South Africa

One SA for All

Political Partner

Post-Apartheid South Africa is characterised by a ‘one-party dominant system’ South African politics is dominated by a single political party: the ruling African National Congress (ANC) holds 65% of the seats in parliament, governs eight out of the nine provinces, and also controls the majority of South African municipalities. The ANC government is a tripartite alliance between the historic liberation movement ANC, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African Communist Party (SACP). Up to now, the ANC has not committed itself to a consistent political programme, but is inclined towards a communist-socialist concept of the state. Serious threats to South Africa’s young democracy. In order to secure the party’s and its elite’s interests, the ANC flouts the principle of the separation of powers as well as constitutional and legal requirements when required, thereby merging the roles of the party and the state. The ANC hopes to secure its dominance through strategic centralization: Not only does it advocate abolishing the provincial government level, it also tries to transfer key responsibilities – which constitutionally lie with the municipal and provincial level – to national government, thereby demoting the municipalities and provinces to mere extensions of national government. The Democratic Alliance (DA) – South Africa’s liberal voice The Democratic Alliance (DA), a longstanding partner of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, is South Africa’s official opposition. The DA holds 16 percent of the seats in parliament, which makes it the country’s second largest party. The party leader and former mayor of the City of Cape Town, Helen Zille, is the current Premier of the Western Cape Province. At the local government level, the DA governs in more than 20 municipalities – either on its own or in coalitions – and Cape Town is the only South African metropolitan area not governed by the ANC. The DA is a liberal party which has grown continuously in recent years. The party’s vision of an “Open Opportunity Society for All” brings together three key concepts: 1. Individual freedom under the rule of law, 2. Opportunity with responsibility and 3. Full equality for all. This vision is further grounded in the ideal of the universal right to dignity. The DA is increasingly being recognized as the only viable alternative to the ANC. An important part of the Foundation’s work in South Africa thus focuses on working with the DA. Strengthening the DA means furthering liberal core principles such as the rule of law and civil liberties, and ensures that a stable and strong voice advocates these principles in the South African political system. 

Organised Liberalism

South Africa’s liberal groupings have historically been united in their rejection of racial discrimination. In 1948, the National Party (NP) government enforced the apartheid system of legal racial segregation in South Africa. In 1953, various liberal groups combined to form the Liberal Party (LP), with a primary emphasis on the protection and extension of civil and political rights such as non-racial universal suffrage. Their opposition to apartheid and criticism of political suppression led to the persecution of many of the LP’s members by the South African apartheid government. The Liberal Party failed to gain any seats in the whites-only parliament (elected according to the Westminster system) but was successful in attracting black members. With the passing of the Prevention of Political Interference Act in 1968, the party chose to disband rather than go against its commitment to non-racism. In 1959, the Progressive Party (PP) was formed by a group of liberal parliamentarians who broke away from the oppositional, though fairly conservative, United Party. The PP targeted the white electorate and complied with the 1968 Act, a decision that was severely criticised by some liberal activists. However, it allowed the PP to promote liberalism among the white electorate and gave it a platform to advocate for the withdrawal of racist laws. From 1961 to1974, Helen Suzman served as the only representative of the PP in parliament and the lone MP against apartheid. She fought for liberal principles such as a federal constitution incorporating a Bill of Rights, an independent judiciary and an economy based on free enterprise. In 1977, some members of the United Party joined the PP, which changed its name to Progressive Federal Party (PFP) and became the official opposition after the 1977 election. During the 1980s, PFP members advocated universal suffrage for all South Africans, regardless of race. Under the leadership of Frederik van Zyl Slabbert (1979-1986), the party launched the National Convention Movement in an attempt to pressure the government to negotiate with all political and ethnic groups. In April 1989, the Democratic Party (DP) was established through the merging of the PFP, the National Democratic Movement and the Independent Party with the aim of uniting white liberal opposition to the National Party (NP). This contributed to an increased parliamentary strength from 20 to 33 members in the 1989 elections and subsequently allowed the DP to play an important mediating role in the negotiations between the NP and the African National Congress (ANC). The leader of the DP, Zach de Beer, was elected as the first Management Committee Chairman of CODESA (Convention on a Democratic South Africa). At CODESA and during the subsequent democratisation process, the DP played a vital role in the negotiation of an Interim Constitution, which included most of the principles and ideals around which the PP was formed in 1959. In the first post-apartheid elections of 1994, the ANC gained a significant victory with the DP winning only 1.7 percent of the vote at national level. The DP took on a new focus: the fight for the legitimacy of opposition and holding government to account. The party also assumed a leading role in the subsequent constitutional debates, campaigning for a liberal, non-interventionist state. The DP focused on building a strong opposition and in December 2000 entered into an agreement with the Federal Alliance and the New National Party (NNP) to form the Democratic Alliance (DA), thereby establishing the largest opposition party in South Africa. The DA has grown significantly since 2000. Focusing on local level elections, the party is increasingly winning municipalities in former ANC strongholds.

Think Tanks

Drawing attention to potential threats to the liberal democracy and the free market economy. The Johannesburg office is involved in a variety of projects with well-established, independent, liberal think tanks. The Foundation and its partners concentrate on securing and extending democratic practice based on liberal principles such as human rights, the rule of law, liberal democracy and the market economy. They regularly draw attention to potential threats to these principles. The partners’ expertise ranges from their academic ability to track trends in every area of South Africa’s development, from business and the economy to crime, living conditions and politics; in addition, they offer practical and pragmatic solutions to some of South Africa’s most pressing problems. In South Africa, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom supports ground-breaking empirical research projects, publications and roundtable discussions, which provide an alternative platform for debate and the free exchange of ideas. These activities tackle social and economic challenges facing South Africa in its ongoing development. They aim to offer practical policy recommendations and solutions. Furthermore, the partners stimulate public debate on issues relating to democracy, human rights and constitutional concerns. Well-researched studies and recommendations strengthen public awareness of issues concerning South Africa’s political and economic development. The continued collaboration with liberal think tanks in South Africa deepens South Africa’s constitutional democracy and aims to secure an economic environment conducive to sustainable growth and development.