Freedom Charter

2012 RUTH FIRST MEMORIAL LECTURE!

My personal tribute to her is best cast in what Comrade Harry Gwala, another martyr of our heroic struggle, taught to young cadres and political prisoners on Robben Island. That included the president of the Republic and me. I was one of those who sat at the feet of this self-proclaimed Stalinist and master of the revolution. I do not recall who he attributed the quote to but the revolutionary mantra stayed with me: I have expunged reference to “man” for “woman”

“A woman’s greatest possession is life. Since it is given to her to live but once, she must so live it that in dying she must be able to say: all my life and all my strength have been dedicated to the finest cause in the world and that is the liberation of mankind.”

Enough said about the revolution and its poetry. The agonising question I have chosen to ask is in what way the heroic life of Ruth First should inspire my role as a judge in a post-conflict society; thus a transforming society or one in transition. I propose to explore that question within the overarching theme of courage of principle.

2012 JANUARY 8 STATEMENT AND THE HISTORY OF THE LIBERATION STRUGGLE

I don’t want to dwell on whether or not the delivery of ANC President Jacob Zuma’s speech on the occasion of the ANC’s centenary celebration was or wasn’t well delivered. I would rather delve on the contents of the speech.

Zuma began his January 8th statement marking the centenary of the founding of the ANC with a self-contradictory statement which is also controversial. He quoted the preamble of the Freedom Charter which states that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white”. Zuma then said, “in 1913 the Land Act was enacted which dispossessed the Africans of their land”. He didn’t say “all who live in South Africa, black and white were dispossessed of their land”, he said the Africans were dispossessed of their land. How then does South Africa belong to all who live in it, black and white when South Africa was usurped from Africans? The founders of the PAC who were known as the Africanists said it in 1955 when the Freedom Charter reared its ugly head that it didn’t make sense because it was a betrayal of African Nationalism and of the material interests of the African people. They also demanded to know its author whose name was never revealed. In his book Young Mandela first published in 2010, David James Smith reveals that the Freedom Charter was written by a white Communist Party member, Rusty Bernstein. The Freedom Charter is also a repudiation of the African people’s anti-colonialist stance of “Africa for the Africans”.

Zuma also said the Freedom Charter was Professor ZK Matthews’ idea. It’s true that it was his idea which he raised at the regional ANC conference in August 1953 and later drafted a memo to define more clearly his ambition for a dream of freedom for all, a blueprint for a democratic, non-racial South Africa. However, the contraption that Bernstein wrote was not what Professor ZK Matthews envisaged. Zuma and many in the ANC who claim that the idea of the Freedom Charter was Professor ZK Matthews’ invariably fail to mention that he then took no further part in the exercise, never even saw the draft charter that was drawn up and did not attend the conference himself because he felt sidelined and excluded from the process that he had set in motion. The campaign fell into the hands of a National Action Council, which offended the Africanists by being neither exclusively African nor giving sufficient prominence to the ANC.

Bernstein didn’t think anyone ever actually read and agreed to the draft before it went to the press. Professor Matthews was not alone in never seeing the draft. The ANC President Chief Albert Luthuli was never shown a copy either because at the time he was banned and still in Groutville. Former ANC President Dr AB Xuma had written a letter which complained that the new leadership was forgetting its old values and was too quick to join with other races and that the ANC was losing its identity. That new ANC leadership suppressed Dr Xuma’s letter, reading only parts of it. That same leadership had difficulties adopting the Freedom Charter.

REJOINDER TO THAMI KA PLAATJIE’S “MALEMA DOES NOT MINCE HIS WORDS”

Thami Ka Plaatjie’s article in Sowetan of June 21, 2011 published under the headline, “Malema does not mince his words” reminds me of the words of the Pharaoh of African Studies the late Dr Cheikh Anta Diop during the time whites claimed that race determined the intelligence of a people. Diop responded that equating intelligence with race is like confusing rectal temperature with good health.

Ka Plaatjie claims that the recent ANCYL “conference affirmed its President Julius Malema as a critical voice of the youth in the current South African trajectory, secondly the conference confirmed Malema as the political and ideological heir of the mantle of Anton Lembede and AP Mda, thirdly Malema used the elective conference to lavishly display his nationalist ideological thrust and fourthly, he exposed his Pan African political and ideological outlook and fifthly, Malema has brought about a greater urgency to issues such as nationalization and land reform”.

THE FOUNDING FATHERS OF THE PAC GAVE US A VIBRANT ORGANISATION

The founding fathers of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) of Azania have bequeathed to us a vibrant organization which we are reducing to ruins through selfishness and factional battles.

I have read David James Smith’s book, Young Mandela and the book confirmed what I have repeatedly written that there is no organization that the ANC fears more than the PAC. If there are those who doubt the veracity of the foregoing statement then they must go and read Young Mandela. Moreover, the book confirms that the PAC and the founding President of the ANCYL Anton Muziwakhe Lembede were always right on the question of Africans being on the forefront of and leading the struggle for liberation.

THE LATE AP MDA ON THE IDEOLOGICAL AND POLITICAL CASE OF AFRICANISM

According to its January, 1958 constitution, the African National Congress (ANC) stands for the “creation of a united democratic South Africa on the principles outlined in the Freedom Charter”. The new body, the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), according to its April, 1959 constitution, stands for the “establishment and maintenance of an Africanist socialist democracy, recognizing the primacy of the material and spiritual interest of the individual”.

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