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Response to the Free Market Foundation

13 December 2012, 08:22

THE FREEDOM CHARTER AND NATIONALISATION OF MINES: response to the Free Market Foundation.

Floyd Shivambu

The ANC Youth League’s perspective officially released in 2010 towards the historic 1st National General Council of the ANC Youth League to substantiate the case for Nationalisation of Mines dealt substantially with the question of the Freedom Charter and Nationalisation of Mines. The perspective dedicated on chapter on this question, because the ANC Youth League foresaw the possibility of right-wing, unseasoned, and opportunistic elements misinterpreting the true meaning of the Freedom Charter when it says, “the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole; all other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the well-being of the people[1]”.

The Free Market Foundation has as part of its submissions to the ANC 53rd National Conference released a perspective which claims that nationalisation of Mines is not in the Freedom Charter.  It is not the first time, the Free Market Foundation makes this hilarious claim, and when they first did in February 2011, the ANC Youth League issued an official statement, which amongst other things said,

“Common about the group that is debating Nationalisation of Mines for the Free Market Foundation is the reality that all of them have not read the ANC Youth League’s perspective document on Nationalisation of Mines, which clarifies in great detail some of the concerns they raise in their booklet. To parade their political bankruptcy and intellectual laziness some members of the right wing group try to revise a tired argument that the Freedom Charter does not call for Nationalisation of Mines. This is despite the fact that the ANC Youth League dedicated adequate time to this question and clarifying beyond any doubt that the ANC and entire National Liberation Movement’s interpretation of the Freedom Charter is consistent with what the ANC resolved in the 3rd National General Council in 2010, i.e. greater consensus on nationalisation of Mines and other strategic sectors of the economy”. 

Now, to help the Free-markerteers understand this question better, we as defenders of the Freedom Charter, Economic Freedom Fighters and revolutionary activists who hold the values and principles of the ANC-led National Liberation Movement dear to our hearts, re-publish what the ANC Youth League’s perspective on Nationalisation of Mines says. Perhaps this will help educate and enlighten these people who continue to mislead themselves on the important question of Nationalisation of Mines. The full document is accessible on http://www.ancyl.org.za/show.php?id=5502.

“D. THE FREEDOM CHARTER

1.       The Freedom Charter is a document of the people of South Africa, hoisted by the ANC, SACP, COSATU, COSAS, SASCO, SANCO and all Mass Democratic Movement formations as the torchbearer that should lead South Africa to total political, social and economic emancipation of the black majority and Africans in particular. To the progressive Mass Democratic Movement, the Freedom Charter is a direct result of the two ANC Conferences before 1955 and a subsequent intensive, nation-wide consultative process led by the entire Congress movement with the people of South Africa. The Freedom Charter is therefore an expression of the social, political and economic will of South Africans, not personal intellectual property of the people who participated in its formulation.

  1. The Freedom Charter was proposed by the CAPE ANC region and a direct resolution of the ANC 42nd National Conference resolution in 1953, which instructed the National Executive Committee of the ANC, “to make immediate preparations for the organisation of a CONGRESS OF THE PEOPLE OF S.A.[2]" whose task shall be to work out a "FREEDOM CHARTER" for all peoples and groups in the country[3]
  2. “. The resolution on the Freedom Charter was re-affirmed in the ANC 43rd National Conference in 1954, which said “This Conference declares its unqualified support for the great Congress of the People sponsored by the National Organisations of this country. In this connection Conference enjoins all National Organisations, Church movements and associations to support, join in and participate in the great Campaign for the calling of the mighty Congress of the People having as its aim the drawing up of a Freedom Charter embodying the aspirations of the people of South Africa for a future free, united, multi-national, democratic community in which oppression and exploitation will be a thing of the past[4]”.

4.       The authentic Congress of the People adopted the Freedom Charter on the 26th of June 1955 in Kliptown in what is hailed as the greatest moment in the history of the National Liberation Movement in South Africa. Nelson Mandela says that “the intensive and nation-wide political campaigning that preceded it, the 2,844 elected delegates of the people that attended, the attention it attracted far and wide and the favourable comment it continues to receive at home and abroad from people of divers political opinions and beliefs long after its adoption, are evidence of this fact[5]”. The Freedom Charter heralded a heroic and dedicated struggle for the emancipation of the black majority and Africans in particular, and united all progressive forces against apartheid repression, oppression and exploitation. To this day, the clearest expression of the alliance’s common programme is the Freedom Charter. 

