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
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.
THE FALLACY OF FREEDOM
Despite numerous state policies on decent housing, many South Africans still live in informal settlements