The Freedom Charter Has Been Shredded

During the weekend of June 26, 2010, a ball named Jabulani and twenty-two men from Ghana and the United States of America stole the thunder from under an important milestone. Many people will be surprised to learn that it was the 55th anniversary of that historical event when a document that by default became the African National Congress blueprint was founded at the Congress of the People in Kliptown. That was the day South Africans finally gave their vision a name and a preamble. It was that dream which culminated with 27 April 1994, which incidentally became Freedom Day.

If FIFA took the World Cup to Israel on October 2014 you bet your last dime the spectacle would come to a halt to make way for the celebration of Yom Kippur Day.

The apathy that is recently shown towards the Freedom Charter as the founding document of this country’s democracy is somehow reflected in how some proponents of it ridicule its stipulations at every given opportunity. What was envisaged that cold winter day seems to be drifting away from ‘we the people of South Africa’ with every passing election.

In a speech by former President Thabo Mbeki nineteen years ago he said, “The struggle that we waged over the decades has been directed precisely… at ending white minority rule and realizing the perspective contained in the Freedom Charter that no government can justify authority unless it is based on the will of the people”. However recent developments in various provinces indicate that the authority in those spaces is not based on the will of the people.

Quite telling is the situation whereby political infighting in the ruling party has a direct barring on provision of service to the people. Such an attitude of elevating the political party above the people became apparent when Reconciliation Day in 2007 was not commemorated because the ANC was engaged in its civil war at Polokwane. The question was; why can’t the people be allowed to commemorate this important day while the ANC is engaged in its battles? When did the ANC become ‘government’ instead of ruling party?

Such instances have seen provinces such as Mpumalanga experiencing service delivery protests partly emanating from party squabbles. At Bushbuckridge Municipality an ANC ward councilor who won an SACP position by beating an ANC mayor was reportedly punished with incapacity. A regional manager was appointed ‘to frustrate his efforts’ to develop the ward and make him unpopular at the next SACP elective conference. It meant five years of two bulls fighting much to the detriment of the people.

Recently Bushbuckridge Municipality suspended its municipal manager Canzi Lisa accusing him of gross incompetence. Allegations, which Mayor Milton Moreme refuted are that Lisa refused to allocate tenders to companies submitted to him by the local ANC leadership.

The Freedom Charter did not mince words on governance that it should be ‘the people’, not ruling party elites. It never advocated for a hierarchy whereby councilors took instructions from political bosses and not the electorate.

Such a telling situation confronted the Democratic Alliance in the Cape Metro with the pit toilet saga. Mayor Dan Plato alleged that ‘the people’ chose the toilet model. The Human Rights Commission argued that the Metro shouldn’t treat the right to sanitation as a privilege. When the ANCYL demolished the corrugated structures it claimed that it was ‘the people’ protesting against shoddy infrastructure. But what were ‘the people’ saying? Nobody asked them – so nobody knows.

Recent developments indicate that ‘the people’ no longer really matter. The ANC’s Imvuselelo campaign is a case in point. The party goes out unashamedly to get one million kilograms of voting fodder. It does not seek one million unemployed youth to train and employ.

Today there are ANC members who have never read the Freedom Charter. Remember, the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania split was rooted on differences between nationalists and charterists. It seems currently there are no longer charterists nor nationalists in the organisation. Only a fraction of what was advocated has been realised because for a reason known to successive leaderships the document fails to inform genuine government policy.

It advocated that “All people shall be entitled to take part in the administration of the country;” however you now have the Cadre Deployment Programme which has placed in strategic positions comrades who can not successfully get through the eye of the needle. The programme is not informed by a Cadre Skills Database the party has but mere loyalty.

Some are placed to undermine the stipulation about all people sharing in the wealth of the country. In an interview given to SABC TV during the 2009 election campaign ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe shared a scenario of an old comrade who is introduced to decision makers in government to access business (obviously tenders). Mantashe labeled such a corrupt practice ‘facilitating’.

Unfortunately the party which should realise the charter is split into two; those who join to access business and those who genuinely want to advocate for a better life for all. The former are the ones who love to shout about the ANC going to be in power until Jesus Christ comes back. This means by hook or crook, even when the people no longer want it. The people have become secondary while the ANC should find being voted out not such a bad idea as long as that will accelerate the realization of the charter.

And we pledge ourselves to strive together, sparing neither strength nor courage, until the democratic changes here set out have been won.”, it says in finality. That’s the challenge that faces the ANC as observers already allege that once the glue that holds the broad church together named Jacob Zuma is gone – the church is headed for a painful ideological split.

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