A few months ago, I found myself in a stuffy room crammed with people from every walk of life.
I could just make out the silver beard of our former deputy president, Kgalema Motlanthe, sandwiched between a frail old woman and a chubby youngster in a Chiefs jersey.
At the back, a self-appointed security guard tried to keep the door shut to keep people out, whispering “Kudcwele!” (It’s full!)
At the front, next to a makeshift screen, stood a man trying to facilitate a discussion that everyone else was engrossed in.
We were in a commission room at the provincial congress of the ANC. It is in rooms like these that the policy directive of the ANC, and then the government, is shaped.
Given the vast differences in outlook, you would think this crowded room would sound like a pub on a day when the Springboks are playing, but it was surprisingly muted and everyone awaited their turn to speak.
Somewhere in there was a scribe tasked with the unenviable task of crafting the different reflections into something coherent. But the understanding of policy and economics isn’t universal, even between comrades spouting the same rhetoric.
A previous speaker had waxed lyrical about the National Development Plan (NDP) and the eyes that had glazed over when he spoke came alive with agreement when a mama asked: “This NDP, it’s great, but how can it be simplified?”
I remembered this when I reflected on the anniversary of our Constitution this week. It’s been 18 years since Mandela signed it into law in Sharpeville on December 10 1996. It was the first time South Africa had a Constitution supreme to any other and ... it was lauded across the world.
Much of the content was inspired by the Freedom Charter of 1955, but it is uncanny how much of the style was also influenced by that document.
The simplicity of the charter’s 10 commandments is mirrored in the pillars of the Constitution – democracy, equality, reconciliation, diversity, responsibility, respect, freedom.
These are in the exact order as the corresponding right’s clauses in the charter, barring the material aspects. Even the powerful preambles are easy to follow and remember.
As a youngster, I and other strugglets (children of soldiers of the struggle) were made to memorise the charter. It wasn’t that hard – all of our desires could fit on a single page.
Try doing that with the NDP right now … Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
The mama had hit the nail on the head. Many of our political texts are too complex. What is now needed in respect of the “second phase of our transition” is the simplicity of a charter – the Economic Freedom Charter.
I can just see it now with nine or 10 tenets saying things like:
No hunger – no African shall go to bed hungry in our country. African trade is key – we shall trade with other Africans and drop visa, monetary and logistical restrictions among African countries.
No raw goods – we shall export only finished goods. All land shall be vested in the state with secure tenure for anyone using it for private or commercial use. We shall be productive – and produce just 9% of the world’s goods.
Sweat capital – the toil of poor workers shall be recognised as fair tender for certain goods. Corruption shall be outlawed. Education shall teach people to be global entrepreneurs.
I would love to be on the drafting team of this charter. And I would drop in something just for you, dear reader – “No JanuWorry!”
Have a great festive season.