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Established in 1929 the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) is a research and policy organisation in South Africa. The Institute is "one of the oldest liberal institutions in the country," and tries to be independent of government and all political parties; it sees its role as serving its members and the country at large to make South Africa the political and economic success of the continent by promoting liberal democratic values.
The Institute investigates facts surrounding social and economic conditions in South Africa and disseminating its findings as widely as possible. It aims to address issues such as poverty and inequality, and to promote economic growth.
The SAIRR tracks trends in every area of South Africa's development ranging from business and the economy to crime, living conditions, and politics.
The Institute was founded in 1929 as to support positive cooperation between the racial communities of South Africa and to perform research on these relationships. The inaugural meeting was held on 9 May 1929 in the Johannesburg home of the missionary Reverend Ray E. Phillips. In attendance were Davidson Don Tengo Jabavu, one of the first professors at the University of Fort Hare; Johannes du Plessis, a missionary and theologian; Charles Templeman Loram, chief inspector of Native education in Natal Province; Edgar H. Brookes, J. Howard Pim, a government official; Thomas W. Mackenzie, editor of The Friend, a newspaper; and J. H. Nicholson, Mayor of Durban.
In its early years of the 1930s, SAIRR had a powerful ally in the politician Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr. Hofmeyer was an influential liberal who opposed some of the proto-apartheid policies of the time and pursued a pro-British agenda. However, Hofmeyr died in 1948, the same year as the decisive elections which put the National Party in power. Apartheid was formalized and the democracy was structured to favor the National Party, which would maintain rule over South Africa until 1994. White liberals were largely marginalized; even in 1948, where the United Party beat the National Party by 10% points in the popular vote, the National Party earned more seats, leading to a sense of helplessness about attempting to contest elections. Opposition to apartheid was routinely demonized as being pro-communist. Thus SAIRR's influence declined greatly from 1948 onward.
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