One of the most remarkable things about the Freedom Charter was the democratic process involved in its creation. People the length and breadth of this country were encouraged to send in their submissions about what they believed the charter should include.
In his autobiography, the late Joe Slovo writes:
Literally tens of thousands of scraps of paper came flooding in: a mixture of smooth writing-pad paper, torn pages from ink-blotched school exercise books, bits of cardboard, asymmetrical portions of brown and white paper bags and even the unprinted margins of newspaper. South African history had never before that moment (or indeed since) seen such a groundswell of democratic expression by plain and ordinary people.
These suggestions were drawn upon to formulate the final document that was then adopted at the Congress of the People in Kliptown, 1955.
Just over fifty years later, it would appear that the ANC has no regard for the considerations of this country’s ordinary people. Take the school pledge for example. There’s been no consultation, no discussion over the pledge – it was simply announced out of the blue by the education minister, Naledi Pandor, at a social cluster media briefing.
As it affects so many people, a school pledge is something which needs to be discussed vigorously. The views of people need to be sought – submissions should be received. How about making it a process that school children could get involved in? Instead of merely reciting something forced upon them from on high, the pledge could be so much more meaningful if each school child had a role in crafting it. There would be huge merit in getting kids to think about what the values and institutions they are making a pledge to.
The democratic process of creating the pledge could also serve as a springboard to discussions at school about our constitution, our collective and individual identities and our nation.
It might also get people to question why our legislators can’t seem to abide by the very constitution that the pledge is based on.
In a time where it seems that South Africa is as divided as ever, discussion and contemplation about such weighty issues is vital