5.       Although adopted a year later, the ANC National Executive Committee report to the ANC 44th National Conference in 1955 said, “The Freedom Charter is the sum total of our aspirations, but more: it is the road to the new life. It is the uniting creed of all the people struggling for democracy and for their rights; the mirror of the future South Africa. The defeat of the Nationalists and the course of the Congress movement depend on every fighter for freedom grasping fully the meaning and significance, and the purpose of the Freedom Charter[6]”. Notably, the Freedom Charter was extensively deliberated upon in the 1956 Congress and faced fierce opposition from within the African National Congress, not only as a policy perspective, but the ultimate strategic objective of the African National Congress.

6.       Writing about the Freedom Charter in 1956, Nelson Mandela said. “Never before has any document or conference been so widely acclaimed and discussed by the democratic movement in South Africa. Never before has any document or conference constituted such a serious and formidable challenge to the racial and anti-popular policies of the country[7]”. In the ANC 44th National Conference in 1955, the National Executive Committee said, “The Charter is no patchwork collection of demands, no jumble of reforms[8]”.  Writing about the Freedom Charter in 1956, Nelson Mandela says, “The Charter is more than a mere list of demands for democratic reforms. It is a revolutionary document precisely because the changes it envisages cannot be won without breaking up the economic and political set-up of present South Africa[9]”.

7.       Various historical narrations point to the reality that the Freedom Charter is a product of intensive campaigns and engagement with the people of South Africa. The ANC NEC report to the 44th National Conference says that the Freedom Charter was adopted with “one million signatures: 450,000 in the Transvaal; 350,000 in the Cape; 150,000 in Natal; and 50,000 in the Free State”. The million signatures appended to the Freedom Charter happened within a population of 12,5 million people in South Africa, and this illustrates the weight the Freedom Charter has and no one could ever think of undermining or misinterpreting the Freedom Charter. The Freedom Charter belongs to the people of South Africa and such will never change anytime soon.

8.       To signify the vitality of the Freedom Charter in the African National Congress, the 1958 Constitution of the ANC declared that the Charter as one of the ANC’s aims and objectives. Under aims and objects, the 1958 ANC Constitution commits the ANC, “to strive for the attainment of universal adult suffrage and the creation of a united democratic South Africa on the principles outlined in the Freedom Charter[10]”. The ANC Constitution adopted in the 1991 National Conference reaffirms the same principle in saying that the aims and objectives of the ANC shall be “To end apartheid in all its forms and transform South Africa as rapidly as possible into a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic country based on the principles of the Freedom Charter[11]”. Since 1991, the ANC compels all its members to sign a declaration upon joining the organisation to solemnly declare to “abide by the aims and objectives of the ANC as set out in the Constitution and the Freedom Charter[12]”. What this means is that all members of the ANC currently joined the ANC to amongst other things, fulfil the principles of the Freedom Charter. The 1994, 1997, 2002 and 2007 Constitution re-affirms the principles of the Freedom Charter as aims and objectives of the ANC and obliges all members to abide by it’s the Charter upon joining the African National Congress.

9.       The vitality of the Freedom Charter in the Congress Movement cannot be overemphasised because it occupies a special space in the Congress movement. The Freedom Charter is the lifeblood of the Congress Movement and any attempt to replace it as a strategic vision has potential to turn the Congress alliance into a myopic formation. It is not only the replacement of the Freedom Charter which will impact on the ideological character of the Congress movement, but also attempts and actions that seek to give it a liberal interpretation.

Nationalisation vs. Ownership by the people as a whole

10.   In the ANC, “transfer of mineral wealth beneath the soil, monopoly industries and banks to the ownership of the people as a whole” was correctly understood as nationalisation, if the government that nationalises can justly claim authority and based on the will of the people. In the aftermath of the ANC’s adoption of the Freedom Charter, the ANC recurrently affirmed “transfer of ownership to the people as a whole” as amounting to a legitimate government’s control and ownership of the commanding heights of the economy or nationalisation.

11.   In 1955, the revolutionary ANC secretary general, Walter Sisulu said of the Freedom Charter that, “ it [The Freedom Charter] is the basic law of our liberatory movement, a declaration of principles uniting all the people in our land, except for the few reactionaries, who see in the Charter the end of their long established domination and exploitation. The Charter is the picture of future South Africa, in which oppression and exploitation shall be no more[13]”.

