The Free Market Foundation (Southern Africa) is an independent public benefit organisation founded in 1975 to promote and foster an open society, the rule of law, personal liberty, and economic and press freedom as fundamental components of its advocacy of human rights and democracy based on classical liberal principles. It is financed by membership subscriptions, donations and sponsorships.*

Our history

The FMF was established to counter the steadily increasing intervention in the economy by the government of the time. Protectionism, high inflation, price controls, bureaucracy and relentless enforcement of racial discrimination all escalated during the 1970’s. In 1977 the FMF became a national body when it received the support of major institutions, including SACOB, AHI, NAFCOC, TUCSA, the National Black Consumer Union, and the National Consumer Union. Representatives of major companies played an active role in the reconstitution of the Foundation and commenced participation in its affairs.

The book, South Africa: The Solution (1986), by Leon Louw and Frances Kendall (a project initiated by the FMF) and the subsequent Let the People Govern by the same authors, provided all South Africans with positive proposals for a peaceful constitutional settlement, based on the principles of direct democracy upon which the Swiss government functions. These books and the follow-up work by the two authors had an undoubted influence on the negotiation process.

The FMF convened what became known as the “business caucus”, through which business leaders negotiated successfully for the inclusion of property rights in the Bill of Rights. The FMF’s submissions to Codesa and Parliamentary constitutional committees contributed, for instance, to the devolution of exclusive powers to local and regional tiers of government, the inclusion in the limitation clause of the requirement that limitations of rights must be “justifiable in an open and democratic society”, and the inclusion of the administrative justice clause (33), the freedom of trade clause (22), and the rule of law as a justiciable provision in the Founding Provisions of the constitution.

Due to current circumstances in the country, in some unfortunate respects similar to those of the 1970’s, the Foundation has restructured once again in order to better address the issues that confront the country. At a Special General Meeting held on 15 May 2012, the members of the Foundation elected a new Board of Executive Directors, chaired by Herman Mashaba, who said, “I did not want to look back in three years time and say, I did nothing!”     

*FMF funding
FMF seeks and accepts both institutional and project funding from individuals and organisations with shared general or project-specific objectives
FMF has immutable principles; our constitution prescribes and proscribes in transparent, unambiguous, consistent and enduring terms what we must and may do
Since we are principle-based, our services, but not our principles are for sale