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Randolph Vigne Discusses What the Liberal Party Would Have Thought of the DA’s AA Stance

Thomas PringleRandolph Vigne, former Liberal Party deputy chairman and author of Thomas Pringle: South African pioneer, poet and abolitionist, has written a column for Business Day with South African historian Merle Lipton, in response to recent comments from some DA members that “the former Liberal Party and Progressive Party would have viewed the DA’s endorsement of affirmative action as a ‘betrayal’ of the liberal principle of nonracialism.”

Vigne and Merle lay out the differences between the Liberals and the Progressives and write that “Many Liberal Party members, including national chairman Peter Brown, would have agreed with DA leader Helen Zille that the economic dimensions of the postapartheid settlement must involve racial redress.”

In recent exchanges in the media, some disaffected members of the Democratic Alliance (DA) claimed the former Liberal Party and Progressive Party would have viewed the DA’s endorsement of affirmative action as a “betrayal” of the liberal principle of nonracialism. As former Liberal Party members, we wish to highlight some significant differences between the Liberals and the Progs and to offer some thoughts about how the Liberals might have reacted.

The Liberal Party of the 1960s supported universal suffrage and social democratic policies such as economic redistribution, including of land, and social welfare measures. After Sharpeville, some members joined the African Resistance Movement in resorting to armed struggle. Their ineffective actions were an indication of their despair at the possibility of change through constitutional means and their commitment to overthrowing white supremacy. In 1968, the Liberal Party disbanded rather than comply with the racist Political Interference Act, which required the exclusion from membership of Africans, who comprised a majority of Liberal Party members.

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