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  • African National Congress
  • Nelson Mandela (bio)

We dealt with [the question of South Africa's political future] in very clear terms as far back as 1955 when we published a Freedom Charter, which contains our basic policy. That document is the most devastating attack on all forms of racialism. In fact, we go so far as to declare the preaching of racialism a criminal offense.

We also declare that all national groups will have equal status in the law, and their rights, the basic rights of which they are entitled to as citizens. We'll be creating a bill of rights which will be enforceable by an independent judiciary. In the public sector, there will be no racialism at all. Nevertheless, we recognize the diversity of the population, and we say that each national group will have the right to establish its own schools if it wants to, to give instruction in its own language, to retain its own culture and its own religion.

We also declare that no government can be established without the will of the people. A government should represent the people of the country as a whole. And for that reason, we call for the implementation of one person, one vote.

I think that the Freedom Charter is not only a blueprint for the future of Africa we're fighting for, but it is the only policy in the country—both inside and outside parliament—which guarantees to every South African full rights, the rights which are based on the principle [of] one person, one vote. That is the type of South Africa which we visualize.

We have amplified the issues which I have referred to just now. We declare, for example, for a multiparty system, and our own conception of South Africa is one where full democracy reigns fully without any restrictions. [Interview with the Washington Post, 27 June 1990.]

Our people demand democracy. Our country, which continues to bleed and suffer pain, needs democracy. It cries out for the situation where the law will decree that freedom to speak of freedom constitutes the very essence of legality, and the very thing that makes for the legitimacy of the constitutional order.

It thirsts for the situation where those who are entitled by law to carry arms as the forces of national security and law and order will not turn their weapons against the citizens simply because the citizens assert that equality, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are fundamental human rights which are not only inalienable, but must, if necessary, be defended with the weapons of war.

We fight for and visualize a future in which all shall—without regard [End Page 32] to race, color, creed or sex—have their right to vote and to be voted into all elective organs of state. We are engaged in struggle to ensure that the rights of every individual are guaranteed and protected through a democratic constitution, the rule of law, and an entrenched bill of rights, which shall be enforced by an independent judiciary as well as a multiparty political system . . . .

What we have said concerning the political arrangements we seek for our country is seriously meant. It is an outcome for which many of us went to prison, for which many have died in police cells, on the gallows, in our towns and villages, and in the countries of southern Africa. Indeed, we have even had our political representatives killed in countries as far away from South Africa as France. Unhappily, our people continue to die to this day, victims of armed agents of the state who are still determined to turn their guns against the very idea of a nonracial democracy . . . .

To deny any persons their human rights is to challenge their very humanity. To impose on them a wretched life of hunger and deprivation is to dehumanize them, but such has been the terrible fate of all black persons in our country under the system of apartheid. The extent of the deprivation of millions of people has to be seen to be believed. The injury is made the more intolerable by the opulence of our white compatriots and the deliberate distortion of the...


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