The wilt­ing Holy Grail

June 26 marked the of the adop­tion of SA’s Free­dom Char­ter. A new book un­packs the lived legacy – and gov­ern­ment’s fail­ings – of the char­ter

CityPress - - Voices - BINWE ADE­BAYO binwe.ade­bayo@city­ 60 Years of the Free­dom Char­ter: NO cause to celebrate for the work­ing class

Var­i­ous au­thors 78 pages R60 di­rectly from the Work­ers World Media Pro­duc­tions WWMP Face­book page

Like many of the world’s fa­mous po­lit­i­cal doc­u­ments that were in­tended to change the so­cial sta­tus quo, South Africa’s Free­dom Char­ter has come un­der sig­nif­i­cant scru­tiny – both in terms of va­lid­ity and its ap­pli­ca­tion in the con­text of to­day’s South Africa. In essence, ques­tions are be­ing asked about whether it has achieved the ob­jec­tives it es­poused. A new book writ­ten by sev­eral aca­demics, ac­tivists and those in­volved in civil so­ci­ety ef­forts ar­gues it has not. From the out-and-out fail­ure of var­i­ous land re­form and hous­ing en­deav­ours to the con­tin­ued ed­u­ca­tion strug­gle and the more sub­tle and in­sid­i­ous di­vi­sion of black peo­ple into the vague but pow­er­ful cat­e­gories of mid­dle and work­ing class, the Free­dom Char­ter, they ar­gue, is no longer a guide or an ac­cu­rate re­flec­tion of a so-called free South Africa.

The book is well laid out, metic­u­lously ar­gued and cov­ers an ar­ray of sub­jects, all of which are es­sen­tial to these dis­cus­sions. This is prob­a­bly be­cause they have cho­sen to in­clude the ideas of some well­known ex­perts on the is­sue, in­clud­ing lec­turer and so­cial ac­tivist Dr Richard Pit­house.

But it’s a bit of a tough read and can feel a lit­tle aca­demic at times. I had to ques­tion whether I would be able to step into the text the same way if I had not stud­ied pol­i­tics or been au fait with South African so­cioe­co­nomic history and pol­icy.

There are some as­sump­tions of prior knowl­edge, which make the book per­fect for those al­ready in­ter­ested in these is­sues – and a lit­tle daunt­ing for oth­ers.

How­ever, what stands out is the com­mit­ment to prob­lem-solv­ing and, like the ex­tract be­low sug­gests, a will­ing­ness to give credit where it is due.

All in all, this is the kind of text that needs to be cir­cu­lated, es­pe­cially in the con­text of a po­lit­i­cal land­scape that uses the Free­dom Char­ter as a ral­ly­ing point, draw­ing on sen­ti­ment rather than fact.


De­spite nu­mer­ous state poli­cies on de­cent hous­ing, many South Africans still live in in­for­mal set­tle­ments

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.