News24

Labour veteran selling Charter

2010-03-15 22:26

Cape Town - The signed copy of the Freedom Charter that is to be auctioned in London this month has been put up for sale by former union leader Leon Levy.

Levy, 80, said on Monday that he had had the document since about 1960, and that it represented his "retirement fund".

The copy is signed by ANC president Albert Luthuli, Levy in his capacity as president of the SA Congress of Trade Unions, and the presidents of the National Indian Congress, the SA Coloured Peoples Congress and the SA Congress of Democrats.

National importance

Though the auction is being held at Bonhams in London, the document itself is in South Africa, as the SA Heritage Resources Agency has declared it an item of outstanding national importance and has declined an export permit.

Speaking from his Sea Point flat, Levy said that after the charter was adopted at the Congress of the People in Kliptown in 1955, in the years that followed each of the individual congresses' executives had formally adopted the document as well.

"So each president signed it, not necessarily on the same date. I kept mine: I kept it over the years," he said.

Very small pension


Asked why he was auctioning it, he said: "Because it's my retirement fund. I've no difficulty in explaining that."

"However much longer I've got to live, that will go into my retirement fund and keep me going."

He said he had a very small pension.

Levy said the document had over the years been hanging on the wall of his flat.

He had chosen Bonhams as a reputable auctioneer because he thought they would either offer it to the South African government or make it clear to the government that it was going to be auctioned.

'Delighted if museum takes it'


"I wouldn't want to let it go (out of the country). I would be delighted if one of the museums takes it," he said.

Bonhams said last week that the document was expected to fetch between R221 561 and R332 156 on March 24.

It said the seller wished to remain anonymous.

It will be sold alongside 230 works of South African artists, including Irma Stern, Maggie Laubser and Jacob Pierneef.

Levy was a founder member and the second president of Sactu, which was formed in 1955.

He was a defendant in the treason trial from 1956 until 1961, was banned in 1957, detained for five months during the 1960 state of emergency, and left South Africa on an exit permit in 1963.