On Tuesday and Wednesday, it will be 64 years since thousands of people converged on Kliptown, outside Johannesburg, to draw up the Freedom Charter, which for many years acted as a beacon of the kind of society we would all love to live in once apartheid had been destroyed and a democratic government installed.
Most of the people who were at the Congress of the People have passed on, but the document that they left behind is a powerful legacy of what South Africa should have become over the past 25 years of democracy and what it probably could still become.
Most of the key points of the Freedom Charter are contained in the Constitution of South Africa, adopted in 1996 and which has been guiding our democracy since then. What made the Freedom Charter unique is that it was the first document to be drawn up with the involvement of thousands of people of all races from around the country, not all of whom attended the two-day congress at Kliptown.
Many people had sent their demands and vision of a new South Africa in the hope that they would be incorporated in the final document.
What attracted many to the Freedom Charter was the opening paragraph: “We, the People of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know: that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people; that our people have been robbed of their birthright to land, liberty and peace by a form of government founded on injustice and inequality; that our country will never be prosperous or free until all our people live in brotherhood, enjoying equal rights and opportunities; that only a democratic state, based on the will of all the people, can secure to all their birthright without distinction of colour, race, sex or belief; And therefore, we, the people of South Africa, black and white together equals, countrymen and brothers adopt this Freedom Charter; And we pledge ourselves to strive together, sparing neither strength nor courage, until the democratic changes here set out have been won.”