And Then There Were Two

As has now been well-documented in the archives of the Rational Standard, this past week was a low-point among low-points in the history of parliamentary democracy in South Africa. The attacks on AfriForum from all quarters, on baseless grounds, for its defence of private property rights,...

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As has now been well-documented in the archives of the Rational Standard, this past week was a low-point among low-points in the history of parliamentary democracy in South Africa. The attacks on AfriForum from all quarters, on baseless grounds, for its defence of private property rights, showed that the diversity of thought in Parliament is severely lacking. Where are the parliamentarians who believe in their hearts of hearts that individual South Africans and communities, have an inherent right to their own stuff and the fruits of their labour? It would seem that there are only two parties that might fit this description left.

AfriForum appeared in Parliament with a mandate from its 200,000 members to oppose government’s plans to expropriate private property without compensation For this, not only did the usual suspects — the African National Congress and the Economic Freedom Fighters — launch into unrestrained attacks on the organisation, but so did the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP).

You will recall that the DA, the ACDP, the Congress of the People (COPE), and the Freedom Front Plus (FF+), were the only four parties in Parliament to vote against the motion in favour of expropriation without compensation (EWC) in February. The DA went as far as to say that it could not agree with anything AfriForum’s Deputy CEO, Ernst Roets, said in Parliament, despite him saying things that are supposed to be core pillars of DA policy (such as the imperative of restitution of land rights), and the ACDP expressed its “disappointment” in AfriForum’s submission. Why the DA and the ACDP chose to break with their prior support for property rights is anyone’s guess at this stage.

After the relative success of my previous article, “3 Political Parties You Should NOT Vote For In 2019”, many commenters have asked that I make suggestions or recommendations on which parties they potentially could vote, from the liberal or libertarian perspective.

In that previous article I did, however, write the following:

“I cannot tell you who to vote for from a libertarian perspective. It is painstakingly difficult to find which political party or which politician is the ‘best’ on matters concerning your liberty and your property. As a second-best course of action, however, I have decided to list the three political parties I regard as potentially the worst options to pick in the 2019 general election.”

But in the interest of balance, and in light of the above-mentioned, simplifying event, I will provide my thoughts on the two remaining political parties that South Africans could potentially vote for in next year’s election.

The DA, as you know, is on my other list, and won’t make an appearance here for the reasons I outlined in the article linked above. In essence: the DA has strayed from its foundational principles, especially those of non-racialism, support for private enterprise, and unequivocal support for private property, and it needs to be taught a lesson in next year’s election in the hope that it will return to those principles. The ACDP, on the other hand, would have been in the original version of this article, but bought its own removal after criticising AfriForum for no apparent reason other than to signal its ostensible virtues to an electorate that was never going to vote for it anyway.

The other parties represented in Parliament — just short of 75% of the national legislature — voted in favour of abolishing property rights for all South Africans. It goes without saying that none of these parties, including the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), which favours property rights and free markets in its policy documents, should receive your vote.

That, unfortunately, leaves only two political parties represented in Parliament that can reasonably be concluded will defend property rights to a T: COPE and the FF+. These are both (very) imperfect parties, and I do not wish to create the impression that I am a “supporter” of either of them. But we live in a time of exclusively-bad choices. I simply believe these are, currently, the least bad.

Congress of the People (COPE)

Mosiuoa “Terror” Lekota has surprised many South Africans. Before the EWC debacle took this country by storm, he was relatively unknown, a background player in Parliament and the leader of an increasingly-irrelevant party. His colors shone brightly, however, when he stood up to President Cyril Ramaphosa and asked the President what he meant with his constant references to “our people”. “If you are going to give the land to our people, please tell us: Who is not our people in this country?” asked Lekota. He has repeatedly defended property rights since.

My concern with COPE is simple: It has Lekota, and only Lekota, who has vociferously come out in passionate favour of private property rights. Not only can I not name another COPE leader, but I do not recall one instance of anyone in that party, other than Lekota, defending section 25 of the Constitution. Instead, and quite worryingly, COPE recently decided to humiliate itself in public by acting as if it did not know about Lekota’s partnership with AfriForum.

Thus, it would seem that ‘COPE minus Lekota’ is not necessarily a friend of private property (it might be, and it might not be — we simply don’t know). The increasing numbers of people who wish to vote for COPE because of opposing EWC, thus, do not seem to want to vote for COPE, but rather for Lekota, and that’s not how our political system works. Before you vote for COPE, ask yourself whether you’d be comfortable with them, whoever they are, possessing a mandate from you, in the event that Lekota leaves.

Freedom Front Plus (FF+)

The FF+ does not have a good history in South Africa. It has its beginnings in the Conservative Party of the 1980s, which was opposed to the National Party’s reformism and gradual abolition of Apartheid. The Conservative Party made the Nats look like liberals, and sought a return to the vision of Grand Apartheid pursued by Hendrik Verwoerd, where each race of South Africa would have their own, independent state.

But the FF+, which came into being after constitutional democracy was established, is a slightly different beast. It possesses, without a doubt, a nationalistic streak and focuses almost exclusively on championing the group rights of Afrikaners, which is understandable given that they are presumably the party’s only constituency. In so doing, however, the FF+ has not proposed or campaigned for any policies that would see any South African, of whatever race, deprived of their liberty or property. In its activism for the property rights of Afrikaners, the FF+ has unavoidably fought for the property rights of everyone. And between the FF+ and COPE, the FF+ has been the most consistent on this topic.

Unfortunately, if you are a liberal or a libertarian South African, your choices are severely limited. If you wish to choose a party already represented in Parliament, you only have the two choices mentioned above. If not them, feel free to vote for any unrepresented party. But not voting, or voting for the ANC, EFF, or the DA, should be out of the question.

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  1. Markus Reply

    The recent vote in parliament has proven this wrong. DA and ACDP attacked AfriForum’s attitude. NOT their defence of property rights. As for IFP, all they did was to vote in favor of setting up a committee to look into the matter. In the the crucial vote on amending the constitution, IFP voted no.

    So there are in fact five, not two.

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