The New Freedom Charter

This past weekend the ANC’s 103 anniversary statement emphasised the spirit of the Freedom Charter 60 years after its penning. In my last City Press column of 2014 I penned some thoughts for a new Charter I hope might be crafted soon…

First Published in City Press, 14 December 2014

Some months ago I found myself in a stuffy room sardined in with people from every walk of life. I could just make out the silver beard of our former Deputy President, ntate Kgalema, sandwiched between a frail old lady and a chubby youngster in a Chiefs jersey.

Whilst at the back a self-appointed security guard tried to keep the door shut and people out, tersely whispering “Kudcwele!”, at the front, next to a make-shift screen stood a man trying to facilitate the discussions that everyone else was deeply engrossed in.

We were in a commission room at the Provincial Congress of the ANC. It is in rooms such as these that the policy directive of the ANC, and thereafter government is shaped.

Given the vast differences in outlook, you’d think this crowded room would sound akin to a pub on a day the Springboks are playing, but it was surprisingly muted, everyone waited their turn to speak.

Somewhere in there was a scribe with tasked with the unenviable task of crafting the different reflections into something coherent. Even between comrades devouring the same rhetoric, the understanding of policy and economics isn’t universal.

This was brought sharply into focus by a mama draped in a Sweshwe bearing the face of Madiba. The previous speaker had waxed lyrically about the NDP, sounding like that class nerd that alone read the prescribed book. The eyes that had glazed over when he spoke came alive with agreement when she said earnestly: “This NDP, it’s great, but… how can it be simplified?”

I remembered this when I reflected on the seminal anniversary this week of our Constitution. It’s been 18 years since Mandela signed it into law in Sharpeville on the 10th December 1996. It was the first time that SA had a constitution supreme to any and all laws lawmakers could conjure up, and one that upheld human rights above all. It was lauded across the world.

Much of the content of course was inspired by Freedom Charter of 1955, but it is uncanny how much of the style was influenced by it too.

The simplicity of the Charter’s 10 commandments is mirrored in the Constitution’s 8 pillars. – democracy, equality, reconciliation, diversity, responsibility, respect, freedom. These are in the exact same order as the corresponding right’s clauses in the Charter, baring the material aspects. Even the powerful preambles are similarly easy to follow; and remember.

As a youngster, I and the other strugglet’s (kids of soldiers of the struggle) were made to memorise the Charter. It wasn’t that hard – all of our desires could fit on a single page.

Trying doing that with the NDP right now… Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

The mama in the sweshwe had hit the nail on the head. A lot of our political texts are too complex. What is now needed in respect of the “second phase of our transition” is the simplicity of a Charter – The Economic Freedom Charter!

I can just see it, with 9 or 10 tenants saying things like:

  • No Hunger – no African shall go to bed hungry in our country,
  • African trade is key –  we shall trade with other Africans and drop visa, monetary and logistical restrictions amongst African countries,
  • No raw goods – we shall export only finished goods,
  • All land shall be vested in the State with secure tenure for anyone using it for private or commercial use,
  • We shall be productive – and produce just 9% of the world’s goods,
  • Sweat Capital – the toil of poor workers shall be recognised as fair tender for certain goods,
  • Corruption shall be outlawed, and
  • Education shall teach people to be global entrepreneurs.

I’d love to be on the drafting team, I’d drop something just for you dear reader – “No JanuWorry!”  Goodness knows how badly it afflicts us every year.

Have a great festive season new year!

2 thoughts on “The New Freedom Charter

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