Johannesburg - Today marks the 67th anniversary of that critical moment in this country when a document was imposed on the natives to say their land “belongs to all who live in it”.
This Freedom Charter, somewhat emerged at a Congress of the People in Kliptown, on this day in 1955. This is a document that promised the oppressed people heaven and earth, while assuring the oppressive settlers and other races that their interests would be looked after as they too are entitled to the wealth of this country.
So much promise of freedoms, so much guarantees for the ill-gotten gains from colonialism and apartheid for the sake of a self-contradictory “non-racial”, yet racially unequal society! It is in this context that Afrikan people felt the “celebrated” document basically betrayed them and therefore called it the “Freedom Cheater”.
So, 26 June 1955 effectively saw the ANC departing from its original Pan Afrikanist character by adopting this document which is widely reported to have been smuggled into that historic Kliptown meeting by communist Jews from Eastern Europe.
Afrikanists within the ANC fought fiercely to resist this betrayal against a very tight hand of capture by other races to no avail. Led by Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, the Afrikanists consequently left the ANC to start a movement rooted in Pan Afrikanism - the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC), the return of the land and the reclamation of the wealth of the country to the natives.
For almost four decades after its adoption, thousands of black people believed that the Freedom Charter would usher in liberation, hence their leaders ensured that the farcical view that “South Africa belongs to all who live it” was repeated in the preamble of the Constitution of the “rainbow” South Africa in 1996.
This is an extremely ridiculous position; no wonder there is no constitution in the whole world that has auctioned its country to anyone who happens to “live in it”. Thus, it makes sense that this day be “commemorated” by those let down or cheated by this arrangement, while those who think they have benefited from this skewed narrative may have reasons to “celebrate” this Freedom Charter-induced constitutional dispensation.
I have had to proffer this reflection on the critically absurd issue (of the Freedom Charter) against the backdrop of a dramatic week which saw the erstwhile coloniser of the Congo, Belgium, returning the tooth of one of the outstanding revolutionary anti-colonial leaders in Afrika, Emery Patrice Lumumba, to his family.
The tooth, the only part that constitutes his remains, was kept “as a trophy” by the evil colonial powers in Brussels. Lumumba, who had led the Republic of Congo to independence on 30 June, 1960, became its first prime minister - an office he held for only four months when Belgian agents deposed him in September that year.
Lumumba was later captured before being severely tortured and brutally assassinated by execution and his dismembered body dissolved in acid in January 1961. The funeral ceremony will be held next Thursday in Kinshasa to coincide with the country’s 62nd anniversary of Independence Day.
Like Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah and Burkina Faso’s Thomas Sankara, Lumumba was one of a handful of Afrikan revolutionary leaders who refused to sell their own people to their former colonial masters by fighting neo-colonisation of their countries after independence.
And for this, they paid the ultimate price! Indeed, leaders like these have proven to be as scarce as hen’s teeth in the post-independence and “post-apartheid” Afrika.
The truth is that white supremacy is such an omnipotent and omnipresent monster that manifests itself in multifarious ways, including fear, patronage, assimilation, affirmation, mental slavery, self-hate and black disunity.
This resuscitates the painful wound of the ultimate price and huge sacrifices that our people paid for the liberation of all Afrikan people on this continent. It’s such things that pose the hauntingly pestilential question as to what our leaders and martyrs died fighting for.
Did Lumumba, Sankara, Nkrumah, Eduardo Mondlane, Steve Biko, Sobukwe, Anton Lembede and Chris Hani die for the sham and circus that Afrika is experiencing today?
The second incident that I really wish to comment on is the release of the last instalment of the much-hyped report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector including Organs of State (the so-called Zondo Commission) on Wednesday - coincidentally the day on which the remains of Lumumba arrived in the DRC.
The entire report, in fact, contains nothing more than what the people expected, namely the shenanigans that the erstwhile liberation movement, ANC, was centrally involved in the composite malfeasance of what has become known as “state capture”.
This seems to confirm the statement by its own leader, Cyril Ramaphosa, who in one of his appearances at the Commission last year said something to this effect: “We must acknowledge that our movement, the African National Congress, has been and remains deeply implicated in South Africa’s corruption problem”.
