Race issues not addressed – author

Author Steven Friedman signs copies of his book ‘Power in Action’ during its launch at the Nelson Mandela Art Museum 21 May 2019
Author Steven Friedman signs copies of his book ‘Power in Action’ during its launch at the Nelson Mandela Art Museum 21 May 2019
Image: Eugene Coetzee

The Freedom Front Plus represents people whose racial views have not changed in the last 25 years.

This was the view of former trade unionist, newspaper columnist and political scientist Professor Steven Friedman, who was speaking at the Port Elizabeth launch of his latest book, Power in Action: Democracy, Citizenship and Social Justice, at the Nelson Mandela Bay Art Museum on Monday night.

Friedman, of the University of Johannesburg, who called the DA a “catch-all party” representing those who opposed the ANC government”, was answering questions around the surprise results of the Freedom Front Plus in the May 8 general election.

Asked whether the increase in Freedom Front votes represented a regression of race relations in SA, Friedman said the party had garnered only 2.4% of the votes.

“[The increase in support] consisted of white folk who are sick of the DA.

“[It] represents people whose racial views have not changed in 25 years.”

He said later that the country’s race challenges had never been appropriately addressed, and that there had been a presumption that the 1994 constitution would address the racial challenges. Looking at the EFF’s election showing, Friedman said the party had moved from securing 6% to 8%, to 10%.

“Following that [trajectory], it will take the EFF 60 years to make a challenge for power.”

In what was a vibrant, debate-stimulating event – attended by a number of academics, researchers and Red Location Museum members – discussions centred on the state of democracy worldwide and in SA, and whether Africans favoured or were participating in a democratic system.

The event was based on a discussion between Friedman and Stellenbosch University sociology and social anthropology professor Steven Robins – who discussed Friedman’s latest work before posing questions to him.

Robins hailed the book as one that was complex and comprehensive, yet accessible.

Among Friedman’s many observations was that “democracy is not owned by the West” and is not a colonialist idea.

Describing democracy simply as “every adult’s right to participate in decisions made about them”, Friedman also highlighted the vast differences between how democracy was effected in SA’s townships and its suburbs.

He demonstrated how suburban residents had far easier access to democracy than township residents.

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