Liberalism in South Africa

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Liberalism in South Africa was not formally organised until 1953, although there was some liberal tradition in parties present at the time. This changed in 1953 with the formation of the anti-Apartheid Liberal Party of South Africa, which was multi-racial. A second liberal tradition started in 1959 with the forming of the Progressive Party.

Internal resistance to apartheid

Internal resistance to apartheid in South Africa originated from several independent sectors of South African society and alternatively took the form of social movements, passive resistance, or guerrilla warfare. Mass action against the ruling National Party government, coupled with South Africa's growing international isolation and economic sanctions, were instrumental factors in ending racial segregation and discrimination. Both black and white South African activists such as Steve Biko, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Harry Schwarz, and Joe Slovo were involved with various anti-apartheid causes. By the 1980s, there was continuous interplay between violent and non-violent action, and this interplay was a notable feature of resistance against apartheid from 1983 until South Africa's first multiracial elections under a universal franchise in 1994.

Liberal Party of South Africa

The Liberal Party of South Africa was a South African political party from 1953 to 1968.


Mahlabatini Declaration of Faith

On 4 January 1974, Harry Schwarz the Transvaal leader of the United Party met with Mangosuthu Buthelezi and signed a five-point plan for racial peace in South Africa, which came to be known as the Mahlabatini Declaration of Faith. Its purpose was to provide a blueprint for the government of South Africa by consent and racial peace in a multi-racial society, stressing opportunity for all, consultation, the federal concept, and a Bill of rights. It also affirmed that political change must take place though non-violent means, at a time when neither the National Party nor the African National Congress were looking to peaceful solutions or dialogue. The declaration enshrined the principles of peaceful transition of power and equality for all, the first of such agreements by acknowledged black and white political leaders in South Africa and was heralded by many as a breakthrough in race relations in South Africa. Liberal figures and others such as Alan Paton praised the declaration. The declaration drew much media interest both inside and outside South Africa. Schwarz leader of the liberal 'Young Turks' in the UP, would be expelled with other liberals from the party the following year.

Harry Schwarz South African activist

Harry Heinz Schwarz was a South African lawyer, statesman and long-time political opposition leader against apartheid in South Africa, who eventually served as the South African Ambassador to the United States during the country's transition to majority rule.

United Party (South Africa) political party in South Africa

The United Party was a political party in South Africa. It was the country's ruling political party between 1934 and 1948.

Mangosuthu Buthelezi South African politician

Mangosuthu Buthelezi is a South African politician and Zulu tribal leader who founded the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) in 1975 and was Chief Minister of the KwaZulu bantustan until 1994. He was Minister of Home Affairs of South Africa from 1994 to 2004. His praise name is Shenge. He was also previously called Gatsha.

The timeline

Liberal Party of South Africa

Alan Paton South African writer and activist

Alan Stewart Paton was a South African author and anti-apartheid activist.

From Progressive Party to Democratic Alliance

Progressives or Democrats

The Progressive Party was a liberal party in South Africa which, during apartheid, was considered the left wing of the all-white parliament. The party represented the legal opposition to apartheid within South Africa's white minority. It opposed the ruling National Party's policies of apartheid, and championed the Rule of Law. For 13 years its only member of parliament was Helen Suzman. It was later renamed the Progressive Reform Party in 1975, and then Progressive Federal Party in 1977. The modern Democratic Alliance considers the party to be its earliest predecessor.

Helen Suzman South African politician

Helen Suzman, DBE was a South African anti-apartheid activist and politician. She represented a succession of liberal and centre-left opposition parties during her 36-year tenure in the whites-only, National Party-controlled House of Assembly of South Africa at the height of the apartheid era. She hosted the meeting that founded the Progressive Party in 1959, and was its only MP in the 160-member House for a period of 13 years.

The Reform Party was an anti-apartheid political party that existed for just five months in 1975 and is one of the predecessor parties to the Democratic Alliance. The Reform Party was created on 11 February by a group of four Members of Parliament (MPs) who left the United Party under the guidance of the leader of the United Party in the Transvaal, Harry Schwarz, who became the party's leader. Schwarz and others were staunchly opposed to apartheid and called for a much more rigorous opposition to the National Party. They said that they no longer felt the UP was "the vehicle in which we can travel the path of verligtheid". The party had four MPs, two senators, ten members of the Transvaal Provincial Council, 14 out of the 36 Johannesburg City Councillors and four Randburg City Councillors. This made it the official opposition in the Transvaal Provincial Council.

