Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

After 50 years of phenomenal success in influencing government policy and working for liberty and prosperity for all, the Free Market Foundation (FMF) is at a damaging, potentially fatal, philosophical and management crossroad.

The crisis has become the subject of a high court challenge against the legitimacy of rival claimants to the board. A larger group seized control from a smaller group and claims to have absorbed them into an “inclusive” board. This court case seeks a ruling that no lawful board was elected at the disrupted and adjourned 2020 annual general meeting (AGM).       

I have brought this action, supported by “FMF Friends” who share my concerns, in the best interests of the real FMF that Leon Louw founded nearly 50 years ago and led to greatness.  

We had hoped that matters would be resolved by cool heads and dignified adults in mediation, but our hand was forced when the unelected board changed the membership and voting rules to entrench themselves. They rammed through a new and inappropriate constitution that changes the values, culture, soul, DNA and ethos of this noble organisation.

A small coalition calling itself a “camp” is driving the board and opposing efforts to achieve legitimacy. The action is against what they represent, not against the FMF, its members or funders. The “camp”, however, is using money donated by members and funders in good faith to promote economic and personal liberty, with prosperity for all. They are using scarce staff resources to prepare court papers that serve their personal interests. They are doing so without informing or consulting members and funders, and I am told even withheld court papers from their own board members. 

I have not instituted this action lightly and am aware of the serious implications, as is the opposing side. I do so with the support of key FMF members and funders.

Under the “camp’s” contentious leadership, the FMF is being subverted from a universally respected open and liberal institute into what resembles a closed, elitist, illiberal and politicised club. Among many long-term members and funders there is deep concern that the heart and soul of this internationally celebrated institute is under threat from a small but powerful faction with its unlibertarian agenda. We cannot sit back and let this happen. We urge members and funders to ask questions and demand answers.

We have been informed that the illegitimate board is pushing ahead with an AGM while the matter is before the high court. This is reckless and inappropriate, and unbecoming of a former supreme court judge, Rex van Schalkwyk, one of the disputed chairs.

Many members will be ineligible to vote due to the new voting rules introduced by the illegitimate board. As with the special general meeting regarding the revised constitution, we believe the result is a foregone conclusion.

It is sad that this situation requires legal action, but invitations to consult around a more appropriate corporate structure and board composition have gone unanswered and the “camp” relentlessly push through their self-serving agenda, to the detriment of the long-term sustainability of the organisation. Mediation has been offered many times, and refused.

We will keep the media informed of progress and will gladly work with anyone who cares about freedom and liberty, and debate with anyone opposed to traditional FMF values and principles.

Mike Hull
FMF member, funder and applicant

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