Da Vinci celebrates the realisation of the principles of the Freedom Charter

The Freedom Charter was the statement of core principles of the South African Congress Alliance, which consisted of the African National Congress and its allies the South African Indian Congress, the South African Congress of Democrats and the Coloured People’s Congress. It is characterized by its opening demand; The People Shall Govern!
In 1955, the ANC sent out fifty thousand volunteers countrywide to collect ‘freedom demands’ from the people of South Africa. This system was designed to give all South Africans equal rights. Amongst these was a demand for  “Free and compulsory education, irrespective of colour, race or nationality”, which was with other demands synthesized into the final document by ANC leaders including Z.K. Mathews and Lionel ‘Rusty’ Bernstein.
The Charter was officially adopted on June 26, 1955 at a Congress of the People in Kliptown, Johannesburg. The meeting was attended by roughly three thousand delegates but was broken up by police on the second day, although by then the charter had been read in full. The crowd had shouted its approval of each section with cries of ‘Afrika!’ and ‘Mayibuye!’
The document is notable for its demand for and commitment to a non-racial South Africa. The charter also calls for democracy and human rights, land reform, labour rights and nationalization. After the congress was denounced as treason by the then South African government, the then ANC was banned and 156 activists were arrested, including Nelson Mandela who was imprisoned in 1962. However, the charter continued to circulate in the underground and inspired many a people to work towards a free and fair South Africa.
The Constitution of a democratic South Africa as agreed upon by fellow South Africans during 1994, included in its text many of the demands called for in the Freedom Charter. Nearly all the enumerated concerns regarding equality of race and language were directly addressed in the constitution. Matters related to the nationalization of industry and the redistribution of land, however still needs to be addressed in a meaningful way.
The principles of The Freedom Charter can be summarised as follows:
  • The people shall govern!
  • All national groups shall have equal rights!
  • The people shall share in the country`s wealth!
  • The land shall be shared among those who work it!
  • All shall be equal before the law!
  • All shall enjoy equal human rights!
  • There shall be work and security!
  • The doors of learning and culture shall be opened!
  • There shall be houses, security and comfort!
  • There shall be peace and friendship!
The Da Vinci Institute celebrates the marking of the realisation of these principles and is committed towards making a meaningful contribution to the development of sustainable solutions for the country. This is done by way of contributing towards the managerial leadership debate required to facilitate an engagement amongst all the people of our country in an attempt to co-create a future which will belong to all its people. 

Our Community have shared their thoughts on the Freedom Charter:

Mr Sechaba Motsieloa, Chairman of Da Vinci Council, “Any evolving society needs a vision that outlives the generation that conceives it.  For many generations to come, we, the people of South Africa, will forever be indebted to the people that adopted the Freedom Charter back in 1955 in Kliptown, Johannesburg.  It is the responsibility of current and future generations to make it relevant in their lifetime.”

Dr Shirley Lloyd, Alumni Representative on Da Vinci Council, The principles of the Freedom Charter remain as important and relevant today as when they were first penned and accepted. As South Africans we have come a far way in translating the words of the Charter into action. All South Africans have the vote; we have a wonderful constitution which provides for equality before the law, and human rights. Much remains to be done to implement the progressive vision and ideals of the Charter, especially in the realms of people sharing in the country’s wealth, land ownership, work and security and houses and comfort. We are reminded on a daily basis of the plight of many of our brothers and sisters. But I believe we must not get downhearted when we hear and see the often significant challenges we still have to overcome. I believe our young democracy has the benefit of being implemented and lived by robust, creative, vibrant and energetic people of all races groups, male and female alike. I believe that the spirit of those who carefully crafted the words of the Freedom Charter is in each one of us and we need to take courage that we can and must continue to work towards all the good things that being South African at this time in our history can bring.”

Mr Moeketsi Letseka, Educational Specialist on Da Vinci Council, The Freedom Charter is an historic document that arose out of nation-wide advocacy, organisation, lobbying and mobilisation of all progressive sections of society by the then Congress of the People Campaign. Adoption of the Charter during June 25-26 of 1955 therefore marked a pivotal point in the history of the struggle of the majority of the African peoples against a myriad of apartheid-induced injustices in South Africa. Pivotal in the sense that for the first time in the history of the anti-apartheid campaign an assertive and more focused document that epitomised a vision of the struggling masses of country was adopted. The Charter mapped out a vision for the mass democratic movements, a vision that made clear and unequivocal statements on:

Governance: “The people shall govern”;
Rights: “All national groups shall have equal rights”;  
Wealth: “All shall share in the country’s wealth”;
Land: “Land shall be shared among those who work it”;
Equality: “All shall be equal before the law”;
Human Rights: “All shall enjoy equal human rights”;
But for me as an educationist, the most important declaration of the Charter was on culture and education:
“The doors of learning and of culture shall be opened”.
60 years after the adoption of the Freedom charter we need to reflect on this very important statement on culture and education. In the introduction to my book, Open Distance Learning (ODL) in South Africa (Nova Publishers: New York, 2015) I note, in my rebuttal of Dr Mamphela Ramphele’s  (2013) irresponsible claim that South Africa’s education “was better before the advent of democracy”, that apartheid South Africa was a fascist state run by a minority white Afrikaner junta under the banner of the then conservative Nationalist Party (NP). The NP was unapologetic about its discriminatory and segregationist socio-political, economic and cultural stance”, a point Dr Ramphele knows too well given her background in the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM). The point of this is that the type of education provided under the circumstances in which one race presumed a position of superiority and arrogantly discriminated against other races that were different from it cannot be regarded as better for those against whom the system discriminated. To think like that is, to quote Algerian activist, Frantz Fanon (1986), to “have a black skin, but to wear a white mask”.
Where are we 60 years after the adoption of the Freedom Charter with respect to education and culture? Great strides have been made, and these need to be acknowledged. Access to education for the majority of South Africans has been achieved. The number of children enrolled in schools has more than quadrupled. The number of you people enrolling in higher education institutions has also increased exponentially.
The only Achilles Heel hounding our education system is ‘quality’. South Africa’s education system continues to perform poorly when assessed by continental and international evaluation bodies – The Southern and Eastern African Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ); Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), and the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), to mention a few. As I noted in my article my article, which appears in the Bloomington, Indiana-based international education journal, Phi Delta Kappan, “South African education has promises to keep and miles to go”, (Letseka, 2013).
Mr Richard Goddard, Da Vinci Faculty member, The anniversary of the Freedom Charter means many things for many different people. For me, the freedom of education is an important aspect to this Charter. Gone are the days where we create elitist education systems and segregated systems, such as `Bantu Education’, for the benefit of the few. Plato sums up the freedom of education: “Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.” (Plato, The Republic). Critical thinking and mode 2 learning is essential in our new South Africa if we wish to instil passion and grow entrepreneurship, especially amongst our youth.”