3rd National Elections, 10 years of Democracy, 49 years of the Freedom Charter; where are we?
In George Orwell?s Animal Farm, a proverbial Communist Manifesto and Freedom Charter is adopted and later on in the storyline is amended to fit the elite of the farm.
Much claims have been made that the twisted understanding and implementation of the Communist Manifesto led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, has that happened to the now heritaged Freedom Charter?
As we celebrate 10 years of our freedom, next year we will be venerating the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Charter. As we are engaged in these celebrations, we are also faced with the challenge of electing our political representatives to national and provincial elections. What are the issues raised in the Manifesto of the various political parties, particularly the ANC, as the only Party in Parliament that has adopted the Freedom Charter? How do various political parties intend taking up the Charter ?if they govern" But most importantly, how far are we as it relates to accomplishing the Freedom Charter? The following might not be a sufficient review, but it is sufficient in laying the basis for debate, of course after cleaning the dust off the Freedom Charter?
It will be 50 years after ordinary South Africans, Black, Indians, Coloureds and White, congregated in Kliptown in 1955 under the leadership of the ANC, SACP, Congress of Trade Unions, South African Indian Congress and the Coloured Peoples Congress, to formulate a vision for a better country.
The Charter can be loosely referred to as a straight-jacket for all nations of the world to live according to. It is the blue-print for better life, the guide to action from misery, poverty, hunger, violence, crime, exploitation and all the other social ills caused by global capitalism.
We attempt in this article to examine the history towards the Freedom Charter, its content and what has been achieved thus far in the last ten years of democracy. We also examine if the Freedom Charter option was available, or is available, and if viable to the South African political and economic transition
Most political parties, as their election platform; most so-called-political-analysts; usual critics and permanent lamenters usually decry the fact that the ANC has abandoned the Freedom Charter.
Is this true, or are we just electioneering, being populist and confirming our inner-found belief that indeed a black government is incapable of leading, as if a white government, which suppressed the native man and woman for more than 300 years, was capable of leading.
Worse of all, some of the individuals who paint our newspapers with daily battle cries, borrowed from our Anti-Apartheid cries and intending to use them to derail and fight the democratic forces, never believed and actually opposed the Charter, name-calling and labelling the democratic forces as Charterists.
The SACP, the ANC and all other mass democratic movements adopted the Freedom Charter in subsequent years, most of them in 1956.
The Freedom Charter has been central in the policy making process of the South African Communist Party, the ANC, and now in COSATU.
Most of the COSATU affiliates have adopted the Charter as a guide to action, a spectre of a new nation. Let us examine the propositions as made in the Charter and see what setbacks and developments have been made.
The people shall govern!
The negotiations process that ensued after the political pressure asserted on the Apartheid government led to, for the first time in South Africa, all citizens enjoying the right to vote and determine their parliamentary representatives and they themselves, having the rights to participate in a free democracy by forming political parties.
The Constitution of the country adopted by the Government of National Unity, and protected by a Constitutional Court, guarantees equal rights to all, irrespective of their race, sex or creed. South Africa is governed with the involvement of all.
All National Groups shall have Equal Rights!
In the current situation, all citizens have the right to freedom of association, but this is limited, and the extent of its limitation is with regard to protecting the dignity and well-being of other citizens.
Most importantly, all Apartheid laws are abolished. All of us live with respect and the courage to prosper. The legacy of the Charter is protected.
The people shall share in the Country?s wealth!
?All other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the well being of the people?, proclaims the Charter. It also further says that ?the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole.
This is one of the major citations in the Charter which characterised it as a so-called communist document.
Obviously, key elements of the economy have not been ?transferred in the hands of the people?, and are not being ?controlled? by the state to ?assist the well being of the people?. Since the ANC took over, there has been much neo-liberal pressure asserted on the democratic forces not to live up to the vision of the Charter.
Shockingly, the adversative forces who claims that the ANC has abandoned the Charter, forgets to mention this as a factor.
In our view, this crucial economic factor of the charter, if implemented, could have evaded all the misery that is related to further privatisation of the state apparatus, job-losses and poverty.
This served the needs of the market rather than the needs of the people, and that the gruesome damages are visible.
Because for the ANC to have proceeded with the implementation of this meant increasing the voices of the market and of the liberals against itself, thus the introduction of the macro-economic strategy.
The ANC had the option of adopting the Freedom Charter route, and most importantly, the RDP route, but because it is banal to succumb to the neo-liberal agenda, that route was much easier internally, and was paralleled with the management of internal forces who rose against such.
We however need to appreciate the fact that there has been state policy to allow and support the emergence of a black bourgeoisie, under the guise of black economic empowerment, as a means to transform the economy in racial terms.
Care should be taken in this regard, in that, to us black economic empowerment is about access to basic economic services for the people as a whole who have been robbed in history.
The danger with the current path, which creates an exclusive club of blacks who wield economic power, few as they may be, and rich as they are, but excluding the masses of the people from active economy and thus, creating lethargic support for the democratic state.
We should acknowledge the fact that despite all this problems, there is success in a massive social grant system, which benefits the pensioners, the disabled, children and there is an endorsement by the Taylor Commission for a Basic Income Grant. This are part of the dreams conceived in the poverty stricken Klipton, and achieved now, contrary to what we are made to believe.
The Land shall be shared among those who work it!
