After 65 years many people still suffer ignorance about the so-called Freedom Charter. They include many ANC leaders and members. This was demonstrated when the ANC held a commemoration related to this at Lilies Leaf Trust on 11th July 2019, and as recently as on 26th June 2020. They talked to the media also about how ANC leaders were arrested by the South African apartheid colonial regime in 1956. The truth about the Freedom Charter must be told for this generation if Africans in South Africa must reach their liberation destination and not end up in a perpetual liberation dry desert and quagmire of misery and poverty.
Zephania Mothopeng, a veteran of the African liberation struggle was sentenced to thirty years imprisonment for leading the Soweto Uprising of 16 June 1976. He had earlier been imprisoned on Robben Island for the POQO/PAC Uprising of 1963. While there, he taught Mathematics to political prisoners who wanted to further their education. He referred to the Freedom Charter as “a notorious document of unknown origin.”
People such as Rusty Bernstein, Joe Slovo, Ben Turok, Arthur Golderich, Piet Byleveld, Gerald Ludi, and other whites are however known today to have been involved in the writing of the Freedom Charter for the ANC. In fact, Joe Slovo later became the chief commander of the ANC military wing, Umkhonto Wesizwe for many years until much later when he handed over to Chris Hani. He is also reputed to have been responsible for the “Sunset Clause” during the compromising and surrendering negotiations with the apartheid colonialist regime of F.W. de Klerk in 1994. He also supported the “property clause” in section 25(7) of today’s “New South Africa” constitution. This section is a new name for the Native Land Act 1913 and Native Trust Land 1936.
In 2009, Ben Turok let the cat out of the bag, about his own authorship of the Freedom Charter. He has written, “I was not a ‘typist’ of the economic clause of the Freedom Charter…As vice chairman of the Cape Provincial Action Council and full-time organiser of the Congress of the People, I was invited to a meeting of the National Council of the Congress on the eve of the actual event. A draft Freedom Charter was put to the meeting for approval and I proposed and Billy Nair seconded an amended version which was adopted there and then…I had been asked previously to introduce the economic clause at the Congress.”
In 2OO8 Ben Turok wrote a book. Its title is: “The Freedom Charter to Polokwane: The Evolution of the ANC Policy.” He has not disclosed who authorized him to write the economic policy for the ANC or why he has never written the economic policy for the Communist Party of South Africa. He is a professed “Communist” who never practiced communism.
Turok has not revealed who invited him to the 1955 meeting or who asked him to write the economic clause for the ANC in 1955. Chief Albert Luthuli was the President of the ANC in 1955. In his book, LET MY PEOPLE GO (first edition), he has written, “I can only speak vaguely about the preparations that went before it (Freedom Charter)….The main disadvantage from which it suffered was that local branches submitted their materials for the Charter at a very late hour – too late in fact….The result is that the declaration made in the Charter is UNEVEN.” The Chief also said that “the Freedom Charter was open to criticism and was vague.”
Dr. Wilson Conco was long-time ANC Deputy to Chief Albert Luthuli. He presided at the Kliptown where the Freedom Charter was adopted. He is on record as saying that he saw the document for the first time at this meeting. He did not know who had drafted it. Anyway, on the 8th of April 1960, the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) was only one year one month old when it was banned along with all its documents.
The ANC was also banned, but not without a strong protest from an ANC Alliance member Len-Lee Warden who was also a white Member of the South African Parliament representing Africans on a separate apartheid colonial roll. Advocating that only the PAC must be banned he said, “…if ever there is a need, it exists today for the South African government to realize that it has in the ANC not an enemy, but a friend; because these two organizations that we are asked to ban today are so diametrically opposed that the government must seize the opportunity of appealing to the ANC to assist it to restore peace and order in South Africa.”
This forced Peter Dreyer the author of Martyrs And Fanatics South Africa And Human Destiny to write; “Len Lee Warden Member of Parliament…for the Western Cape now committed a signal indecency of pleading that only the Pan Africanist Congress must be banned.”
