South Africa: Where is the Freedom Charter?

In The Politics of Politics on June 17, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Lindela Figlan, Pambazuka

Before the government can use its muscle to pass the Protection of Information Bill, let me ask a question. It is a very good question and all those who are unhappy have got this question in their mind. Where is the Freedom Charter?I remember that when I was still young, the comrades used to make me understand it line by line. We were expecting our government to implement what is in the Freedom Charter. But is this society the free society that we were fighting for? If the answer is yes then why are the people that we are referring to as our leaders deciding to ignore the Freedom Charter?

The Freedom Charter is not a difficult thing to understand. Everyone can feel it as a human being. It is the foundation for eliminating and eradicating human suffering. But in our days when you talk about the Freedom Charter you are made to seem like a traitor to a newly freedom. If you ask someone about the implementation of the Freedom Charter you are told ‘no comrade, we are getting there.’ You are told that you must trust your leaders. But where is the leader who strongly believes in the Freedom Charter? If there are leaders who do believe in the Freedom Charter why do they keep their mouths shut? Why is the Freedom Charter not printed in every ID book? If the government is really implementing the Freedom Charter why are people complaining everywhere? Why are they on the streets everywhere? Why are they struggling everywhere? Why are they being repressed everywhere? Why are they being locked behind bars like before? Why are they being killed by the police as used to happen in the past?

People are complaining about leaders that are being imposed on them from above. People nominate their preferred candidates but later they see other people in these positions. People are complaining about the lack of basic services. People are complaining about forced removals and evictions. People are complaining about development by force and not participation. People are complaining because they have no work.

Yet these protests are being treated like the protests against apartheid.

It was good that there was a bold promise to remove those who got councillor’s nominations fraudulently. But now they are talking about all the processes and procedures that they must follow. It seems that those who are making their luxury through exploiting the poor physically and mentally have ways to stay in their positions. They will keep their positions and their tenders. They will keep their bright futures and their children in goods schools. But what will happen to us and to our children?

How are the poor going to make sure that our voices count? In fact how are we going to make sure that our lives count? One thing is for sure. We cannot rely on other people, like politicians and NGOs, to speak for us. We have to organise ourselves and we have to speak for our selves. We have to organise to build our own power. A voice without power behind it does not change the world.

If the ruling party was on the side of the poor it would encourage us to organise ourselves and to speak for ourselves. It would understand that it needed our power from below to go against the power of the rich from above. But instead it is always repressing the struggles of the poor.

The government is even planning to use its muscle, most of it given to the government by the poor, to lock away our right to know by passing the Protection of Information Bill. When we are evicted as the poor we are forced out of the cities and into the human dumping grounds. We have called this forced ruralisation. When we are denied access to information we are forced out of the real discussions of the country. This is another kind of forced removal. It is also trying to keep us in our place. In the place where the politicians think that we should be kept.

Our Ministers when they address the people they say that the people on the ground form part of the government. Now if we are forming part of the government then who is this information going to be protected against?

Also our governments say that together we can do more. How can they say this when the people want to know whatsoever is happening and the government wants to lock them out from knowing? We all know that they want to do more corruption and that they don’t want the people to interfere with their corruption. Anyone who exposes it will be locked and the keys will be thrown away.

Maybe this is what we were really fighting for? Maybe the Freedom Charter was only a way to bluff us? Maybe now they are showing their true colours? I am worried because some people are deciding to vote otherwise and so maybe we can go back where we came from. What must we do? This bill is bringing something very bad over our future. I wonder what Biko, Hani, Sisulu and all the others would say about this? I remember how it was always said that the blood of the people that died in the struggle would water the tree of freedom. This is not freedom. That blood is watering something else. It is called oppression.

Those who have been oppressed know all the tricks to oppress other people. They know that when you are oppressing the people then information is dangerous in the hands of the people. The Slums Act was aimed at forcing us out of the cities. This Bill is aimed at forcing us out of democracy. We opposed the Slums Act and we must oppose this Bill too. We defeated the Slums Act and we can defeat this Bill too.


* Lindela Figlan is the former vice-president of Abahlali baseMjondolo. He works as a security guard.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


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