- The Freedom Charter and its legacy:results and prospects
These essays and interventions have their roots in a University of Johannesburg Sociology, Anthropology and Development Studies Seminar (SADSS) on August 5, 2015, in which professor John S Saul addressed the theme of the Freedom Charter’s sixtieth anniversary by segueing from ‘South Africa’s Freedom Charter and its legacy: reflections on anti-colonial programmes, post-colonial practices, and possibilities for the future’ into an address entitled ‘The struggle for South Africa’s liberation: success and failure’. The SADSS committee invited former Constitutional Court judge Albie Sachs and erstwhile ANC MP Ben Turok to discuss – or debate – John Saul’s intervention.1 Thanks to Kammila Naidoo – who chaired; Cheryl Hendricks – who thanked the participants; co-organisers Peter Alexander, Tapiwa Chagonda, Natasha Erlank, Kaletso Sello (for excellent logistics) and Luke Sinwell. Approximately 172 guests attended and participated vigorously. The Politics and History Departments at UJ cohosted and the Canadian High Commission co-sponsored too. Given John Saul’s persistent and consistent criticism of much of Canadian foreign policy concerning Africa and much else, this indicated a commitment to separation of powers and freedom of speech. We wish its employees good luck with a new prime minister more committed to the verities of liberalism than the one at the time.
A few weeks later, Transformation’s editors decided to run with the words Saul had sent them, based on the seminar, and it seemed a good idea to publish the responses too. Ben Turok’s – also printed in his New Agenda (2015) – is reproduced in this edition’s special section. Unfortunately Albie Sachs did not commit his words to paper and the video of the seminar (available on the Review of African Political Economy website soon) ended [End Page 26] with Saul’s initial propositions: thus no transcriptions of Albie Sachs; readers will have to rely on Saul’s memories of Sachs’ ‘defence’ and this writer’s recounting of Sachs’ email response to Saul’s draft. ‘Vintage John Saul!’, Sachs exclaimed, confirming – as do Turok’s memoirs – that these debates have been going on for many decades since they began in the sixties at the University of Dar es Salaam and continued at the Eduardo Mondlane University later. Bill Freund’s more recent and academic intervention was in preparation for another purpose, as the Saul/Turok/Sachs discussion took place: its direct engagement with Saul’s oeuvre made it the ideal addition to this debate. John Saul’s reply to his critics ends the conversation – for now.
The following words indicate much disagreement about politics, ideology and economic strategy (readers can discern liberals, communists, ‘ultraleftists’, statists, party-ists, populists, state capitalists, and many of all the other -ists) but it cannot be denied that beyond a great happiness that apartheid is finished (and they all contributed in various ways to finishing it) they share beliefs about freedom going far beyond the shibboleths paraded by those who just want freedom from the state (freedom not to pay taxes or decent wages as well as freedom of assembly and expression and to do what they want, consensually, in bedrooms). But when they think about the freedoms from hunger, ignorance, debilitating illness, and too early deaths, or freedoms to gain education, health, shelter, and productive work that careful state actions can enable and that these participants encourage, they worry that one of the freedoms they cherish most – and can be too easily taken for granted as the years after 1994 slip by – can be lost easily. Debates like the following witness this freedom – the freedom to argue passionately about their beliefs, to utilise the best theoretical and empirical support for these arguments (the discipline of intellectual freedom will be thereby demonstrated), to engage in their debates with wider society, and perhaps even convince people with state and economic power to consider some of their ideas in a practical manner. What unites them are many of the beliefs that contributed to the Freedom Charter and a willingness to go into real battles to promote and protect them against those only too willing to use force to stop the arguments. Perhaps what divides them is...