Liberalism in South Africa Its history and prospects for 2020 and beyond

John Kane Berman (IRR), Gwen Ngwenya (DA) & Martin van Staden (FMF)
05 February 2020
17h45 – 18h15 Registration - R50 per person (Snacks ’n wine)
18h15 – 20h00 (Presentation + Q&A)
FMF, Block 5 Bryanston Gate, 170 Curzon Road, Bryanston (Off Main Road opposite the Sandton Medi-Clinic)

John Kane-Berman (Senior Policy Fellow, IRR)

History of Liberalism in South Africa


Gwen Ngwenya (Head of Policy, DA)

Non-Racialism as a Liberal Value


Martin van Staden (Head of Legal (Policy & Research), FMF)

Principles and Prospects of Liberalism in South Africa


The South African commentariat was abuzz throughout 2019 on the topic of liberalism, the role it played in South African history, and its relevance for our current context and future. Some say liberalism was complicit in the marginalisation and exclusion of millions of South Africans from the economy, and others regard it as a cold and uncaring ideology that is not fit for a country with South Africa’s socio-economic circumstances. Yet, others defend liberals as having been the only consistent opponents to Apartheid oppression, who charted a viable future for all South Africans, characterised by individual liberty, economic freedom, and governance under a supreme constitution and the Rule of Law.


Join our panel of speakers to appreciate and unpack the role liberalism has played and can still play in South Africa.


About the speakers:

John Kane-Berman is a Senior Policy Fellow at and former Chief Executive Officer of the South African Institute of Race Relations, and one of South Africa’s most well-known liberal personalities. He is a graduate of the University of the Witwatersrand, where he led a protest against the Apartheid government’s policy of racial segregation at universities (Prime Minister Vorster berated Kane-Berman’s delegation as “little pink liberals”). He is also a graduate of the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. Prior to becoming involved with the IRR, Kane-Berman spent ten years in journalism, where he was Senior Assistant Editor of the Financial Mail and South African correspondent for numerous foreign papers. He is the author of several books on South African politics and has also published his memoirs.


Gwen Ngwenya started her career as an economic analyst working in New Delhi, covering the pharmaceutical, airline, and cement industries. From New Delhi, she was recruited by Bloomberg to work as an analyst covering Europe, Middle East, and Africa from their offices in London. She moved back to South Africa in 2016, joining the Institute of Race Relations as the Chief Operations Officer, and becoming a Member of Parliament for the Democratic Alliance and serving on the Standing Committee on Finance. She has degrees from the University of Cape Town (BSocSc), and from Universite Paris XVII where she completed a master thesis on cartelisation in India. She is currently the Head of the Federal Policy Unit at the Democratic Alliance.


Martin van Staden is the Head of Legal (Policy and Research) at the Free Market Foundation. He has an LL.B. degree from the University of Pretoria and is pursuing an LL.M. from the same institution. Martin is author of the 2019 book, The Constitution and the Rule of Law: An Introduction, among others. A passionate writer, Martin has authored hundreds of articles in the mainstream and popular media and is the Editor in Chief of the Being Libertarian LLC group of publications. Between November 2018 and September 2019, Martin undertook in-depth research on the history of classical liberalism in South Africa, leading to the publication of an article in the peer-reviewed Econ Journal Watch, based at the Fraser Institute in Canada. The article, “The Liberal Tradition in South Africa, 1910-2019”, is freely available online.


Media enquiries
For more information and to arrange for photographs and interviews, contact:
Jayne Boccaleone
082 904 3616   

Other enquiries
Joan Evans
011 884 0270

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