Mbeki: Freedom Charter led to new SA

The loyalty of the overwhelming majority of South Africans to the Freedom Charter’s vision has made the country what it is today, which many have described as a miracle, President Thabo Mbeki said on Friday.

Mbeki painted a moving picture of the Freedom Charter—the 50th anniversary of which is to be commemorated at Kliptown on Sunday.

“The determination made by the Freedom Charter, that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, now also reflected in our Constitution, decisively repudiated the dismal future for our country that those who had superior weapons had sought to impose,” he said.

Celebrations at Kliptown will be followed by a people’s assembly attended by most parliamentarians—bar some opposition parties who have dubbed it a ruling African National Congress (ANC) event—on Monday. The celebrations will commemorate the charter, which underpins the ideological vision of the ruling party.

Writing in the African National Congress’ online publication, ANC Today, Mbeki said the Congress of the People at Kliptown in 1955 gave an opportunity to all South Africans, black and white, to decide together what needed to be done to end the conflict, first heralded by the events at Mossel Bay in 1488 with the arrival of a Portuguese fleet under the command of Bartolomeu Dias.

What defined the outcome of the Congress of the People was the support of the masses for the vision for South Africa explained by then ANC president Albert Luthuli as “a true partnership of all communities making up its multi-racial nature”.

“This month all our people will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the adoption of this one basic political statement of our goals to which all genuinely democratic and patriotic forces of South Africa adhere.

“We will participate in these celebrations inspired that the perspective projected by that basic political statement now informs our constitutional order and defines the relations among our diverse people.

The president noted that it had been 517 years ago in 1488 that a Portuguese fleet under the command of Bartolomeu Dias had stopped at Mossel Bay on its way to India. Sailors had come on land to collect fresh water.
A group of Khoikhoi saw these “goings-on”. However, they stood some distance away from the sailors and would not take the gifts.

After the Khoi threw stones at the Portuguese, Dias picked up a crossbow and killed one of the Khoi with an arrow.

“This was the first African in South Africa to be killed by a European. The Khoi who lived around Mossel Bay would not have known that the comrade they lost was but the first martyr in a conflict that only ended 506 years later, in 1994 [with the advent of non-racial democracy].”

Mbeki said the distinguishing feature of South Africa that ultimately emerged after that first minor skirmish at Mossel Bay was the racist domination and exploitation of the black majority by a white minority.

“This meant that our country’s future was predicated on permanent conflict between black and white, given the reality that the interests of these two sections of our population stood in contradiction one to the other.”

Mbeki argues that the charter set the tone for South Africa’s liberation from colonialism and apartheid.

“The Freedom Charter contains the fundamental perspective of the vast majority of the people of South Africa of the kind of liberation that we all of us are fighting for.”

Apparently responding to opposition criticism, he said: “Hence it is not merely the Freedom Charter of the African National Congress and its allies.

Rather it is the charter of the people of South Africa for liberation.

“It was drawn up on the basis of the demands of the vast masses of our country and adopted at an elected congress of the people. Because it came from the people, it remains still a people’s charter, the one basic political statement of our goals to which all genuinely democratic and patriotic forces of South Africa adhere.”-Sapa and I-Net Bridge

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