When we were fighting for freedom in the 1970s and 1980s, we had no idea what it was supposed to look like. We knew that apartheid and colonialism were bad and had to be opposed, but we didn’t pay enough attention to what the alternative would be.
There were a few documents that guided some of us. The Freedom Charter – if you were sympathetic towards the ANC and its allies – was one such document, which was adopted at the Congress of the People in Kliptown, Soweto (in June 1955) at a gathering that roughly represented the demographics of South Africa.
The Freedom Charter spoke about South Africa belonging to “all who live in it”, about the doors of learning and culture being opened, about the country’s wealth and the land being shared, about everyone being entitled to “houses, security and comfort”, among other things, and boldly declared that “no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people”.
But while the Freedom Charter expressed some wishes in terms of a future society, it did not really say how we would get there and how long it would take.
But at least, for many of us, it served as a guiding document towards the future we would love to have.
We never expected freedom to come so soon and, when the ANC and other organisations were unbanned, and Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners released in 1990, many of us were unprepared for what was to come.