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Dear Mr Lekota: The Freedom Charter is not a Bible, part 3

This is the last of my letters. I hope the Post Office delivered my previous ones to you.

Straight to the issues. I have seen you raving and ranting about defending the Freedom Charter like a priest guarding a holy shrine. But when unmasked, your defence of the Freedom Charter is not defence for the charter itself, but for a reworked and diluted version of the original charter itself.

To you and your ilk, the Freedom Charter does not represent the aspirations of the delegates of Kliptown; it represents a catchphrase that can be used to win support while at the same time abandoning its main tenets. Anyway, let me ask, when did you first realise that the Freedom Charter still exists? Did you forget it when you were still in government?

Let me be frank. What happened to the clauses in the charter that say: The people shall share in the country’s wealth; the land shall be shared among those who work it; there shall be work and security; the doors of learning and culture shall be opened; and there shall be houses, security and comfort?

Are the people sharing in the country’s wealth, or are BEE cronies amassing all the wealth? Is the land being “shared among those who work it” or being shared between the willing buyer and willing seller? Is there work and security? Or are our people being tormented by criminals on a daily basis? Are the doors of learning open, or are they open upon payment of school fees?

I am asking you these questions because you are fresh out of Cabinet and none of these aspects of the Freedom Charter were ever taken care of by your own holy government. In fact, this shows that this sudden love for the Freedom Charter is nothing but populist rantings that have nothing to do with the charter itself, but are about scoring points against the ANC where everybody knows it failed dismally, even under your own leadership.

Anyway, let me ask, is the Freedom Charter a bible that must be implemented word for word regardless of the conditions prevailing at a particular historical epoch? The charter must not be treated in this fashion; rather, it must be taken as a product of its epoch that may not be compatible with the aspirations of South Africans in the 21st century. I know very well that most South Africans would reject the aspect that talks about “nationalisation” at all costs”.

This does not mean I would agree with those that would seek to dismiss “nationalisation” as an option. I am just highlighting the fact that the Freedom Charter cannot be taken as given without scrutiny and development. Remember, the Freedom Charter is a product of inter-class compromises.

In fact, it even carries areas that are in direct contrast to each other, such as “The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole” (this is nationalisation), while “All people shall have equal rights to trade where they choose, to manufacture and to enter all trades, crafts and professions” (this is capitalism at its best).

In fact, as a communist these are some areas with which I totally disagree in the Freedom Charter. Some of them include clauses that encourage the development of capitalism while some openly gravitate towards capitalism.

It is within this context that South Africans have a duty to develop a common document that represents their collective aspirations today, because surely, other than the misuse of the Freedom Charter, the ruling elite in our country no longer find solace in this document.