dispatched fleets to the Cape. The international force gained control of the city quickly before spreading out to secure a perimeter in the countryside. It was the first multilateral peacekeeping mission since 1983, a major milestone in postwar world history and a step toward the creation of the League of Nations. The mission set up a new provisional government, dubbed the RZA.

But the international force was not interested in occupying the entire Republic, only the land nearest the port. Once this became clear, the Cape's neighbors all pounced. The Dominion occupied a huge swath of the Karoo, sweeping aside both White and Coloured armed groups that lay in its path, including the remnants of the Republic of the Cape's government in Beaufort West. The Orange Free State drew a large portion of the SADF veterans and their supporters; it employed them to seize Kimberley, formally annexing it soon after. Other insurgents drifted north toward Volkstaat, helping it occupy large new territories of the Northern Cape.

By 2007, most of the Cape was partitioned. The foreign administrators in Cape Town, desperate to prevent the situation from turning into a regional war, recognized these cessions and helped broker agreements over the final borders. This did not bring immediate peace, however. Clashes continued for years, especially by Volkskongres members and other Republic loyalists in the annexed territories. Some outlying areas, especially far northern regions like Upington, remained outside any effective government for years, still under the control of factions from the civil war. The Dominion also took the opportunity to immediately seize disputed territory from KwaXhosa, which was to provoke almost a decade of political and military conflict in the region.


As a dramatic break with past policy, no official ethnic data was collected during the Marais administration. Though plans to revive the population census were discussed by RZA authorities after the fall of Marais, this was decided against. Rough estimates of ethnicity, based on ongoing research, indicate that over half the population was of Coloured heritage. The remainder of the population was quite evenly balanced between the Black and White minorities, with the former holding a slightly larger share of the population.

Afrikaans was by far the most spoken language in the Republic of the Cape, a position that was further strengthened by linguistic policies during the Volkskongres period. For similar reasons the vast majority of the population adhered to the Dutch Reformed Church, though other Christian denominations were also present. A Muslim minority is also present among the (Afrikaans-speaking) Cape Malay community, though over the years some moved into Dominion territory.


Throughout its existence the Cape used a modified form of South Africa's 1984 constitution, replacing its tricameral parliament with a unicameral one in which the White and Coloured races were represented proportionally. An unusual feature of this constitution was that Parliament's choice to lead the government received the title of President and became the head of state; unlike other parliamentary countries, there was no additional ceremonial leader. South West Africa, whose constitution is derived from the same source, also uses this system.

The Cape's constitution consisted in a set of provisional documents drawn up by Botha and Marais in 1987. No permanent constitution was ever adopted. Various changes were made over the years, most obviously the name of the country, but the basic structure of the government remained the same throughout the republic's existence.

See also[]