Mandela is dead – as was the Freedom Charter

NELSON Mandela died today. There is much emotion about the place, in countries around the globe, as many regarded him as the freedom fighter’s freedom fighter.

The public tale about him is one of a man who fought to bring equality to a country which had, as its official policy, the doctrine that white was superior to black.

That much is true. But that is only part of the story.

In June 1955, at the Congress of the People in Kliptown, the African National Congress had, in a historic gathering, voted in a people’s charter. The Freedom Charter was read aloud in English, Sesotho and Zhosa and after each section the 3000-strong crowd roared its approval with cries of Afrika and Mayibuye. The first demand of that charter read “The People Shall Govern”.

In January 1990, a month before he was freed after 27 years in prison, Mandela wrote a note to his supporters outside, affirming that his long stay behind bars had in no way diminished his desire to implement the Charter.

Alas, it all came to naught once apartheid was abolished. During the talks between Mandela and the South Africn president F.W. de Klerk, the latter tried his level best to preserve as much power as possible. What his party was trying to do was to preserve white supremacy with black consent.

Alongside the political talks were economic summits managed by Thabo Mbeki, a rising star in ANC ranks at the time. But no matter who was in charge, the economic institutions which had dominated the free market – the IMF, the World Bank, GATT – had the final say.

The Freedom Charter was dead in the water.


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