Chairman’s Address to the Annual General Meeting
of the Free Market Foundation
held on Wednesday, 20 August 2014
This address is devoted mostly to the important work the FMF is doing to try and improve conditions in the country.
Resignation of Herman Mashaba as Chairman of the FMF
Herman’s resignation as Chairman of the FMF was accepted with reluctance. He brought great dynamism and enthusiasm to the role. The FMF is politically non-partisan and anyone playing a prominent role in a political party cannot hold an elected position in the FMF. This does not prevent a member of any political party from joining the FMF or having regular discussions with the FMF – in fact the FMF would like to see all the political parties adopting free market economic policies. Herman therefore remains a member, supporter and friend of the Foundation.
The world and South Africa’s economic woes
It is not possible in a brief report such as this to cover the problems being encountered across the world and in South Africa. Suffice it to say that we are seeing a demonstration that socialist ideas do not bring about good economic results. Control of money by major governments has not led to economic stability but to economic turmoil. Increasing dominance by governments of the economies of nations has crowded out private economic activity and led to a decline in the living standards of citizens. It is time for the world and our own country to once again give free markets a chance to raise living standards, reduce poverty and bring about peaceful co-existence.
FMF members and supporters
Our grateful thanks to all our members and supporters. We appreciate the fact that we receive support from a wide range of donors and contributors, from monthly to annual contributions from many individuals to contributions from small, medium and large companies, as well as Foundations. Without your support we would not be able, on your behalf, to address the issues that you find impossible to address yourselves.
We hesitate to single out individual acts of generosity. The recently announced decision of the First Rand Foundation to donate R500 000 per year for three years to the FMF makes a significant difference to the FMF’s capabilities. The donations from the individuals who made it possible for us to give an instruction last month to conveyancers to transfer a further 60 freehold title deeds to families in the Ngwathe municipal area as part of our Khaya Lam (My House) Land Reform Project are heart-warming. The generosity of our members and sponsors is overwhelming and we thank you.
There has been a marked increase in the FMF’s activities since our last Annual General Meeting. The following is a brief description of some of the matters we are dealing with:
Labour project - ending mass unemployment
The Labour Law Challenge on which we have reported from time to time is still in progress. It is aimed at removing the current obligation on the Minister to extend Bargaining Council agreements to non-participating parties as demanded by the private parties to such agreements. The case is making slow progress due to frustrating delays. Herman Mashaba has agreed, at the request of the FMF to continue to represent the FMF in the case. He has also undertaken to remain guarantor and main funder of the Labour Law Challenge.
Khaya Lam land reform project
The FMF has been advocating land reform for many years, particularly the transfer of municipal rental housing to the occupants who were confined to urban townships by apartheid. With sponsorship from FNB, the FMF entered into a partnership with the Ngwathe Municipal Council, who, by unanimous decision decided to give freehold title, at no cost, to registered occupants of their rental housing. In October 2013, the first 100 title deeds were handed to recipients. The FMF’s task is to resolve any problems that arise in the property titling process, handle title applications, liaise with the municipality, raise money to pay for title transfers, and instruct conveyancers.
This project, for which Ngwathe is the pilot, has significant socio economic implications for the country and is without doubt the largest project the FMF has ever tackled. The fundamental purpose is to urge, with the assistance of donors and in partnership with municipalities, that all apartheid-style rental housing in the country be converted to freehold title.
South Africa, having achieved a democracy in 1994, is a country rich in potential with an unlimited future. The FMF wishes to identify those unique individuals who inspire others in a particular sphere of life. These individuals are elected as FMF Luminaries to memorialise their achievements as an example to all. Luminary Awards have been presented to Dr Yuri Maltsev, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Dr Pauline Dixon, Dr Sam Motsuenyane, Advocate George Bizos, Richard Maponya and Raymond Ackerman.
The FMF has arguably become the most active defender of civil liberties in the country. Executive Director, Leon Louw, has been at the forefront of this defence. He has made consumers conscious of the fact that if they support making other people’s personal habits such as smoking and drinking illegal or subject to onerous regulations, at some point their own habits, such as consuming excessive quantities of sugar or salt, or whatever other peaceful activity in which they may be engaged, could be the next to be regulated.
Weekly Business Day Column
FMF Executive Director, Leon Louw, has become a popular columnist and we are told that his column is the first item that many Business Day subscribers read every Wednesday morning. The column has definitely given greater prominence to the FMF in the media and has been a great success.
Website and Social Media
There has been a significant increase in visits to the FMF’s website and activities on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
The FMF has established policy units to deal with issues affecting various sectors of the economy. In carrying out its work in the areas covered by the units, the FMF relies heavily on technical experts for advice on their industries:
Energy Policy Unit (EPU)
The EPU is composed of energy experts and FMF Executive Committee members who are seeking solutions to the current energy crisis. The EPU advocates for South Africa to establish a market for electricity as mentioned in the government’s 1998 White Paper and to institute all the measures required to bring this about, including an independent grid, and private competition in the generation and supply of electricity as well as in the retail supply of electricity to consumers.
Finance Policy Unit (FPU)
The FPU is composed of experts in the financial field. The unit has been established to monitor regulations and their effects on consumers, especially low income consumers. Members of the unit made written submissions to the Davis Tax Committee and gave a presentation to the Committee on the benefits of instituting a flat rate tax.
Health Policy Unit (HPU)
FMF Director, Jasson Urbach, represents the Foundation on matters relating to health care. The HPU contends that the heavy regulatory burden should be removed from the health care sector to allow for increased competition in healthcare provision and that government should purchase health care services from a competitive private sector to increase quality and reduce prices.
The FMF has been arguing the case for economic and individual freedom for almost forty years. For half that time it was arguing against the national socialism of apartheid and ostensibly had a considerable influence on events. After 1994, many people believed that the FMF no longer had a role to play. Unfortunately they were not correct. The free market and individual liberty that was promised has not come about.