May Free­dom Char­ter re­main a guid­ing light

CityPress - - Voices -

South Africa be­longs to all who live in it, black and white. The peo­ple shall gov­ern. The peo­ple shall share. The doors of learn­ing and cul­ture shall be opened. All shall have equal rights.

These were some of the slo­gans that inspired gen­er­a­tions of South Africans to fight for a free na­tion.

But these were not mere slo­gans. They were drawn from the Free­dom Char­ter, that iconic doc­u­ment whose 60th an­niver­sary was cel­e­brated this week.

The char­ter drew its in­spi­ra­tion from other doc­u­ments that sparked rev­o­lu­tions and strug­gles for lib­erty and equal­ity in pre­vi­ous eras.

The char­ter is spe­cial be­cause it was not dic­tated by lead­ers and in­tel­lec­tu­als but was born of a ground-up process. In the months pre­ced­ing the June 1955 Congress of the Peo­ple in Klip­town, Soweto, vol­un­teers of the ANC and al­lied or­gan­i­sa­tions fanned the coun­try to seek the in­put of or­di­nary peo­ple.

The re­sult was a doc­u­ment that re­flected the as­pi­ra­tions of the peo­ple and spoke of the dream South Africa that they wanted to live in.

Yes, it was ide­al­is­tic, but that is what great vi­sions are about. They speak of a per­fect so­ci­ety and in­spire cit­i­zens to reach for it, bit by bit.

The prac­ti­cal­ity of im­ple­men­ta­tion may be over­taken by time, but the ideal is time­less.

Sixty years af­ter that Klip­town gath­er­ing, we live in a coun­try that was freed by a peo­ple who were inspired by the ideals of the Free­dom Char­ter. That coun­try is gov­erned by a Con­sti­tu­tion based on the val­ues of the char­ter.

It is a credit to the char­ter that po­lit­i­cal par­ties across the ide­o­log­i­cal spec­trum are to­day fight­ing over the true cus­to­di­an­ship of its val­ues. This shows that it re­mains our lodestar. May it re­main thus, even in the midst of crises and de­spon­dency.

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