When will the Free­dom Char­ter be re­alised in SA?

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

IT WAS not easy grow­ing up on the Cape Flats, es­pe­cially not in an area like Hanover Park, which was known for its gang­ster­ism and un­em­ploy­ment. But I grew up in the area more than 40 years ago and the sad thing is that the sit­u­a­tion does not seem to have im­proved.

When we were fight­ing against apartheid, we were in­spired by the Free­dom Char­ter, which promised that “there shall be houses, se­cu­rity and com­fort”.

It is some­times good to re­mind our­selves what was writ­ten in the Free­dom Char­ter, which was adopted at Klip­town, Soweto, on June 26, 1955. This is what it said un­der the clause of “houses, se­cu­rity and com­fort”:

“All peo­ple shall have the right to live where they choose, to be de­cently housed, and to bring up their fam­i­lies in com­fort and se­cu­rity; un­used hous­ing space to be made avail­able to the peo­ple; rent and prices shall be low­ered, food plen­ti­ful and no one shall go hun­gry; a pre­ven­tive health scheme shall be run by the state; free med­i­cal care and hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion shall be pro­vided for all, with spe­cial care for moth­ers and young chil­dren; slums shall be de­mol­ished, and new sub­urbs built where all have trans­port, roads, light­ing, play­ing fields, crèches and so­cial cen­tres; the aged, the or­phans, the dis­abled and the sick shall be cared for by the state; rest, leisure and recre­ation shall be the right of all; fenced lo­ca­tions and ghet­toes shall be abol­ished, and laws which break up fam­i­lies shall be re­pealed.”

In the dark days of apartheid, we saw in our minds a pic­ture of what the Free­dom Char­ter en­vis­aged. We were de­ter­mined that a demo­cratic South Africa would be one in which there would be no or lit­tle gang­ster­ism, that the gov­ern­ment would build de­cent houses and see to the other needs ex­pressed in this, and the nine other clauses in the Free­dom Char­ter.

It is sad that the sit­u­a­tion in most cases is still the same as it was un­der apartheid, es­pe­cially in the town­ships. Granted, there are black peo­ple who have ben­e­fited eco­nom­i­cally in demo­cratic South Africa but most peo­ple are still wait­ing to reap the ben­e­fits of the not-so-new South Africa.

In places like Hanover Park, fam­i­lies are still be­ing held hostage by gang­sters who op­er­ate with im­punity. For many young peo­ple, the only way to sur­vive is by join­ing gangs who, at least, pro­vide you with pro­tec­tion in cer­tain ar­eas.

Most of the young boys who grew up with me were wooed by gangs and some of them suc­cumbed. In an en­vi­ron­ment where you are not likely to ma­tric­u­late and, if you do, you are not likely to be able to af­ford to go to uni­ver­sity (or you might not qual­ify to go), and you will strug­gle to find work, gangs pro­vide a refuge against a mul­ti­tude of prob­lems.

Gangs of­ten pro­vide a home for young peo­ple who might not feel they be­long in so­ci­ety. I know, be­cause I flirted with be­ing a gang mem­ber in my early teens. For­tu­nately for me, san­ity pre­vailed and I con­cen­trated on my stud­ies.

I dis­cov­ered in those days that, if you had a tal­ent – such as be­ing good at mu­sic or sport – the gangs would al­low you the free­dom to pur­sue your dreams. It also helped if you were bet­ter than aver­age aca­dem­i­cally.

It is sad that things have not changed for the bet­ter in places like Hanover Park but it is even sad­der that things do not look like im­prov­ing any time soon.

It is not that gov­ern­ment does not know the prob­lems. The Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plan, which was launched five years ago this week, out­lines in a very com­pre­hen­sive man­ner the prob­lems in our so­ci­ety and the goals we need to achieve to be­come a bet­ter place.

The NDP out­comes, for in­stance, talk about “sus­tain­able hu­man set­tle­ments and im­proved qual­ity of life”, “im­proved qual­ity of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion”, “all peo­ple in South Africa are to feel safe” and “a long and healthy life for all South Africans”.

For peo­ple in Hanover Park and other town­ships on the Cape Flats, this means noth­ing. And it will con­tinue to mean noth­ing as long as peo­ple do not feel safe in their houses and are un­able to do any­thing to im­prove their liv­ing con­di­tions due to a lack of job op­por­tu­ni­ties or chances to en­gage the econ­omy in a mean­ing­ful way.

The gov­ern­ment needs to fo­cus be­yond the nar­row vi­sion that it seems to have and en­gage poor com­mu­ni­ties in a dis­cus­sion about how they can fi­nally feel that they have a stake in our coun­try. The Free­dom Char­ter says, “that our coun­try will never be pros­per­ous or free un­til all our peo­ple live in broth­er­hood, en­joy­ing equal rights and op­por­tu­ni­ties; that only a demo­cratic state, based on the will of all the peo­ple, can se­cure to all their birthright with­out dis­tinc­tion of colour, race, sex or be­lief ”.

More than 62 years af­ter the adop­tion of the Free­dom Char­ter and 23 years into our democ­racy, it would be im­por­tant for politi­cians to re­mem­ber these words.

Fisher is an in­de­pen­dent me­dia pro­fes­sional. Twit­ter: @ry­land­fisher

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.