Freedom Charter guides ANC's vision

2014-10-01 13:45

There is renewed debate on whether the ANC is still guided by the Freedom Charter.

A range of viewpoints that interpret the charter in either revisionist or fundamentalist terms arises in this space, where three clauses in the charter tend to be contested and misinterpreted.

The first pertains to wealth being restored to the people. There is deliberate ignorance, even dismissal, of the fact that the transfer of mineral wealth beneath the soil to the state on behalf of the people as a whole has been legislated.

The royalties legislation is aimed at ensuring that those who gain from mining our resources also contribute to the state.

Among the numerous reasons critics would not note this fact is that they are, in most cases, motivated by personal greed. As we continue to deracialise our economy, these critics do not spare the emerging black capitalist class from their scathing attack.

Black wealth is ridiculed and every successful black person is said to be either corrupt or connected to the political elite. This line of argument is a reflection of the racial, colonial oppression our country is trying hard to emerge from.

It is imperative the ruling party facilitates systematic empowerment of black people in general and Africans in particular. Such endeavours are intended to create conditions where entrepreneurs, particularly black entrepreneurs, can sprout and thrive.

Consequently, instead of insulting this emerging class, those who have opted to be critics should defend it.

Another aspect manifest in the attack on black capital is the hidden view that wealth is a privilege and prerogative of whites. In that view, only a certain chosen few blacks should be allowed in at the behest of the supposed natural owners of wealth.

Critics of black wealth seem to criticise from a standpoint of historical ignorance. They lack the consciousness that prior to, even in the aftermath of, blacks being dispossessed and restricted by the apartheid laws, they were creators and owners of wealth.

The restriction of the ownership of land on a racial basis has ended. Land is now being redivided among those who work it. We must create farmers by identifying those with passion, competence and ability to be beneficiaries of the land redistribution programme.

The other criticism is that the ANC has neglected the working class in general, particularly workers in the manufacturing sector. Concrete reality indicates that all government programmes focus on the poor and working classes.

A proper analysis of social grants, with the quantification of their impact among the most deserving families, offers a positive outlook that contradicts the usual gloom.

The poor and working classes are beneficiaries of the no-fee schools policy and children from poor households receive a meal a day in school.

We should bear in mind that the working class comprises everyone who depends on selling their labour to earn a living and not just those organised in particular federations or trade unions.

Through projects supported by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), the manufacturing sector broadly and the metal and steel sector in particular are the biggest beneficiaries.

For example, the IDC funded the acquisition of majority shares in Busmark, a company assembling buses for bus rapid transit systems, consuming 80% locally manufactured parts in the process.

Furthermore, the IDC provided support to Bell Equipment, a Richards Bay-based manufacturing company employing 3?500 workers; has funded the wind tower manufacturing facility in Coega; and has rescued Scawmetal from foreign ownership that intended to strip it.

The manufacturing sector has been heavily subsidised by government, without which there would be job losses of untold proportion.

Consequently, suggesting the ANC has abandoned the charter by shunning the poor and the working class is both obfuscation and fallacy. Beneath the attack is an ideological battle divorced from reality.

Our commitment to industrialisation is backed by concrete programmes.

The IDC and other government development institutions – such as the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the Land Bank – should be encouraged to distribute information on what they are doing. The result will be a better-informed citizenry.

Fundamentally, the motivation behind these various programmes of our government is the fulfilment of the dream that “there shall be work for all”, “the wealth of the country shall be shared by all” and “the land shall be shared among all those who work it”.

We appreciate every effort to ensure the ANC moves faster and radically towards full attainment of what is contained in the Freedom Charter. Next year, when we celebrate the charter’s diamond jubilee, we will account on how we have fared to realise the vision of our forebears.

In spite of biased criticism, the Freedom Charter remains our blueprint and our vision of a national democratic society.

Mantashe is ANC secretary-general

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