Who bought The Freedom Charter for sixty British pounds? Why and for who?
Indeed, although the ANC was banned under protest by its white authors of the Freedom Charter, this “Freedom Charter” itself, was never banned. The beneficiaries of colonialism and imperialist supporters have continued to invest enormously in the ANC politics of the Freedom Charter. On 26 March 2010, Lord Renwick and Lonnin PLC in London purchased the original copy of the Freedom Charter for sixty British pounds. It is important to note that Lord Renwick is former British Ambassador to South Africa, a former British colony which Britain tried hard to make into an “Australia”, and in fact called it a “dominion” even though it was a colony. In truth and fact, South Africa is the only African country Britain never officially decolonized.
What was the reason for the purchase of the “Freedom Charter?” Renwick and London PLC have been reported as saying that this was to prevent this document from going under the hammer at Bonhams auction in London. They have said that they took the initiative to protect and preserve the Freedom Charter and prevent it from falling into the private hands of a private collector. They revealed that they wanted the Freedom Charter to be “available for the benefit of all South Africans.”
On 7th May 2010, the original signed copy of the Freedom Charter was handed to the ANC government by the Liliesleaf Trust in Johannesburg as the property of “the nation.” The property of the nation was colonially seized from the Africans through colonial terrorism with guns. The Freedom Charter is the Instrument that was used to entrench the land dispossession of the African people and legitimize their colonization.
The documents that are the property of the nation that must be preserved and made known to the children of this nation are:
a. Africans’ Claims In South Africa and Bill of Rights 1943 (1912 ANC)
b. Congress Youth League Manifesto 1944 (A.M. Lembede and A. P. Mda)
c. Basic Documents of the Congress Youth League 1948
d. Youth League Programme of Action 1949 (Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe)
In 2OO8, Pope Benedict XVI spoke the truth that has been suppressed in Europe for centuries. He wrote, “Our Western way of life has stripped Africa’s people of their riches and continues to strip them.” Affirming the Pope’s statement, Mark Ballard, a Member of the Scottish Parliament added, “Our relationship to Africa is an exploitative one. The West no longer needs to send standing armies in Africa to strip its resources, because it can do it more effectively with multi-national companies.”
Writing about the Native Land Act 1913, Sol Plaatje the first Secretary of the 1912 ANC said, “Awakening on Friday morning, 20 June 1913, the South African native (African) found himself not actually a slave, but a pariah in the land of his birth.”
What would Plaatje say if he were to come back to this life now and find that for over one hundred years since he and other founders of the ANC raised the issue of land dispossession in 1912; Africans are still dispossessed of their land? And that the 1955 ANC leaders agreed to things like “property clause” and “sunset clause” in the South African constitution which has consolidated the colonial land robbery of the dispossessed Africans?
Honest People Have Acknowledged Truth About Land In South Africa
Honest people long admitted that colonialists dispossessed Africans of their land. In 1930 Jan Smuts who was one time the Prime Minister of Colonial South Africa confessed, “The mistake we made in South Africa in the past was our failure in not reserving sufficient land for the future needs of the rapidly increasing natives (Africans), and the land problem which we have in consequence on our hands is one of the most difficult.” (J.C. Smuts, Africa And Some World Problems 193O page 6O)
For his part, Sir Godfrey Lagden, author of The Basutos (19O9) Volume II page 642 has written, “The active seizure, by force or guile, of lands actually in possession of the Africans, was a political blunder of the first magnitude as well as an act of injustice.”
On the policy results of the Native Land Act 1913, W.P. Schreiner, an ex-premier of the Cape Colony said, “You have got a comparatively small European population – a million and a quarter and something like half a million mixed race, and then you have got between four and five million of the aboriginal inhabitants of the country.
Any policy that aims at setting off a very small proportion of the land of the country for the use and occupation of the very vast majority of the inhabitants, and reserving for the use and occupation of a very small minority of the inhabitants the great majority of the land of the country: is a policy that economically must break somewhere.”
