All Commentary
Monday, June 1, 1987

Book Review: After Apartheid: the Solution For South Africa by Frances Kendall and Leon Louw

ICS Press • 243 Kearney Street, San Francisco, California 94108 • 250 pages

South Africa’s situation is desperate. English, Afrikaners, blacks, coloreds, Indians, and other minorities are fearful. Many blacks, resenting the restrictions imposed on them, resort to violence. In view of the fact that so much power is centralized, the demand for radical reform has become a struggle for control of the national government. World opinion, incensed at the immorality of apartheid, threatens economic sanctions, or worse.

The white minority in power in South Africa makes some concessions to the black majority, but is reluctant to shift to a one-man, one-vote democracy. Given the prevailing climate of opinion, it is feared that this would mean one man, one vote once! If such a vote resulted in a more tyrannical central government, the rights of minorities would inevitably be further im paired. The chances for bringing about social change by peaceful means would also then be lost.

The South African crisis led Leon Louw and Frances Kendall, a husband and wife team, to write a remarkable book about their native land. A quote from black leader Allan Boesak became their text: “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, it comes through the fireless efforts and hard work of those who are willing to take the risk of fighting for freedom, democracy, and human dignity.”

The Louw-Kendall book offers a radical, but realistic, proposal for a new kind of constitution. The authors blame the currently depressed situation of the black South Africans on the fact that they have been forced to live under socialist restrictions. In the past, when blacks were free to embark on enterprises as they chose, their accomplishments were so impressive that the white minority strove purposively to restrict their efforts. And then the whites made sure that the central government remained under their control.

Laws were enacted over many decades making it difficult or impossible for blacks to succeed in fanning or other enterprises. Legislation deprived them of their rights to own, accumulate, and transfer property freely, to make contracts, and to go into business, it is no wonder that the blacks are now desperate. However, Louw and Kendall maintain that most blacks are not fiery militants who refuse to listen to reason. Rather, Louw and Kendall believe most blacks are moderates who would be willing to live at peace with their neighbors if assured that their lives and property would be protected and that they would not be constantly harassed by “blacks-only” rules and regulations.

Louw and Kendall suggest a completely new political arrangement for South Africa—a con federation patterned more or less on the Swiss model. The central government would be limited drastically; many small cantons would be entrusted with most of the matters that concerned the people. The crux of the Louw-Kendall proposal is a powerful bill of rights, granting freedom to own property, to make contracts, to trade, to move, and so on. Under the Louw-Kendall scheme, all citizens of voting age would have the franchise, but the power of the central government would be so limited that national elections would be relatively unimportant. The important votes would be those at the canton level, for it would be in the cantons that matters affecting individual rights would be decided.

The Louw-Kendall book has become a best seller in South Africa and it is now being released in a new, slightly revised U.S. edition.

Because of the authors’ success in introducing free market ideas in the small poverty-stricken black homeland, Ciskei, the fellow countrymen of the authors are beginning to take their sug gestions seriously.

The change Louw and Kendall recommend is a radical one, but it is a reasonable one which should appeal to reasonable men and women—blacks, whites, coloreds, Indians, and every other fair-minded person. Certainly, any reasonable alternative that offers hope for reducing the strife in South Africa is well worth considering.


  • Contributing editor Bettina Bien Greaves was a longtime FEE staff member, resident scholar, and trustee. She attended Ludwig von Mises’s New York University seminar for many years and is a translator, editor, and bibliographer of his works.