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Building on the Freedom Charter

The Freedom Charter was born at the Congress of the People in Kliptown on 26 June 1955. People came from all over the country to share their dreams of a South Africa without apartheid.

The Freedom Charter holds a special place in the hearts of millions of people in this country. It was – and still is – the only time when the people came together to tell the world of their demands for a future South Africa.

Many organisations fighting for change in South Africa support the Freedom Charter. The African National Congress, who helped draw up the Freedom Charter, 38 years ago, has been loyal to it ever since.

But the time has now come, says the ANC, to look at the Freedom Charter once again. It is time to build on the Charter.

Last month the ANC brought out a document called “Constitutional Guidelines for a Democratic South Africa.” The Guidelines are still true to the spirit of the Freedom Charter, but they take it a step further. The ANC says the new Guidelines are not final. If people are not happy with anything in the Guidelines, they can be changed.

We have printed the new Guidelines below. We must point out that we have changed the wording and explained things here and there. We hope this makes it simpler and easier to understand. We have tried our best to keep to the true meaning and spirit of the Guidelines.

Constitutional Guidelines for a Democratic South Africa


1) South Africa will be an independent country. The country will make its own decisions.

South Africa will be a unitary country. All of South Africa will be one country.

South Africa will be a democratic country. The people — all the people — will choose who governs them. And if they govern badly, the people will be able to vote for a new government.

South Africa will be a non-racial country. All people, black and white, will have the same rights.

2) South Africa will belong to all its people. There will be one parliament which will make the laws of the country. There will be one government, one system of courts, and one administration for all the people. To bring democracy closer to the people, there will also be regional administrations.

3) The duty of chiefs and traditional rulers will be to serve the people as a whole – and to rule in a democratic way.

4) The courts, the army and the police will serve all the people. Their job will be to protect the people and the constitution.


5) Every man and woman will have a vote . There will be one person/one vote.

6) Everyone who can vote can also stand for election.


7) All South Africans will be made to feel that they belong to the country. The state will protect the different languages and cultures of all South Africans — but all South Africans will be citizens of one country and loyal to that country.


8) There will be a Bill of Rights based on the Freedom Charter. The Bill of Rights will protect the rights of all the people — of blacks and of whites, of men and of women, and of people of all religions.

9) The government, together with other organisations, will have a duty to stamp out racism.

10) The government and other organisations must find quick ways to get rid of the inequalities of apartheid — for example, differences in wages, in housing, and in education.

11) Any organisation that supports racism, fascism or nazism will be banned. So will any organisation that makes any group of people hate another group.

12) Everybody — except racists, fascists and nazis — will have the right to have meetings, to think what they like, and to follow any religion. There will be freedom of the press. The state will protect the right to work, the right to education and the right to social security (for example, unemployment benefits, pensions, health care).

13) Any party can stand for election. But not parties that are racist, fascist or nazi, or parties that make one group of people hate another group.


14) The state will make sure that the country’s economy works for the good of all the people.

15) The state will decide the country’s economic system. The state will be able to decide on the rights and duties of those who own industries, factories, mines, and businesses.

16) Business must respect the Freedom Charter, and work with the state to make a good society for all the people.

17) The economy will be mixed. There will be state ownership and private ownership. There will also be co-operatives and family businesses.

18) The state will give help to co-operatives, village industries and family businesses.

19) The state will help all people, especially black people, to get training in management skills, and in technical and scientific skills.

20) All people will have the right to keep their belongings. This right will be protected by the state.


21) People of any colour will be able to own and use land in any part of the country. The state will give special help to people who have had their land taken away from them, for example by forced removals.


22) There will be a special charter for workers. The rights of trade unions will be protected, especially the right to strike and collective bargaining.


23) Women will have the same rights as men at home, at work and in the community. The state will give women special help to make up for the inequalities of the past.


24) The rights of the family, of parents and of children will be protected.


25) South Africa will not be an ally of the United States or the Soviet Union. It will be a non- aligned country. It will support the aims of the Organisation for African Unity (OAU) and of the United Nations (UN). South Africa will help oppressed peoples in other parts of the world. South Africa will help to make the world a place of peace.


constitution — the rules which say how a country or an organisation must or should be run

guidelines — ideas or suggestions which people can think about, discuss, add to and change

independent — not controlled by others

unitary — in one piece. For example, a unitary South Africa means a South Africa that is not divided into homelands

democratic — when every person has a say in the running of a country or an organisation.

non-racial — when all races are equal and have the same rights

administration — all the officials, managers and civil servants who carry out the laws and orders of the government. In an organisation or company, the administration department runs the day to day business of that organisation or company

state — all parts of a country that control and govern that country. These include the government and all its departments, the police and army, the education and legal systems, and so on.

racism — the belief that different races are not equal to each other

inequalities — when things are not equal. For example, when blacks do not have the same rights as whites, or when women do not have the same rights as men

fascism — very conservative, anti- communist, and racist. Fascists believe in a leader or dictator who rules with an iron fist

economy — the system which controls the labour and wealth of a country

state ownership — when the state, and not individual people, owns businesses and property. The state controls these businesses and property and all profits go to the state. For example, in South Africa the railways are owned by the state, not by an individual person.

private ownership — when one person or a small group of people own a business or property. They control the business and they take the profits from it

co-operatives — businesses or farms owned and controlled by the workers

collective bargaining — when a trade union negotiates better wages and conditions for all its members

ally — a friend or comrade. When a person or a country gives help and support to another person or country we say they are allies

a non-aligned country — the two most powerful countries in the world are the Soviet Union and the United States. Some countries, like Britain, France and Germany, support the United States and capitalism. Other countries, like East Germany, Hungary and Poland, support the Soviet Union and socialism. But many countries do not support only the Soviet Union or the United States — they are friends of both. These countries are called non-aligned countries. Examples of non-aligned countries are Zimbabwe, Zambia, and India.


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