C.G. Fichardt who was a member of the colonial parliament in Cape Town, logically and categorically simply proclaimed, “If we are to deal with the natives of this country, then according to the population we should give them four-fifths of the country.” (See SOL PLAATJE – Native Life In South Africa pages 339 -34O).
The revolutionary forces and patriots that opposed the betrayal of the land robbed Africans have been labeled “racists” and “anti-white.” Chief among these are the leaders and members of the Pan Africanist Congress and those of the Black Consciousness Movement. The Freedom Charter can never resolve the land question in South Africa (Azania). It has consolidated poverty, landlessness, unemployment, filthy squatter camps, and matchbox “houses” (ovezunyawo/bo sutha re kwale) for Africans.
Pan Africanist Congress’s opposition to the preamble of the Freedom Charter was not “racist.” It was anti-colonialism and anti-robbing Africans of their land. When parting ways with the captured 1955 ANC leadership, a spokesperson for Pan Africanists, Selby T. Ngendane in a letter dated 2nd November 1958 said: “In 1949, we got the African people to accept the nation-building programme of that year.
We have consistently and honestly stuck to that programme. In 1955, the Kliptown Charter was adopted which according to us is in irreconcilable conflict with the 1949 programme, seeing that LAND no longer belongs to the African people, but is auctioned for sale to all who live in this country.
In numerous ANC Conferences, we have made it clear that we are committed to the overthrow of white colonial domination and restoration of the LAND to its rightful owners… We are now launching out openly, on our own, as the custodians of the ANC policy as it was formulated in 1912 and pursued up to the time of the ‘Congress Alliance.’”
Dr. Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe was a lecturer at Witwatersrand University. He became the first President of the Pan Africanist Congress. When launching the campaign against colonial laws which led to the Sharpeville Uprising of 21st March 1960, he rejected the accusation that fighting for land and against colonial land dispossession was synonymous with “racism.”
He declared. “I want to be properly understood here. Let the world take note that we are not fighting Dr. Verwoerd simply because he is Dr. Verwoerd… We are not fighting against Europeans or Indians or Chinese. In short, we are fighting against nobody. Our energies and forces are directed at a setup, against a conception and a myth – others call it racial superiority. Others call it herrenvolkism, others white leadership with justice or white supremacy. We are fighting against the Calvinistic doctrine that a certain nation was specially chosen by God to lead, guide, and protect other nations.
This is our fight. We are not a horde of stupid things that will fight against a white man simply because he is white. No sensible person can do that… This is not a game. We are not gambling. We are taking our first step in the march to African independence and the United States of Africa… Let us get that clear.”
Defectors to the Freedom Charter preamble took over the colonial system, not only with its 13% land and 5% economy for 8O% African people but also inherited the odious debt of the apartheid colonialist regime. Instead of massively providing education, improving healthcare, giving decent housing and jobs to its people, and raising their standard of living, “New South Africa” was facilitated by the Freedom Charter preamble to pay billions of Rand on the apartheid debt which is an odious debt in international law; and also silent on reparations.
The English Law Dictionary describes the word “odious” as a base, vile, scandalous, detestable, and disgraceful. The apartheid debt that adherents of the Freedom Charter leaders agreed to pay is really scandalous. Through The International Convention On The Suppression And Punishment Of The Crime Of Apartheid; the United Nations declared apartheid a crime against humanity. But the ANC Freedom Charter government paid the apartheid debt.
The ANC regime called this odious debt “a national debt.” Some of this odious debt was incurred by the apartheid colonialist regime in buying weapons for its South African Defence Force that killed civilians in South Africa and attacked neighboring states such as Angola, Zambia, Mozambique, and Lesotho.
The apartheid debt was also incurred in the development of nuclear technology for weapons of mass destruction. The apartheid debt was used to subjugate the colonized African people fighting for their right for self-determination according to the principles of international law outlined in the United Nations Charter Articles 1(1), (2), (3), 13(i) (b) 55, 56,62,68,73 and 76 as well as in Article 2O: 92) of the Organisation of African Unity and United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XXXV).