12.   Responding to a critique of the Freedom Charter by a Jordan K. Ngubane, who was against the economic clause of the Freedom Charter, President Albert Luthuli said in June 1956 that, “In modern society, even amongst the so-called capitalistic countries, nationalisation of certain industries and commercial undertakings has become an accepted and established fact. Only the uninitiated and ignorant would suggest that the Union of South Africa is going to Moscow because its Railways, Broadcasting and Post Office services are nationalised[14]”. President Luthuli further illustrated that nationalisation as called for in South Africa and in the Freedom Charter did not amount to the Moscow style command economy, and this point is categorically stated in the July 2009 ANC YL’s conceptual basis on nationalisation.

13.   Again in 1956, a leader of the ANC, Nelson Mandela said, “It is true that in demanding the nationalisation of the banks, the gold mines and the land the Charter strikes a fatal blow at the financial and gold-mining monopolies and farming interests that have for centuries plundered the country and condemned its people to servitude. But such a step is absolutely imperative and necessary because the realisation of the Charter is inconceivable, in fact impossible, unless and until these monopolies are first smashed up and the national wealth of the country turned over to the people[15]”. There is absolutely no confusion on the understanding the leadership of the ANC had on the Freedom Charter, and the contemporary interpretations should not confuse us.

14.   Former ANC President Oliver Tambo said in the 1969 political report of the National Executive Committee to the National Consultative Conference in Morogoro that, “At the moment there are vast monopolies whose existence affects the livelihood of large numbers of our people and whose ownership is in the hands of Europeans only. It is necessary for monopolies which vitally affect the social well-being of our people such as the mines, the sugar and wine industry to be transferred to public ownership so that they can be used to uplift the life of all the people[16]”. In his first public address after release from prison, former President Nelson Mandela said, “nationalisation of the mines, banks and monopoly industry is the policy of the ANC and a change or modification of our view in this regard is inconceivable[17]”. Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Chief Albert Luthuli and Nelson Mandela played critical role in the consultation for the Freedom Charter and adoption by the ANC, and they could not be mistaken.

15.   In 1955, South Africa’s economy was monumentally dependant on the extraction, production and trade of Mineral Resources. Minerals beneath the soil, whilst prospectively useful, cannot be shared amongst the people because they are beneath the soil, not extracted, produced and traded. The only reasonable way to ensure that the people share in the country’s wealth through transfer of mineral wealth beneath the soil to the ownership of the people as a whole had to necessarily happen through extraction, production, trade and beneficiation of these minerals. Reducing the “transfer ownership of mineral wealth beneath the soil” as literally referring to controlling of mineral rights is totally disingenuous and dishonest, and squarely falls within the liberal interpretation of what the Freedom Charter envisages”.

CONCLUSION

Now, with this background provided and the point proven beyond reasonable doubt, the Free Market Foundation should also be reminded that the ANC 3rd National General Council that took place in Durban in 2010 established greater consensus on Nationalisation of Mines and other strategic sectors of the economy. This perspective led to the research process that culminated in the State Intervention in the Minerals Sector (SIMS) report tabled for discussion at the Policy Conference and in 53rd National Conference.

Whilst there is absolutely nothing wrong for members of society and various groupings to try influence the policy direction of the ANC, they must not do so on wrong basis and foundation because such will simply fail. The question that ANC Conference will respond to is whether the people of South Africa are maximally benefitting from the current minerals and resource management strategy and formula. The fact is that they are not and there should be change and the most decisive and clearly defined intervention is transfer of mineral wealth, banks and monopoly industries to the ownership of the people as a whole.



[1] Freedom Charter

[2] ANC 42nd National Conference resolutions, Queenstown, December 1953

[3] Ibid.

[4] ANC 43rd National Conference resolutions, December 1954.

[5] Nelson Mandela, (1956), In our Lifetime, Liberation, June 1956

[6] ANC National Executive Committee report, ANC 44TH National Conference, 1955.

[7] Nelson Mandela, (1956), In our Lifetime, Liberation, June 1956.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Nelson Mandela, (1956), In our Lifetime, Liberation, June 1956

[10] ANC Constitution, January 1958.

[11] ANC Constitution, 1991

[12] ANC Constitution, 1991, 1994, 1197, 2002, 2007.

[13] Walter Sisulu, (1955), Forward with the Freedom Charter, Fighting Talk Journal, 1955.

[14] Chief Albert Luthuli, A REPLY BY ALBERT LUTHULI TO MR. JORDAN K. NGUBANE’S ATTACKS ON THE AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS, JUNE 5, 1956.

[15] Nelson Mandela, (1956), In our Lifetime, Liberation, June 1956

[16] ANC National Executive Committee Political Report to the 1st National Consultative Conference, Morogoro, 1969.

[17] Nelson Mandela public addresses in Cape Town, February 1990

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