Liberalism in South Africa

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This article gives an overview of liberal parties in South Africa. It is limited to liberal parties with substantial support, mainly proved by having had a representation in parliament.


Liberalism was not organized in South Africa 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.

Mahlabatini Declaration of Faith[edit]

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.

The timeline[edit]

Liberal Party of South Africa[edit]

  • 1953: The Liberal Party of South Africa is formed by Alan Paton
  • 1968: The SALP decides to disband rather than obey legislation outlawing multiracial political parties. The decision was also influenced by the fact that the leadership of the SALP had been decimated by banning orders and other restrictive measures, and by the fact that many stalwarts had been forced into exile.

From Progressive Party to Democratic Alliance[edit]

Progressives or Democrats

Liberal leaders[edit]

Liberal thinkers[edit]

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

Liberal organisations[edit]

Liberal journalists[edit]


See also[edit]