Input by ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa on the 65th Anniversary of the Freedom Charter
26 June 2020
14H00 — 17H00
Deputy President and Officials of the ANC
Officials of the SACP Officials of COSATU Comrades and Friends
Welcome to this online gathering to commemorate the 65 Anniversary of the Freedom Charter.
The Freedom Charter is the lodestar, the bedrock of South Africa's constitutional democracy and provides a sterling example of how a people, acting in unity and congress, came together and crafted a vision of the South Africa they want.
This seminal work that underpins every aspect of modern South Africa came about as the result of large numbers of South Africans, from all races, genders, ages and ethnicities, working together to fight oppression and set out the basic tenets that will underpin the country they would work to build.
South Africa was an oppressive and inhumane place, for those who believed in equality and worked for freedom, during the early 1950s. The Apartheid regime was becoming even bolder and intensifying its actions to subjugate the people and suppress those brave fighters calling for liberation and equality.
The 42 Conference of the ANC in Queenstown in 1943 made a call for convening a congress of the people which would, in the words of the late comrade Joe Slovo" allow each South African to say for himself what he desires from life."
The ANC, together with its allies in the Congress Alliance — the South African Indian Congress, the Coloured Peoples' Congress and the South African Congress of Democrats — made a simple call. This call was "Let the People Speak."
This simple call to and the intention to unify South Africans around a common vision was seen as a great threat by the regime. They understood with perfect clarity that their message of hate and division would not survive once the
people were united against them.
Our Movement sent out nearly 50 000 volunteers into the townships and villages
across the country. These volunteers collected the demands of the people in the face of great danger.
We salute these heroes of our movement, those who have passed on and those who are still with us, such as Isithwalandwe/ Seaparankoe Mam' Sophie de Bruyn. Mam' Sophie speaks often of how they, the 'freedom volunteers', traveled across the length and breadth of our country, how they assembled in secret and collected peoples' demands. Activists speak of how they had to hide these precious and,
sometimes, hastily scribbled notes from the security forces and how determined they were to bring the wishes of the people to life in the Freedom Charter.
Apartheid South Africa instructed its security apparatus to ensure that the Congress of the People did not take place. They failed.
A people, united in their determination to craft their own vision of the South Africa they wanted, succeeded in gathering messages, notes and other expressions of peoples' demands. Drafters such comrades ZK Mathews, Rusty Bernstein and others compiled the original Freedom Charter.
Nearly 3000 people gathered in Kliptown on Sunday 26 June 1955 and, despite relentless harassment and violence from the state machinery, this Congress of the People officially adopted the Freedom Charter.
The demands of the Freedom Charter are breathtaking in their commitment to
equality, justice and freedom from oppression. They truly represent the will of South Africans to live peacefully in a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society.
The Freedom Charter is clear that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white. This entrenched commitment to non-racialism should permeate through the very fabric of society.
Unfortunately, South Africa and the world, are seeing a rise in racism, discrimination based on ethnicity and narrow nationalism. It is for this reason that the ANC and the Alliance has embarked on a campaign against racism. We must embark on concerted campaigns to root out racism across our country.
We must continue to work with progressive forces across the continent and the globe to stamp out racism wherever it occurs and in all its manifestations.
At this point in time, our country again faces enormous challenges.
We are in the middle of a global pandemic unlike anything the world has seen in more than a century.
Our already underperforming economy has contracted further as a result of the impact of the pandemic and ratings downgrades.
Lastly, there is a war against women in South Africa. Gender-based violence and femicide are twin scourges that we need to eradicate.
All of these challenges require us to call on the determination and resilience of our forebears to meet them head-on. This time requires us to, again, unite and work to put in place the South Africa we want.
The Freedom Charter is explicit in its call that the people share shall in the country's wealth.
It is undeniable that the wealth of this country remains largely in the hands of a predominantly white and male minority. The structure of our economy continues to exclude overwhelming numbers of the poor and Black majority.
Our movement, government and all social partners must work together to bring about the radical transformation of the economy and achieve economic inclusion.
The programme of economic restructuring must be anchored on an agreed vision of a more just and equitable economy that works for all.
We will have to confront the reality that we will suffer significant and disastrous job losses as a result of the pandemic. Our plans will have to ensure that there is work and security.
A few days ago, government held the Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium, which sets out our plans to expand economic and social infrastructure as a key component of economic recovery.
We will use this infrastructure expansion to address maintenance backlogs with regard to existing infrastructure, build new infrastructure particularly in previously underserviced areas and massify its social impact, such as expanding local manufacturing and creating jobs.
The Freedom Charter demands of us to ensure that the land shall be shared among those who work it.
This harkens back to the systematic dispossession of land, which remains one of the greatest injustices suffered by Black people in the history of our country. We are addressing this heinous crime against the people.
Our programme of returning land to the people has accelerated since 2018. We returned land to communities in Kwazulu Natal, the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, the Northern and Western Cape and other areas.