It is estimated that neighboring countries that harboured the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and the African National Congress (ANC) suffered damage of at least R27 billion. Angola alone suffered much more damage as a result of the six-month war the South African army fought inside Angola.
Sixty thousand Angolans were reportedly killed in this invasion of Angola by the apartheid colonialist regime. The doctrine of odious debt in international law states that if a despotic power incurs a debt not for the needs or for the interest of the state but to strengthen its despotic regime to repress the population which fights against it; this debt is odious to the population.
In fact, Cuba refused to pay the odious debt incurred by Spain in its colonial suppression of the Cuban people. In 1923 the Costa Rica government in South America repudiated the Canadian Royal Bank debt. It argued that the debt was incurred during the period when the people of Costa Rica were engaged in a political struggle to bring liberation and democracy to their country. In South Africa, the preamble to the Freedom Charter disinherited the African people and imposed on them illegal obligations to pay odious debts that were incurred for their genocide.
On this matter of odious debt, a writer has asked, “What of South Africa? The country is labouring under a Seventy billion US dollars debt? Interest payments alone are the second-highest expenditure. To what extent are Africans in South Africa obliged to repay the loans of an oppressive former regime they did not and could not elect?”
She then drew attention to Germans with regard to the debt they had to pay for Hitler’s Nazi Germany and the debt Germany owned for her war crimes. She pointed out that “After the Second World War, Germany would only agree to spend 3.5% of its export income on debt payments. It argued that anything higher would be ‘unsustainable.’ Yet today, the world’s creditor nations, including Germany are demanding that the world’s poorest nations spend 25% of their incomes on debt repayments.”
Why did “New South Africa” pay such a large amount of money on the odious debt of the apartheid colonial regime that was not for the good of the colonized African people? There may be many answers to this question. But the main answer is that the adoption of the Freedom Charter preamble in 1955, renouncing the colonial nature of the African liberation struggle legalized and criminalized the heroic struggle of the wars of national resistance. It betrayed the primary objectives of the ANC as constituted in 1912.
The language of the Freedom Charter preamble of the 1955 ANC is very clear. “We, the people of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know; that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white… And therefore, we the people of South Africa black and white together, equals, countrymen and brothers, adopt the Charter.” Freedom Charterists here played into the hands of imperialism and colonialism. Africans remain dispossessed of their land 65 years after the “Freedom Charter” was proclaimed. This Freedom Cheater was written by non-Africans for Africans and has now been bought and preserved for the “nation”
But equitable redistribution of land is not moving. The African nation is stuck in the quagmire of landlessness and poverty. The Freedom Charter preamble has summoned the African nation to dance on the graves of their ancestors who braved the bullets of the colonialists in their heroic defense of their primary asset- the LAND of their forefathers and its riches. The Freedom Charter preamble is a slow poison. It is destroying Africans economically and socially. It has not come from the womb of Africa.
Africans were initially allocated 7% of their land. The additional 6% came only in 1936 through the colonial Native Trust Land Act of that year. The purpose of the colonial Native Land Act 1913 was to give the land and its riches to the colonial settlers, even at the cost of genocide of the African people. A colonial official of the British imperialist government that was honoured as Sir Andries Stockkenstrom made this purpose very clear.
He declared, “The question of robbing Africans of their land is not whether or not it is right or wrong to plunder, massacre and exterminate the Hottentots, the Kaffirs…the simple question is will it PAY? But if the Bible and missionary stand in the way of this thousand percent return…if in short, they cannot promote the great work of converting a nation of shopkeepers into a nation of millionaires, …gun powder will produce a more effective gospel for the purpose of our civilisation” (R.U, Kenny, Piet Retief Cape Town And Pretoria: Human & Reason 1976 page 77).
