Freedom charter anniversary: Why should you care?

Robyn Frost

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On this day back in 1955, the freedom charter was formed. The original document was handwritten by Beata Lipman and is the collective voice of 50 000 South Africans. Their freedom demands are listed on 163 pages and it is the basis of our rights and the new constitution of South Africa. Now, six decades […]

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On this day back in 1955, the freedom charter was formed. The original document was handwritten by Beata Lipman and is the collective voice of 50 000 South Africans. Their freedom demands are listed on 163 pages and it is the basis of our rights and the new constitution of South Africa. Now, six decades later it appears that the ‘demands’ were more like wishes and pipe dreams.

“The people shall govern’’

According to the Freedom Charter the South Africans of 1955 wanted:

1)Rent and prices to be lowered, food plentiful and no one to go hungry

2)All people to have the right to live where they choose, be decently housed, and to bring up their families in comfort and security

3)Unused housing space to be made available to the people.(Right I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one)

4)Education to be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all children

“These freedoms we will fight for, side by side, throughout our lives. Until we have won our liberty.”

 

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It sounds alot like what people want in 2014 doesn’t it?

These are the freedoms which we continually fight for on a day-to-day basis. South Africa has seen its highest number of service delivery protests in the last year alone. People have been killed in Brits, Johannesburg while protesting for something as simple as water. Hope is as dry as their taps( that’s if they are lucky enough to have those). According to the South African Human Rights Commission and the latest census about 60 percent of households have a flush toilet, 70 percent have access at a RDP acceptable level. In Limpopo a shocking two-thirds of households do not have sanitation and in the Eastern Cape around  12. 7 percent do not have any form of sanitation. Closer to my home, in Cape Town many communities are also still using the bucket system. Whatever  the community or city is you call home, you are bound to see the many problems that still exist in the democratic South Africa. President Jacob Zuma said that 95 percent of people have access to sanitation and basic services. It was part of his first state of the nation 2014 ‘good-story-to-tell’ kumbaya speech. Did you feel the Ubuntu spirit? Because on the ground the real statistics paint a grim picture of the daily lives of South Africans. But, President Zuma (who says the ANC government could not have done any better than what they have done over the past 20 years) made yet another commitment to restoring the dignity of the our country’s people. He said he will not to rest until ALL of us have proper housing, sanitation, water and service delivery. So the president would  not have rested in two decades? The number one citizen actually rests comfortably (when not campaigning for our votes) in a house that cost the country…wait, let me not remind you. It’s drilled in your head by now.

How could he rest in such luxury when in the same month that he told us of our apparent good story, six-year-old Michael Komape of Limpopo died after falling into a pit toilet? A senseless death which could have been avoided.

 

This year we have heard time and time again that we celebrate 20 years of freedom. If the ANC were brave enough to go to the people once again, what would the ‘free’ South Africans’ demands be? Two decades post apartheid and I suspect it will be much of the same; equal opportunities, access to homes, water, sanitation, education and a life of dignity would top the list. These though are the lowest level of basic rights of any human being. It shouldn’t be a dream that some will never realise in their lifetime, or raised expectations like the president eluded earlier this year.
Twenty years of democracy isn’t just about remembering days and commemorating documents such as the freedom charter and the bill of rights. It is about making government see that they need to re-commit themselves to the promises they have made. It is for us to evaluate honestly as to how far we have come. We can clearly see the state of our nation and we haven’t come as far as we would have liked. According to the  human rights commission’s report on the right to access sufficient water and decent sanitation in South Africa the communities without proper housing, food, sanitation and service delivery are the very same that had those problems prior to the end of apartheid. Meaning that for a great deal of South Africans the country has not changed. The words on the paper of the freedom charter need to be worth more than the paper it’s written on. Words without action are as meaningless as cars without petrol. Words on paper surrender their power when no action is applied to them. I hate to break it to Sarafina but for most of the people living in South Africa, freedom is still coming and it’s doubtful that it will be here tomorrow.

 

Images: ancarchives.org.za and  creatorsdocumentary