Liberal leaders

Jan van Aswegen Steytler was a liberal South African politician and the first leader of the Progressive Party (PP). He was born in Burgersdorp, in the then Cape Province now Eastern Cape Province.

Colin Eglin South African politician

Colin Wells Eglin was a South African politician best known for having served as national leader of the opposition from 1977–79 and 1986-87. He represented Sea Point in the South African Parliament from 1958–61 and from 1974-2004. Described by Nelson Mandela as "one of the architects of democracy", Eglin played a leading role in the drafting of the country's post-apartheid constitution.

Bernard Friedman was a South African surgeon, politician, author, and businessman who co-founded the anti-apartheid Progressive Party.

Liberal thinkers

In the Contributions to liberal theory the following South African thinkers are included:

Liberal organisations

Liberal journalists

Related Research Articles

Democratic Party (South Africa) political party in South Africa, now called the Democratic Alliance

The Democratic Party (DP) was the name of the South African political party now called the Democratic Alliance. Although the Democratic Party name dates from 1989, the party existed under other labels throughout the apartheid years, when it was the Parliamentary opposition to the ruling National Party's policies.

Democratic Alliance (South Africa) political party from South Africa

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is a South African political party and the official opposition to the governing African National Congress (ANC). The present leader is Mmusi Maimane, who succeeded former Mayor of Cape Town and Premier of the Western Cape Helen Zille on 10 May 2015. The party is broadly centrist, and has been attributed both centre-left and centre-right policies. It is a member of the Liberal International and the Africa Liberal Network. The DA traces its roots to the founding of the anti-apartheid Progressive Party in 1959, with many mergers and name changes between that time and the present. The party adopted its current name on 24 June 2000.

Tony Leon South African politician

Anthony James "Tony" Leon is a South African politician who served as leader of the opposition from 1999-2007 as leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA). He led the DA from its inception in 2000, until his retirement from leadership in 2007. Before that, he led the Democratic Party from 1994. He is the longest serving leader of the official opposition in parliament since the advent of democracy in 1994. Although still a member of the DA, he served as the South African Ambassador to Argentina under the ANC government from 2009 to 2012.

Progressive Federal Party

The Progressive Federal Party (PFP) was a South African political party formed in 1977. It was the main parliamentary opposition to apartheid, instead advocating power-sharing in South Africa through a federal constitution.

The Progressive Reform Party was a South African party that was formed on 26 July 1975 by the fusion of the Reform Party led by Harry Schwarz and Progressive Party led by Colin Eglin. Harry Schwarz predicted that the merger would lead to a "new political dimension in South Africa".

Harry Lawrence South African politician

Harry Gordon Lawrence (1901–1973) was a South African politician.

1974 South African general election

The 1974 South African general election, held on 24 April, was called one year earlier than scheduled by Prime Minister John Vorster on 4 February. The House of Assembly was increased from 166 to 171 members. The election was once again won by the National Party, with a slightly increased parliamentary majority.

1987 South African general election

The 1987 South African general election was held on 6 May 1987. The State of Emergency existing in South Africa at that time cast a cloud over the elections. It was once again won by the National Party (NP) under the leadership of P. W. Botha, although for the first time it faced serious opposition from the right of the South African political spectrum. The election resulted in the creation of the Second Botha Cabinet, which held power until 1989.

The Independent Party was founded in 1987 by Denis Worrall and Wynand Malan. Its purpose was to protest against the National Party's shift in policy from reform to security. It contested the 1987 election as the Independent Movement and Malan, its founder, won its only seat. Disappointed by this result, Malan left to form the National Democratic Movement (NDM), and Worrall assumed the leadership.

Denis John Worrall is a South African academic, businessman, and former politician and diplomat.

Wynand Malan is a liberal Afrikaner South African politician.

Zach de Beer South African politician and businessman

Zacharias Johannes "Zach" de Beer was a liberal Afrikaner South African politician and businessman. He was the last leader of the liberal Progressive Federal Party and then the co-leader of the new liberal Democratic Party.

Although the Democratic Alliance of South Africa in its present form is fairly new, its roots can be traced far back in South African political history, through a complex sequence of splits and mergers.


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