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Jacket Notes: Frans Rautenbach on how a conversation with his son motivated him to write South Africa Can Work

Published in the Sunday Times

South Africa Can Work
Frans Rautenbach, Penguin Random House, R250

My son’s statement hit me like a blow to the gut. We were enjoying dinner at a Mexican restaurant. We debated the #FeesMustFall movement, and I ventured the view that the problem was the government’s economic policies. I reiterated my mantra that free enterprise was the way to go to save South Africa.

That’s when Stefan said it: “I no longer believe in your arguments. Trickle-down economics does not work…”

While I battled to suck air into my lungs, protesting that I had researched the topic for years, Stefan added that I only read that which confirmed my prejudices.

I realised that no sensible continuation of the discussion would be possible without a thorough re-examination of my premises. Thus the book was born.

The soul of the book is freedom, in particular economic freedom – a policy many might see as less than politically correct. So shoot me, I’m a contrarian. In the introduction I confess: “As a lawyer I still marvel at the beautiful words of Lord Justice Megarry in the case of John v Rees: ‘As everybody who has anything to do with the law well knows, the path of the law is strewn with examples of open and shut cases which, somehow, were not: of unanswerable charges which, in the event, were completely answered; with inexplicable conduct which was fully explained …’”

As in law, so in life. But while often against the mainstream, I am not so just for the sake of being otherwise. As a student politician I relished the thought of pulling both apartheid and capitalism from their pedestals. Intellectually the former proved easy, but nowadays the thought of defending communism or socialism fills me with despair.

People often ask me how I managed to spend so much time and energy writing a book arguing that a free market will save South Africa. My best answer is that I cannot do otherwise.

Seeing our society being led to serfdom while the evidence of a better way is so abundant, is like observing a patient with a mental disorder self-inflicting pain, day by day. I cannot keep quiet…

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