Thursday 8 June 2017

Libertarians in South Africa

Libertarians in South Africa

Libertarians in South Africa are a diverse and scattered group. This is both a sign of growth and a source of irritation. A person searching for the phrase “libertarians in South Africa” on Google Search is likely to encounter the now moribund libertarian party of South Africa first,  followed by an incomplete Wikipedia stub, followed by a range of only loosely related articles and sites with very little structure present. There is a real danger that some important libertarian sites such as Rational Standard will be missed. In this paper I would like to suggest an approach to unifying the libertarian movement in South Africa for the benefit of both libertarians and prospective libertarians.

Brief history

Libertarianism in South Africa dates back to the mid 1970’s when Leon Louw, Marc Swanepoel and several others got together informally to discuss this new and interesting philosophy. One result of this cooperation was the formation of the Free Market Foundation. Regular weekly meetings were held at Leon Louw’s house in Dunkeld to which an enthusiastic group of early libertarians were invited. Leon's wife, Francis Kendall, published a monthly magazine called The individualist which was circulated around the group.  in 1985 a subscriber to The individualist, Ria Crafford,  suggested that a seminar be held at which libertarians from all over the country could gather.  This led to the first libertarian spring seminar being held on the farm Nebo near Ficksburg  in the Orange Free State in 1985.  Following the success of this seminar, Trevor Watkins,  Charl Heydenrych and Peter Kidson got together to organise the second Seminar at Mont-aux-Sources in the Drakensberg.  A libertarian spring Seminar has been held every year since that time with the single exception of 2010.

Trevor Watkins formed the libertarian society  in 1986 as a means of maintaining a database of known libertarians in the country. Over the years the libertarian society has added websites, email groups and blogs and organised monthly dinners in Johannesburg and Cape Town and Durban. The libertarian society was also involved in organising many annual seminars.

Following the reforms in South Africa in 1991, Leon Louw and Francis Kendall published a seminal work entitled “South Africa the Solution”. This led to the formation of the Groundswell movement which was active prior to the 1994 elections. Trevor Watkins, Clare Emary and Charl Heydenrych formed the KISS party prior to the 1994 elections,  which then resulted in the formation of the Federal party led by Francis Kendall. In 2013 Barry de Harde, Charl Heydenrych, Trevor Watkins and Enyinna Nkem-abonta got together to form the Libertarian Party of South Africa, which was inaugurated at the 2013 Seminar in Prince Albert.  The Libertarian Party was registered as a formal political party in 2014 but did not contest the 2014 elections due to the high cost of participation. The party is currently inactive.

Two young libertarians,Nicholas Woode-Smith (a committee member of the Libertarian Party) and Martin van Staden, formed various alternative libertarian groupings including Being Libertarian and the Rational Standard blog.

There are numerous other libertarian groups, websites and activities across South Africa. A comprehensive list of these groups appears in appendix 1.

Do we have a problem?

While most existing libertarians favour one existing forum or another,  new libertarians or non-libertarians seeking enlightenment are faced with an unstructured and sometimes conflicting smorgasbord of choices when researching libertarianism in South Africa.  I do believe that this is a problem and that the existing libertarian  activists should get together to establish a common platform and consistent view for libertarianism in South Africa.

How do we solve this problem?

I think that we must select a common platform for presenting the multiple options for libertarianism in South Africa. I think Wikipedia will provide that common platform.  The existing libertarian products can all continue to exist in their present form without modification. However the single Wikipedia platform will allow new visitors to evaluate which sites and subjects they wish to be involved in before actually visiting them.The administrators of the various sites will be able to maintain and update the links to their content on the Wikipedia page.  Hopefully this will also lead to increased interest in all the sites as a result of their easier and simpler access.

I think that the various current libertarian groupings should  co-operate and collaborate with each other. We should share membership details across the various platforms to ensure that we are able to communicate with all South African libertarians. We should contribute intellectual material to each others blogs and share our resources. Where possible we should attempt to attend each others gatherings such as conferences, seminars and monthly gatherings.

Appendix 1- Libertarian sites in South Africa

Libertarian South Africa
Trevor Watkins
Google blogger, 3000 views
Libertarian South Africa
Trevor Watkins
Wordpress. No longer maintained.
Libertarian Party of SA
Trevor Watkins
No longer active.
Libertarian Party blog
Trevor Watkins

Libertarian Party Google+ community
Trevor Watkins
Google+, 86 followers
Rational Standard
Martin van Staden
Active blog and website
Being Libertarian
Martin van Staden
Libsa email group
Trevor Watkins!forum/libsa
googlegroup, +2000 topics, 200 members, 20 active
Free Market Foundation
Leon Louw
South African Libertarian
Martin van Staden
Currently unreachable
Libertaria Project blog
Trevor Watkins
Google blogger
Libertaria Project email group
Trevor Watkins!topic/libsa/pQVJbi0Yf5g
South African Libertarians
Google+ community, 153 members
Jhb Libertarian minded meetup
Charl Heydenrych
Meetup group
Facebook pages

Libertarian Party
Trevor Watkins
Nicholas Woode-Smith
Page, 1050 followers
Gary Moore
Public group, 328 followers
South African Libertarians
Martin van Staden

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