It was the generation of Nelson Mandela which steered the door to door campaign to solicit the people’s vision of
a free and democratic South Africa. In response, the people overwhelmingly voted for jobs, free and quality education, proper health care, proper infrastructure, water and housing, return of land and other commanding heights of the economy.
The campaign produced a blueprint for the future; it came to be known as the Freedom Charter. It was adopted on 26 June 1955 in Kliptown, Soweto. The Freedom Charter is characterised by quite extensive and numerous demands of the people. The strategic defeat of apartheid in 1994 transported some of the serious challenges for the ANC
Chief among these challenges are unemployment, poverty and inequality, and they have negatively impacted on
ordinary people. Informed by its historic status as a liberation movement and a disciplined force of the left, the ANC has to adapt to the new material realities. Some of these challenges are informed by huge and unreasonable compromises of the CODESA negotiations, particularly the property clause in terms of land restitution.
The 2017 ANC Polokwane conference resolved to nationalise the mines, banks and other strategic monopoly industries and to transfer the land back to their rightful owners. These resolutions were taken after a thorough and
intense political assessment based on the needs and aspirations of the people, and the balance of forces in the country.
It was that the balance of forces was in favour of the progressive forces, willing and committed to pursue the agenda for a radical economic transformation. Since the Polokwane conference, the radical economic transformation program was not successfully implemented as dictated by the Freedom Charter. Twenty-four years down the line, service delivery is at a snail pace.
Government lacks the strategy and ability to fast-track service delivery and economic empowerment of the
historically disempowered. We must also acknowledge that part of our failures to implement radical economic transformation is informed by lack of sanity in government led by the ANC. It is therefore imperative to introduce
hygiene so that we sanitise the ANC led government to fight corruption and deliver basic services to our people.
After twenty-four years of democracy and freedom, our people still demand answers to their unanswered questions from their leaders and government on land, reserve bank, mines and other major sectors of the economy. The people are asking whether the radical socio-economic transformation agenda out of Polokwane was the Langston
Hughes dream deferred that would dry up, like a raisin in the sun.
To the people it appeared that there was no political will or determination on the leadership of the ANC to implement the radical socio-economic transformation agenda. Their socio-economic and developmental rights were
undermined, and the probability of not being realised was extremely high. For that reason the people continue to hammer their beloved organisation and its leaders for answers on the Polokwane radical agenda of transforming society and the economy in particular.
Reality is that radical economic transformation will remain a pipe dream as long as the leadership of the ANC through government and state institutions fail to implement conference resolutions. There appears to be reluctance or lack of political will to give concrete expressions to the Polokwane 2007 radical platform. The people of South Africa are also sharply asking the question which is explicit in the Freedom Charter on the expropriation of land. They question whether the land reform or redistribution program is just an academic exercise?
They believe that the ANC will restore their land and dignity in their life time. We should applaud the work made by our government for the intention to amend section 25 of the constitution. The land must be restored to the rightful
owners, particularly the historically disadvantage people who are African. Land expropriations must however occur without violence and disruptions to the economy of the country.
We know that this democracy and freedom we are so enjoying didn’t come cheap but with struggles and sacrifices which at times meant the losses of freedom as in Nelson Mandela and lives like in the case of Solomon Mahlangu.
As we indulge in freedom and democracy we must appreciate and applaud the roles and contributions which Madiba and his generation made in fighting against the vexatious draconian and apartheid regime.
As we are confronted by challenges in government, let us remember that Mandela said that if the ANC government treats them or behaves like the apartheid government, our people must not hesitate to punish it. His idea was based on the Freedom Charter which is the People’s Charter. Mandela’s profoundly prophetic words would be echoed by Chris Hani who had the love of the people in his heart.
Some months before his death, Hani said that after the attainment of democracy and freedom, the ANC must live up
to the provisions of the Freedom Charter. He once said that, “if the ANC fails to serve the people, the freedom and democracy will not be worthwhile for ordinary South Africans.”
“Ordinary people would be leaderless and the country rudderless. They will be without hope and therefore resort to
desperate measures for redress. They will follow false prophets who will replace our absentee leadership and lead the people astray. This would happen, and most importantly, the ANC would have forgotten and abandoned the
people. Under these circumstances, the ANC would lose its historical status as the spear and shield of the people
for over a century that advanced and defended their national and social interests. Finally, a victorious enemy of the people will bring the ordinary people under a new form of subjugation and exploitation”.
It is in memory of Hani and other martyrs of the struggle for liberation and South Africans in general that the ANC should never fail in its mission to deepen and widen freedom and democracy. The ANC has a revolutionary
obligation to serve the people. Its future solely depends on the Freedom Charter. The Freedom Charter is the future; the future is the Freedom Charter!
Che Selane is Limpopo ANC Youth League Provincial
Secretary and writes in his personal capacity.