THE NOBLE IDEALS OF THE FREEDOM CHARTER A GUIDE TO TOTAL LIBERATION
Today, June 26, marks 65 years since the adoption of the Freedom Charter in Kliptown by the multiracial Congress Alliance led by the African National Congress. One central figure behind the Freedom Charter was Robert Resha who would have turned 100 years this year.
His voice on Sunday, 26 June 1955 in Kliptown was recorded by one Van Zyl, a Special Branch detective who was in the crowd to build a case for the state that the Freedom Charter was a treasonous document. Van Zyl records Robert Resha to have said:
“Mr. Chairman, sons and daughters of South Africa, we have come here to decide the future and destiny of South Africa. THIS GROUND ON WHICH WE ARE STANDING TODAY IS HOLY, FRIENDS. THIS SHALL BE THE MONUMENT OF THE PEOPLE OF SOUTH AFRICA. Friends, let it be clear to us that THIS GREAT ASSEMBLY OF THE PEOPLE OF SOUTH AFRICA IS AN ASSEMBLY WHEREBY THE PEOPLE FROM TODAY MARCH ON TO FREEDOM. "
And Resha went on to say: " There are 2,884 delegates... Some were voiceless by the action of the police. They were prevented from coming to the conference. Their demands are here before us. EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE NOT HERE, THEIR VOICES WILL BE HEARD. THE CHARTER WILL HAVE GREATER SUPPORT THAN ANY OTHER DOCUMENT THAT HAS BEEN DRAWN UP”.
In his report to the NEC in December 1955 at the ANC Annual Conference, Oliver Tambo said: “The Freedom Charter is the sum total of our aspirations, but more: it is the road to new life. It is the uniting creed of all the people struggling for democracy and for their rights; the mirror of the future South Africa.”
Before 1994, June 26 was commemorated by the liberation movement as Freedom Day. In 1985, during the 30th anniversary of the Freedom Charter, Mzala Nxumalo said of the Freedom Charter:
"We defend, fight and die for, the ideals enshrined in the Freedom Charter, not because it is an all-time document, but because it is a revolutionary guide to a life free of misery and oppression. It is the demands of the people that have yet to be won. These are the kind of ideals which most nations achieve, ideals for which men and women stubbornly and heroically resist torture in detention and gruelling lives in exile, ideals for which our martyred dead stood firm and unflinching to the last minute of their lives. Such ideals cannot be taken lightly."
Indeed, we dare not take the demands and ideals of the Freedom Charter lightly. Day by day, we must put shoulder to wheel to achieve the vision of a united, non-racial, non-sexist, equal, and prosperous society.
Thanks to the youth league leader, Joe Matthews, who initially suggested the Freedom Charter campaign, which his father, Prof ZK Matthews proposed to the Cape ANC in August 1953, and was adopted as a national campaign in December 1953 under ANC President - General, Chief Albert Luthuli.