The joy and pride one observes on the faces of those whose land is returned is humbling and serves as a reminder of what we seek to do. Serve the people and ensure that we create a better life for all.
This programme has thus far concentrated on releasing state land to the people, but we are also working hard to complete other aspects of our land reform programme.
Parliament needs to revive its processes to finalise the conditions under which expropriation of land will take place. This will bring certainty to a process that has been underway since early 2018.
There is significant scope to increase manufacturing and job-creation in the agricultural sector and we must ensure that all stakeholders work together to develop the sector. We need to scale-up support for emerging and small-scale farmers and bring more young people into the sector.
The Freedom Charter calls on us to ensure that there shall be houses, security and comfort.
The pandemic has thrown into stark relief that too many South Africans do not have adequate houses. We must accelerate our programmes to build more sustainable human settlements and assist South Africans to obtain housing.
It is reality that people living in densely populated informal areas find it difficult or impossible to self-isolate or quarantine. Municipalities have been called upon to provide isolation and quarantine facilities and we call upon the private sector to make facilities available in the spirit of social solidarity. The whole country must work together to fight the pandemic.
Our health system will not cope should infection numbers continue to rise at the current rate and it is therefore clear that we must introduce extraordinary measures to ensure every sick person in our country has access to the required health care.
Globally, the countries which have state-led universal health coverage, have broadly managed to respond better and with greater agility to the pandemic. We must learn from these countries and utilise our response to COVID-19 to lay the foundations for the NHI.
Whilst we are doing all of the above, let us remind ourselves that the coronavirus is still with us and will be for the foreseeable future. We must remain vigilant and maintain social distancing as much as possible, wear masks when out in public, maintain cough etiquette and continue to wash our hands with sanitizer or soap.
Workplaces must adhere to public health and safety guidelines.
Returning to work and further opening up means that individuals must take greater responsibility for safeguarding themselves. It is up to each and every one of us.
The necessary hard lockdown and resultant closure of schools and institutions of higher learning illustrated clearly that much more needs to be done to fully open the doors of learning and culture.
Learners and students from more advantaged and privileged backgrounds found it easier to continue their education through digital platforms and online learning. Those from poorer backgrounds have, despite government's considerable support efforts, not been able to do the same.
Our interventions in these areas must continue to broaden access to education for all learners and students, but especially those from poorer backgrounds. We call on all sectors of society to work together and ensure that the doors of learning and culture are truly opened to everyone.
Comrades and friends, the Freedom Charter is clear that all national groups shall have equal rights, all shall be equal before the law and all shall enjoy equal human
The ANC has always held that the full enjoyment of these rights, as prescribed in our Constitution, includes within them a duty of redress to those who were previously denied these rights.
As early as 1992, in our document entitled Ready to Govern, we committed ourselves to implementing affirmative action which means "special measures to enable persons discriminated against on grounds of colour, gender and disability to break into fields from which they have been excluded by past discrimination. The ANC proposes affirmative action with a view to establishing a law-governed, progressive and equitable way of ensuring advancement without on the one hand freezing present privileges or on the other going over to arbitrary compulsion."
The laws and measures we put in place to advance people from historically disadvantaged groups remain necessary to this day. The systemic faultlines created by our Apartheid past are still with us and still inhibit the advancement of those who were previously discriminated against.
The destruction and deprivation caused by our apartheid past further necessitates the strengthening of our laws aimed at positively affirming and advancing the economic inclusion of black people.
As I said in Parliament last week, Black Economic Empowerment measures are here to stay. We need to review BEE laws and programmes to ensure they are properly targeted and broaden the reach of these programmes.
Comrades and Friends,
It is a travesty that women and children are and feel unsafe in this country.
Government has enacted many laws and are strengthening our criminal justice system to more effectively deal with gender-based violence.
Effective laws and more policing will not be enough on their own. We need all of society to work together to effectively deal with gender-based violence and other social ills.
All of society needs to work together to combat gender-based violence and femicide
by confronting patriarchal norms and attitudes and acting at all times in a manner that respects the rights and lives of women.
As the leaders of the Alliance, we need to engage our structures in campaigns to change the minds of citizens and stamp out the behaviour that treat women as inferior and as property.
Silence about gender-based violence is one of the greatest contributing and enabling factors to this crime
No longer should we be silent. We must call out perpetrators without fear or favour.
We further need to focus on the economic and social empowerment of
women, actively working to ensure women have a greater stake in the economy and assume an equal place in the world of work.
In conclusion, the brave men and women who worked together to draft the Freedom Charter did so in the face of tremendous challenges.
We now face our own enormous challenges.
Let us unite as South Africans and draw on the indomitable spirit and example of our forebears.
South Africans have worked together to overcome many great difficulties. We will do it again.
I thank you.
Issued by the ANC, 26 June 2020