Freedom Charter is not a dream deferred : it’s a nightmare – Tebogo Brown

Onkgopotse JJ Tabane’s article published under the headline, “Freedom Charter is a dream deferred”, in The Star of June 26 refers.

If the Freedom Charter (FC) was one of the most important documents in our history, there wouldn’t be the PAC and its various formations such as Poqo, the forerunners of Apla.

What is seminal in the contents of the Freedom Charter? Is it because it was written by a white man? It is not a revolutionary document that can be used as a guide to action by a colonially oppressed indigenous people. It didn’t distinguish between the oppressed and the oppressor, dispossessed and the dispossessor.

Moreover, it divided the oppressed people into two movements, the Africanists and the Charterists. They are still divided to this day. How is this a seminal document? Tabane is wont to using words too loosely.

In addition to being a divisive document, it was also controversial in that ANC president Chief Albert Luthuli and his deputy Dr Winston Conco didn’t know about the FC.

The ANC president who preceded Dr James Moroka, Dr AB Xuma, decried the actions of the Charterists in 1958 and said they came under the influence of white people. He asks how we can safely say that the people are governing without land. Which land is Tabane complaining about since South Africa belongs to all who live in it? If SA belongs to all who live in it, then everybody must be having land because it belongs to everybody who lives in it? How has the government failed to resolve the land question when the land belongs to all who live in it? He writes that the spirit of the FC is gone in reality and that the spirit of the FC was stillborn.

African heads of state did not want to have anything to do with the FC – they embraced the PAC with its 1949 Programme of Action. He chose to cite two clauses in the FC – the people shall govern and the doors of learning shall be open to all – deliberately leaving out its controversial preamble which says South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.

South Africa does not belong to all who live in it, it belongs to the African people. Azania cannot belong to the oppressor and the oppressed and when the FC says the land shall belong to those who till it, whose land is it referring to?

Worse still are revelations that organisations such as the EFF are fighting for the custodianship of an empty document such as the Freedom Charter. According to my scant knowledge of politics, I don’t remember any conference where the EFF officially adopted the FC as its guiding document. Tabane seems to be the only one who knows about this.

Tabane writes that the Freedom Charter is a mantra of liberation forces marching to freedom; which liberation forces is he talking about since the PAC, and later the Black Consciousness Movement, outrightly rejected the Freedom Charter?

Finally, the FC is not a dream deferred; it’s a nightmare.

Tebogo Brown


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