Interview with Perry Feldman of the Free Market Foundation
At the Rising Tide Foundation, we are fortunate to work with a portfolio of innovative and dedicated grantees advancing freedom and prosperity around the globe. In order to highlight the laudable work of our grantees, we are starting a series of grantee interviews with highly successful organizations. This month we had the opportunity to catch-up with Perry Feldman, project manager of the Khaya Lam (My Home) Land Reform project at the Free Market Foundation, to hear more about Khaya Lam, a project that the Rising Tide Foundation is funding.
Rising Tide (RT): Could you tell us something about the mission, vision, and background of the Free Market Foundation?
Perry Feldman (PF): The FMF was established in the mid-1970s at a time when the Vorster government was steadily increasing intervention in the economy in preparation for the expected “total onslaught” against apartheid. Determined to achieve national “self-sufficiency” at all costs, the government sacrificed economics to ideology and did untold damage to the economy. We are still paying a heavy price for these policies.
Protectionism, inflation, bureaucracy, relentless enforcement of racial discrimination and the siege economy all escalated during this era. Though virulently anti-communist, the Nationalist government’s policy of depriving blacks of private property rights, civil rights and economic freedom was socialist in the extreme.
Against this unpromising background the FMF was founded to promote economic freedom. Since then, the changes in the politics and laws of the country have been remarkable. The Free Market Foundation is proud of the important contribution it has made to the increased freedom which we all enjoy today.
RT: Is it correct that the Free Market Foundation played a significant role in the drafting of the current South African constitution?
PF: FMF was a contributor to important provisions in the first democratic constitution, 1994–1996: the property rights clause, the “open society” clause, and administrative procedure.
In July 1996, FMF led evidence in the Constitutional Court on the horizontal application of the bill of rights, property rights, socio-economic rights, the independence of the Reserve Bank, collective bargaining, and the appointment of lay people to courts.
RT: How long have you worked at Free Market Foundation and what brought you to the organization?
PF: I have had a long association with the FMF through a very good friend but became actively involved when I wanted to do something about Land Reform. Land Reform is probably the biggest task that we have as a country. This was in about 2008. Serendipitously, the FMF had just launched the Khaya Lam concept. Because of my political contacts pre-’94 in the ANC, Ngwathe was selected as the area to begin. I took over as Project Manager in 2014 and have been fortunate to preside over a project that has grown enormously over these last few years. Obviously, this is very much a team effort. We are very proud of the impact we are having on people’s lives.
Leon Louw, co-founder of FMF and now President, has been promoting land reform since inception in 1975. Fellow directors Eustace Davie and Temba Nolutshungu, and former director Jasson Urbach, have championed for decades the protection of property rights for all South Africans. All FMFers share a passion for classical liberal values, believing it is only through freedom that one uplifts the poor and ensures a healthy and happy society.
RT: Could you tell us some about the project you are running through your Rising Tide grant (Khaya Lam Land Reform Project): what are you doing and why was the project started?
PF: We are running the RTF grant in the Ngwathe district. This is where we started and it has the simplest model. Our aim is to achieve 100% titling of all the residents in Ngwathe who are eligible to receive title. This will be a first for South Africa. RTF is playing a significant role by sponsoring a total of 1,600 titles.
To date, 663 titles have been transferred in the Ngwathe district and more than 11,000 total throughout South Africa through the Khaya Lam project.
RT: Why are property rights important and how do property rights contribute to the empowerment of individuals?
PF: Property rights give dignity and security to the title-holders. It makes a title holder master of his/her own fate. Where RTF is active, over 70% of houses are self-financed and self-built. Yet the resident has no security of tenure. The Khaya Lam project converts this “dead” capital into “live” capital. We have many cases where the title deed has been used to help the family escape the “poverty trap”.
It is hard to think of a single idea that would boost South Arica more than this project, which unleashes the wealth in land into the hands of the people, and, through them, into the economy at large – Leon Louw
Below is Mrs Molalogi’s house, self-built over many years, before she received title to her
council-owned erf and after. Mrs Molalogi says, “The title deed says to me that where I am now is my place. Everything that is here belongs to me. Whatever I do, I know that it is in my name.”
RT: What tangible impact have you been able to achieve through this project?
PF: We have seen families escape the “poverty trap”. Formal sales are happening where both the buyer and seller’s rights are protected. Title holders can make wills bequeathing their property to specific people. Home-owners are extending their homes. Others are building for the first time because the erf now belongs to them. Local authorities are seeing an increase in the ratable value of their town. Longer term, we hope to see a vibrant market where sellers can receive a realistic value for their homes when selling.
By way of example, please see case study 1 and case study 2.
You can find more in this theme chapter in the International Property Rights Index.
RT: What is your vision for the future of the Khaya Lam Land Reform project?
PF: Our vision is to see 5 to 7 million homes throughout South Africa converted to freehold with tradable security of tenure. A grand vision and a monumental task!
RT: What other projects are you working on at Free Market Foundation and how can others find more about you?
You can find more about us at the below media pages:
For more information about how Rising Tide Foundation supports the FMF projects please check here.