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The Progressive Federal Party (PFP) was a South African political party formed in 1977. It advocated power-sharing in South Africa through a federal constitution, in place of apartheid. Its leader was Colin Eglin, who was later succeeded by Frederik van Zyl Slabbert and then Zach de Beer, but its best known parliamentarian was Helen Suzman, who was for many years the only member of the whites-only parliament to speak out against the apartheid regime.

Progressive Federal Party election rally poster with Harry Schwarz

It was formed in 1977 when a group of United Party members left the Party to form the Committee for a United Opposition, which then joined the Progressive Reform Party to form the Progressive Federal Party.[1]

It drew support mainly from liberal English-speaking whites, as owing to South Africa's apartheid laws, its membership was limited to the country's whites. The PFP was derided by right-wing whites, who claimed its initials stood for 'Packing for Perth', on account of the many white liberal supporters of the 'Progs', who were emigrating to Australia.

Another well known parliamentarian and prominent member of the party was Harry Schwarz who had previously led the Reform Party and signed the Mahlabatini Declaration of Faith. He was the chairman of the Federal Executive (1976-79), finance spokesman (1975-91) and defence spokesman (1975-84). He was regarded as the PFP's greatest parliamentary performer and was amongst the most prominent and effective opponents of apartheid in Parliament.

It was ousted as the official opposition by the far-right Conservative Party in the whites-only parliamentary elections held on May 6, 1987.

This electoral blow led many of the PFP's leaders to question the value of participating in the whites-only parliament, and some of its MPs left to form the New Democratic Movement (NDM).

In 1989, the PFP and NDM merged with another small white reformist party, the Independent Party (IP), to form the Democratic Party (DP).


  1. ^ Packing for Perth: The Growth of a Southern African Diaspora, Eric Louw, Gary Mersham, Asian and Pacific Migration Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2, 2001 303]

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