Statement on the 60th Anniversary of the Freedom Charter
25 June 2015
Friday, 26 June 2015 marks the 60th Anniversary of the Freedom Charter. The Charter was adopted on 26 June 1955 by the Congress of the People co-ordinated by our congress movement; made up of, amongst others, the ANC, Congress of Democrats, the South African Indian Congress and the Coloured People’s Congress. It elaborates the goals and vision of our liberation struggle, for a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
The SACP celebrates the 60th Anniversary of the Freedom Charter together with the rest of our national liberation movement which is led by the ANC and the whole of the democratic people of our country. The SACP, the first non-racial political organisation in South Africa, is proud that its active and leading cadres participated in preparatory processes leading up to as well as at the Congress of the People which was held at Kliptown in Soweto. This the SACP did despite having been banned by the apartheid regime in 1950.
The 60th Anniversary of the Freedom Charter is a historical moment for all the democratic people of our country to reflect back on the history of our liberation struggle, our successes, persisting and new challenges.
In 1994, we dislodged the apartheid regime, whose state was the embodiment of colonialism of a special type in our country. This democratic breakthrough marked an important milestone in our revolution. It paved the way for the new phase of our struggle in which the primary task is to improve the quality of life of our people. Our 1994 democratic breakthrough guaranteed human rights for all.
The 1994 democratic breakthrough ushered in the Freedom Charter’s clarion call for a non-racial, one person one vote to give effect to the principle that the people shall govern and that no government in this country can claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people. The Charter’s principles of human and political rights and democratic majority rule were inscribed in our country’s constitution.
Those who were on the side of apartheid or accrued its benefits opposed these fundamental and all other principles of the Freedom Charter. To this day they continue to do so. They have heightened their anti-majoritarian offensive. Having all the resources accumulated back from colonial oppression and through brutal economic exploitation as well as imperialist support, they are doing everything to undermine and downplay the achievements of our democratic transition.
Indeed we are seeking to realise the vision of the Freedom Charter in the midst of a hugely hostile global economic environment that is still hamstrung by the continuing impact of the 2008 global financial meltdown.
And, since 1994, some of former South African based companies divested from the country. They shifted investments out of productive manufacturing and mining and focused on speculative and non-productive sectors like financial services and shopping malls. Mergers and acquisitions increasingly exposed key sectors of the economy, like agriculture, to the whims of foreign speculative investors.
This “radical”, but neo-liberal restructuring of our productive economy was accompanied by the equally aggressive restructuring and fragmentation of the working class through casualisation, informalisation, labour brokering and widespread retrenchments. These measures actively under-cut the progressive statutory advances won by the working class after 1994. The percentage of workers unionised in the private sector actually dropped from 35.6% in 1997 to 24.4% in 2013.
However, and on the positive side, from 1994 and recently amidst all these constraints, we have registered massive progress in terms of redistributive measures and securing of workers' and trade union rights.
We have secured major social achievements, amongst others:
- Over 16 million people have been built houses for free and have access to electricity – as opposed to the dark era of a century since the first electricity connection in Cape Town in 1894. A few countries on earth can match this achievement in the period under the circumstances.
- We have advanced to near-universal access to education for all children and hundreds of thousands of our learners receive food at school for free.
- Over 1.5 million students have achieved access to college and university education and training from government support.
- 92 percent of South Africans now have access to potable water, compared to 60 percent in 1996.
- New clinics have been built in many areas where there were none before, and primary healthcare has been expanded to benefit millions of our people, many for free.
But 1994 and indeed all our other major achievements did not mean that the struggle is over.
Those who supported colonial oppression, including sections of the media which remains untransformed, are dedicated at ensuring that they apportion blame of the problems primarily created under colonial oppression to the people’s liberation alliance. What they specifically want is that the people must delink an enquiry into their contemporary challenges from their roots and historical development.
The SACP says to all the democratic people of our country, the majority of whom is the working class:
“Let us unite more than ever before!”
Our unity brought about the Freedom Charter!
It is through unity that we brought down the colonial apartheid regime!
Now this is the time to place the transformation and development of our country on to a second, more radical phase of our democratic transition!
Together, we still have more work to tackle colonially engineered, fundamentally capitalist problems of persisting social inequality, unemployment and poverty.
Together, let us defend our country’s independence and democratic national sovereignty against the forces and agents of imperialism!
This is absolutely crucial for the realisation of all the goals of the Freedom Charter to which we reaffirm our unwavering commitment!
The achievement of the goals of the Freedom Charter will lay the indispensable basis for the direly needed advance to socialism!
Statement issued by the SACP, June 26 2015