A nation that has no land is a dying nation. Where are our Khoi and San brothers and sisters today? European Colonialists robbed them of their land. They raped their daughters and disowned the children they fathered. They offered these Africans alcohol, as their wages. After this, the Khoi were easy to exterminate. They lost everything. The San people had to flee to Botswana, Namibia, and Angola to escape colonial genocide. A landless nation is a dying nation. Resources are in the land. A nation that does not control the resources of its own land is a slowly dying nation.
The Freedom Charter betrayed the land dispossessed Africans. People who expropriated African land through their colonial guns still own this land. They are selling it like ice cream especially along the sea coast, while Africans have no decent homes, no farms, no mines, and no place to fish or build decent houses for homes.
A political analyst, Liepollo Pheko has observed, “At the TRC, national memory and memories were also negotiated, recast and left in the limbo of profound injustice. That we may remember things differently and subjectively is natural. What is unacceptable is that memories of the oppressed majority were trampled over in the interest of a skewed ‘official history.’”
The colonially land robbed Africans have carried the burden of living as slaves in their own country for nearly four hundred years now. The flag, the national anthem, parliament and vote in periodic elections do not feed, house and educate a nation. LAND does, because that is where resources for necessities of life are located. With regard to equitable redistribution of land and its wealth, the South African constitution is not only Eurocentric, it is also colonial law.”
Prof. Sampie Terreblanche, author of A History Of INEQUALITY In South Africa -1652 to 2OO2 is correct when he writes, “The ANC’s core leaders effectively sold its sovereign freedom to implement an independent and appropriate socio-economic policy for a mess potage when it entered into several compromises with the corporate sector and its global partners. These unfortunate ‘transactions’ must be retracted or renegotiated.”
This political scandal comes from the Freedoom Cheater labelled “Freedom Charter” subsequently glorified and sold for sixty British pounds to be preserved for a nation. Which nation? This is obviously the cheated indigenous African nation which was colonised by Britain, through the Berlin General Act of 26 February 1885 and never decolonised by Britain properly.
To pay lip service to land; the primary contradiction of the African liberation struggle, for which so many served, suffered, sacrificed, and died; is to sit on a powerful time bomb. When it explodes in South Africa, a similar land dispute anywhere in the world will look like a nice picnic on a beautiful sunshine day. African magnanimity (Ubuntu) is not synonymous with imbecility or docility.
Europeans must reciprocate African magnanimity. They must be truthful, moral, and just in their dealings with African people. They must identify with Africa and the interests of the dispossessed African majority. They must not be Europeans in the southern tip of Africa who are here only to horde the riches of this African country for themselves and perpetuate the economic enslavement of the African people. They must not take Africans for nincompoops. African magnanimity is not the same thing as docility or “child race.”This “Freedom Charter” can be correctly called Freedom Cheater or Free Doom Charter. It is unjust. It is unacceptable.
Perhaps, Dr. W.B. Rubusana, a leading founder of the 1912 ANC had a premonition of this neo-colonial “Freedom Charter” calamity and tragedy situation when he titled his book in the Xhosa language, “Zemka Iinkomo Magwala Ndini!” He might as well have said, “Lemka Izwe Lenu Magwala Ndini!” (“Your Land Is Gone, You Cowards!”) Indeed, the most meaningful political slogan in South Africa to Africans today is IZWE LETHU! IAFRIKA! (Africa Is Our Land). It was coined by Dr. Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe and his Pan Africanist Congress comrades.
Prophet Isaiah of old in the Bible reflected a similar land dispossession situation when he said: “Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: YOUR LAND, strangers devour in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by the strangers” (Isaiah 1:7)
Africans have suffered the worst holocaust in history and they still do. Their way of life has been destroyed politically, economically, and socially. Their Afrocentricity has been replaced with Eurocentricity. One of the greatest weaknesses of the African people was being too kind to strangers. Unfortunately, to this day Africans still have this weakness. Africans in South Africa must set aside a day on which they can speak about their holocaust and reparations. The “Freedom Charter” will never give them freedom. This Freedom Charter is a Freedoom Cheater.