Strangely, or coincidentally, the report, significantly delayed, was released when the country was still seized with the discourse of the incredulous mess and indiscretion at Ramaphosa’s farm in Bela-Bela where millions of US dollars reportedly stuffed under mattresses or “furniture” were stolen in what has now become infamously known as the “farmgate” scandal.
This thing surfaced after Arthur Fraser had laid a criminal complaint against Ramaphosa at a police station in Johannesburg on June 1. As I write this piece, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is yet to charge Ramaphosa.
It’s so inexplicable, but predictable still. The stakes are very high as the implications of his being charged are dire as it will definitely impact on his Presidency in both the party and government. And those whose livelihoods and stomachs literally depend on his political relevance will do whatever it takes to spin and doctor this obvious mess.
It is quite ludicrous and outright laughable how his supporters, including the mainstream media, some so-called political analysts and academics have gone to the extent of twisting and turning obvious matters in his defence.
Critically, the controversial step-aside rule of the ANC is triggered only upon a member being criminally charged. It is against this backdrop that the utterances of his allies and the moves (or lack thereof) on the part of the law enforcement agencies, including the NPA, and some in the other arms of government should be viewed. We need to be circumspect in this regard.
It’s hard to believe that there are even some who have, in a topsy-turvy style, gone to an extent of venturing some pathetic and folly analyses to suggest that Ramaphosa is the “victim” of the mess at his Phala Phala farm.
But, as I said three weeks ago, the NPA is unavoidably under the spotlight, and it needs to respect its own mandate and act “without fear, favour or prejudice”.
Also, Zondo did make some findings on Ramaphosa, including the issue of the Bosasa donation and his testimony relating to his role as deputy president and head of government business.
I don’t know what people will make of the statement that the president “was not entirely truthful” on some of the critical matters.
Is it a “polite” way of saying the president was lying? What is a half-truth or near-truth? From an integrity point of view, what does this tell us? At the end of the day, it’s up to the ANC itself to deal with its own demons.
However, as the ruling party, South Africans should be concerned. It’s clear that the factional contestations within the ANC have proven to impact on ordinary citizens as the proverbial grass in the fight between two elephants.
So, the furore that followed the release of the last so-called State Capture report was predictably used in an attempt to douse the flames of the Phala Phala veld fires, so to speak.
And, as this happens, the clock keeps ticking, and it’s now 26 days since the criminal complaint was reported to the police (and Ramaphosa is yet to be charged).
I strongly believe that the people of this country should not be distracted by the noise around the Zondo Report.
We should also be vigilant and not allow ourselves to be distracted from the criminal complaint pertaining to the Phala Phala melodrama.
Methinks, the law must be applied fairly regardless of who is implicated in whatever form of criminal activities. That’s what the expression, “without fear, favour or prejudice” presupposes.
It does not inspire confidence when only members of a certain faction (RET) are the ones targeted for prosecution, while others (WMC faction) are conveniently left alone.
This is highly hypocritical. And to this extent, such factional approaches within the ANC have emaciated the organisation and painfully collapsed this country literally and metaphorically. It’s a sad reality that the once promising country in Afrika has been reduced to a hollow shell. We are a failed state already.
One may, therefore, be justified to assert that the mess and misgovernance of the ANC has effectively put paid to the myth of the so-called South African exceptionalism and the mirage of a rainbow nation.
What hurts us most, as black people, is that we know what to do about our condition. We know that we have to unite in order to remove the system and the people responsible for our pain and misery in the last 28 years.
Yet, other races easily catalyse the divisions by manifesting an anti-black perspective among us, and vilify with utmost viciousness, any pro-black voice while sanitising puppets of whiteness and white capital.
Then I remember that Enoch Sontonga composed the hymn/song Nkosi Sikelela iAfrika (God bless Afrika) almost 125 years ago. Could this have been prophetic?
Whilst on this, Ephraim Kgatle cries out Thusa Afrika (Go help South Africa). He further employs God to help Afrika as a whole, especially because this is our only home. We thus have nowhere to run to as per his line Re tla tshabela kae? Mayibuye iAfrika. Izwe Lethu!
David Letsoalo is a Sankarist, an activist and Law academic