The Progressive Federal Party (PFP) ( af|Progressiewe Federale Party) was a South Africa
n political party
formed in 1977. It was the main parliamentary opposition to apartheid, instead advocating power-sharing
in South Africa
through a federal
Its first leader was Colin Eglin
, who was succeeded by Frederik van Zyl Slabbert
and then Zach de Beer
. Another prominent member was Harry Schwarz
who had led the Reform Party and was the chairman of the Federal Executive (1976–79), finance spokesman (1975–91) and defence spokesman (1975–84). He was regarded as the PFP's greatest parliamentary performer. Its best known parliamentarian was however Helen Suzman
, who was for many years the only member of the white
s-only parliament to speak out unequivocally against the apartheid
The party was preceded by the Progressive Party
as the liberal opposition to the National Party
. While the main opposition United Party
contained liberal factions, the PP had for many years been the only purely liberal party represented in parliament. A realignment began when liberal members of the UP left to found the Reform Party
in 1975, which merged with the Progressives to form the Progressive Reform Party
later the same year.
In 1977, another group of United Party members left the by then rapidly declining party to form the Committee for a United Opposition, which then joined the Progressive Reform Party to form the Progressive Federal Party.
[Packing for Perth: The Growth of a Southern African Diaspora](_blank)
Eric Louw, Gary Mersham, Asian and Pacific Migration Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2, 2001 303]
South Africa's apartheid laws initially limited the party's membership to the country's whites, from which it drew support mainly from liberal South African English|English
speakers. It opened up its membership to all races as soon as this became legal again, in 1984, but the party remained predominantly white and English. It won seats in cities such as Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg and Durban. It had very little support amongst Afrikaners, and the PFP was derided by right-wing whites, who claimed its initials stood for 'Packing for Perth', because of the many white liberal supporters of the 'Progs', who were emigrating to Australia
[''Native Vs. Settler: Ethnic Conflict in Israel/Palestine, Northern Ireland, and South Africa''](_blank)
Thomas G. Mitchell, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000, page 82
The PFP would become the official opposition in the 1977 election, winning 17 seats. Colin Eglin, who had also led the earlier Progressive Party, was initially the leader of the PFP. But over the weekend of 3 September 1979, on the behest of Gordon Waddell
, the PFP would hold a special congress in Johannesburg
to elect a new leader, citing such reasons as Eglin's "uninspired" parliamentary performance, which allowed the ruling Nationalists to recover from the Muldergate slush fund scandal
; his "indiscreet" contacts with black US politicians Don McHenry and Andy Young, whom many South Africans regarded as enemies of the country; and the party's severe defeats in three recent Parliamentary by-elections.
Frederik van Zyl Slabbert
succeeded Eglin in 1979.
The PFP strengthened its opposition status in 1981 by increasing its representation to 27 seats.
It was ousted as the official opposition by the far-right Conservative Party
in the whites-only parliamentary elections held on 6 May 1987.
This electoral blow led many of the PFP's leaders to question the value of participating in the whites-only parliament, and some of its MPs left to form the New Democratic Movement (NDM).
In 1989, the PFP and NDM merged with another small white reformist party, the Independent Party
(IP), to form the Democratic Party
(DP), predecessor to the modern Democratic Alliance
Leaders of the Progressive Federal Party:
*Contributions to liberal theory
*List of liberal parties
*Liberalism in South Africa
Category:Political parties established in 1977
South Africa 1977
Category:Defunct political parties in South Africa
Category:Liberal parties in South Africa
Category:Organisations associated with apartheid
Category:Political parties disestablished in 1989