On the 26th of June 2015 we celebrated 60 years in memory of the existence of The FREEDOM CHARTER. It is exactly this month in 1955 when at Kliptown South of Johannesburg thousands gathered to give effect to an elongated period of engagement. Some refer to this event as the culmination of possibly a thousand gatherings across the length and breadth of South Africa.
In order to appreciate the subject of our discussion it becomes important to ask who gathered at this momentous and historic occasion. In fact how those who gathered were identified for an identity of their humanity?
It is simply not true to claim that those who gathered represented a monolithic group.
The objective here is not to discuss the Freedom Charter which stands in a tradition of the 800 year old Magna Carta of Britain. That we can do on another occasion. Whenever discussion on the content of the Freedom Charter surfaces I am involuntarily reminded of a story of the late Oom Govan Mbeki who would never entertain an off the cuff discussion with anyone of the Freedom Charter. The story goes when anyone approached Oom Gov Mbeki to engage him on the content of the Freedom Charter, he would humbly request the one who approached him to agree that they both will go and read it before they engage. Oom Gov did this consciously knowing he was reading the Freedom Charter daily. Hence I am not attempting to discuss the freedom charter, I am discussing those who gathered at Kliptown and how the Freedom Charter identifies them.
We are told the Freedom Charter was the statement of core principles or the South African Congress Alliance. which consisted of the African National Congress and its allies the South African Indian Congress, the South African Congress of Democrats and the Coloured People’s Congress.
We readily admit the crossbreed of those who gathered in pockets of apartheid definitions hardly seven years after the official rise to political power of the Apartheid State.
Thus whosoever gathered on this occasion in 1955 did so in various formations of description representing groups of interest yet identifiable in the undeniable apartheid denotations for their identity such as ‘Coloured’ Congress, Indian Congress etc. One commentator in giving meaning to those who gathered described them as ” they were all fragmented small groups fearing extinction”.
If we therefore today celebrate this momentous occasion we must ask what it was pointing at in future of a Democratic State. We must ask what the Freedom Charter says for political identity articulation as an experiential reality. Equally we must engage how its identity articulations holds implications for identity reconstruction and articulation in this epoch.
Important to not is whilst those who gathered in that context along clearly constructed racial classification and colour coded denotations for their human agency, when the Freedom Charter was pronounced it reconfigured their political identities in definitive rejection of how apartheid marked them, by identifying them as THE PEOPLE.
Thus the Freedom Charter consciously and revolutionary identified its client and that client is unequivocally THE PEOPLE.
You would from having read earlier articles I have penned which are contained in my evolving work, ” Contemporary Conversations on Political Identity – Quest for Non Racial Identity” heard me belabour the point about the need of the democratic State to identify its client. In fact I am on record for contending the 1994 Democratic State is yet to identify its client.that the 1910 Segregation State identified its client with a resultant effect of a 1913 Native Land Act. So equally the 1948 Apartheid State did the same until Act 30 of 1950 defined people as Coloured.
However, this my claim that the 1994 Democratic State is yet to identify its client has progressed to a point where we now can be categoric in saying the democratic state in its identification of its client ought to stand in the tradition of the Freedom Charter.
It is either a case of our unawareness of such or this Democratic State is not taking the Freedom Charter serious.
The Freedom Charter is categoric and emphatic in its conscious redefining of those who gathered in rejection of the apartheid identifiers of black, coloured, white and indian.
It is here that I endeavor to postulate that the Democratic State is in contravention of the Freedom Charter when it rejects the identifier THE PEOPLE for an already rejected apartheid identity marker evident in race classification, and notably black, white, coloured and indian descriptions.
No defense of this practice can stand when we claim to respect, uphold or value the Freedom Charter as the fundamental guiding light and articulation of our visionary pursuit for a people shall govern. The Freedom Charter did not say ‘black’ people shall govern, it said ‘the people shall govern’.
It must then be argued that the Democratic State is committing an unforced or a conscious error for still denoting people along racial lines whilst it claims to uphold the Freedom Charter as its guiding principle for governance. No argument for redress as I postulated earlier can justify this contravention of the principle soil of our democracy.
If the Democratic State of 1994 seeks to follow the Freedom Charter it must contend with the Freedom Charter’s unequivocal, unambiguous though conscious rejection of the appellations for a human agency marred in both colonial and apartheid denotations.
It is my submission that plausibly the biggest contribution the Freedom Charter made was in reconfiguring our common political identity as that of THE PEOPLE.
If the Freedom Charter rejected both the 1910 and 1948 States articulation of identity for humanity and pointed to a future State of Democracy( the one we share now since 1994) in which all will be equal, why is the Democratic State failing to give content to this non-racial identity articulated in THE PEOPLE?
It would then be incumbent on us to show out this gross error for which we are paying today in ramifications we seldom know how to deal with.
The Freedom Charter dealt with what the toxic combination of Colonialism and Apartheid did when they collectively sought to bury identity as race so deep in our being and consciousness until if we seek to rid ourselves of it we annihilate ourselves.
It is perhaps important to close out with these words from this historic moment of adopting of the Freedom Charter: “As adopted at the Congress of the People, Kliptown, on 26 June 1955 We, the People of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know”
We the people, not we the ‘black’, ‘coloured’, ‘white ‘and ‘indian’…. Can our DEMOCRATIC STATE thus please speak of the people in Davidsonville and all other places where its seeks to open the door of learning?
June 26, 2015