According to the statistics and reports released by the state, there has been a lackadaisical implementation of the land redistribution process. If the current pace proceed, according to the People?s Budget, it will take close to 150 years for the state to transfer and transform the current ownership parttens of land. Most parties like the Democratic Alliance would not raise this issue because it threatens their historical, white and elite base.
We still have massive rural poverty, abuse and exploitation of the rural working class and rebuff by most agricultural capital to comply with the law.
The resistance of the farm-workers is crushed with force, victimisation and violence, a case in point being the recent ZZ2 case.
This is precisely because, no matter how illegal property was accrued in the past, property was protected by the current constitution and that most farm and land owners are ill-prepared and ill-co-operative in the land redistribution strategy.
Most in the world have fears struck by the Zimbabwe method of land redistribution, especially as it relates to commercial land.
However, since 1994, there are more than 1.5 million new housing land owners, and those who resided in municipal owned houses pre-democracy in townships, had their houses transferred to them. So, the major owners of pieces of land in South Africa currently have been transferred from the state and to house owners.
The state has since legislated co-operatives, a means to support small businesses entering which is controlled by multi-owners on an equal footing. This can mark a breakthrough in the agrarian reform in South Africa, in that ordinary people can collectively own and produce from their own farms.
All Shall be Equal before the Law!
The crime that has become visible on our daily media is undermining the progress that the democratic state has made in opening up the police and army.
Both institutions have been transformed from Apartheid protectorates to upholders of democracy and maintainers of peace not only here, but elsewhere in the continent.
In the past, the injustices that these suppressive organs have committed against the people were wiped out by a protection through the constitution and other laws.
Currently, everyone is protected and equal before the law. Thorough steps are taken before arrest are made, and prisoners have the right not to be detained for more than 48 hours without being charged.
Everyone has the right to a representative in the court of law, with the fees provided for by the state if they cannot afford.
However, some of this rights are not accorded to most South Africans due to lack of information.
We need to ensure that the people of our country enjoy their well accorded without fail, and this should be done through information, education and knowledge.
All Shall Enjoy Equal Human Rights!
The dehumanising pass laws have been abolished, and no citizen is asked to, unnecessarily, produce their records of identity or face the dis-integrity of imprisonment if they do not have such.
No man or woman can be arrested for openly expressing their views in public, and everyone expresses this views without fear, whether in criticizing the state or in communicating their anti-state views.
There Shall be Work and Security!
The Labour Relations Act in SA is hailed as one of the best in the world, despite the global pressures that went with it for the creation of a flexible labour law.
There has been an introduction of progressive sectoral determination regulations in the domestic, farm, retail and other sectors of work.
Wages are determined by negotiations, although in some instances these are hindered by reactionary and profit driven managers.
All workers have the right to form trade-unions, to strike and also to a living wage. A constitutional right to employment is guaranteed in the constitution.
We have earlier on dealt with the question of unemployment, but it could be of significance to indicate that it is now at its highest at 30%.
The good that the state does on the one hand, through investment in massive public works projects and opening up the market, is undermined and stolen on the other hand by the evils and terrorism of capitalism.
The Doors of Learning and Culture Shall be Opened!
As proclaimed in the Freedom Charter, ?there shall be free access to school education, and a national bursary scheme shall be created?. This has since materialised. Despite the fact that the elite have used their reserve capital to create an Eden through private shools; and despite the fact that some principals in public schools continue to dismiss learners whose parents fail to pay their schools fees; despite the fact that infrastructure and teacher training and capacity differs from one urban school another rural school; a lot has been done and there is capacity to do more.
There is a national adult basic education, and according to the Human Development Report, the illiteracy rate in our country has been combated and will soon be totally defeated.
A lot of investment has gone in promoting our culture and protecting our national heritage. The history of our country is rich, and efforts are made that its complete version is taught in schools. A lot of investment has gone in protecting and promoting our music; dance, poetry and a lot more that symbolises a nation.
The national symbols are agreed t by all, and are not seen by some as some protective and suppressive institutions of the state.
South Africa, despite the recent problems encroaching our sports, has enjoyed a successful run at international and local level. There is a unity for purpose, and most of the problems encountered in the sports fraternity, are mostly due to a neo-liberal ideology of commercialising sports, an international problem.
We all compete equally in the sports arena, despite the massive work that needs to be done in infrastructural development in semi-urban and rural areas.
There Shall be Houses, Security and Comfort!
Constitutionally, everyone has the right to live where they want to. All the Apartheid laws which prohibited people to live where they want to have been scrapped. Millions of South Africans have the nobility to live in houses, with access to water, electricity, telephone lines, clean sewerage and are safe where they are.
Most are deprived by expensive user rates to the extent that they end up selling their free houses, and end up in the demand queue. Since 1994, the number of home seekers has quadrupled precisely because, as one of the main reasons, the capitalist bosses make the cost of living for them too high to afford owning a house.
In recent years, we have seen the creation of fenced houses, where the bourgeois of this country create imaginary better life, some Eden in the midst of Sodom, where they believe that they have state rights and control of influx, some Apartheid style of exclusion based on haves and have-nots. We need to combat this tendency.
Most ordinary citizens are able to live and struggle to achieve the major cornerstones of the Freedom Charter. In all fairness, the South African democratic government has done its best in living up to the aspirations and dreams of the Freedom Charter, especially within the threat of globalisation and within the maxim of capitalism. Most nation-states have succumbed to the pressures of the IMF and the World Bank in drastically cutting their social expenditure, but a lot more can be done and a lot more options are available for the state to stimulate growth, create work and push back the frontiers of poverty for the working class and the poor.