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Sun, 06.26.1955

South Africa’s Freedom Charter is Issued

*On this date in 1955, The Freedom Charter was the statement of core principles of the South African Congress Alliance, which consisted of the African National Congress (ANC) and its allies: the South African Indian Congress, the South African Congress of Democrats, and the Coloured People's Congress. It is characterized by its opening mandate, "The People Shall Govern!" 

The People Shall Govern!

Every man and woman shall have the right to vote for and to stand as a candidate for all bodies which make laws; 

 All people shall be entitled to take part in the administration of the country; 

 The rights of the people shall be the same, regardless of race, color, or sex; 

 All bodies of minority rule, advisory boards, councils, and authorities shall be replaced by democratic organs of self-government. 

All National Groups Shall Have Equal Rights!

There shall be equal status in the bodies of state, in the courts, and in the schools for all national groups and races; 

 All people shall have equal right to use their own languages, and to develop their own folk culture and customs; 

 All national groups shall be protected by law against insults to their race and national pride; 

 The preaching and practice of national, race, or color discrimination and contempt shall be a punishable crime; 

 All apartheid laws and practices shall be set aside. 

The People Shall Share in the Country's Wealth!

The national wealth of our country, the heritage of all South Africans, shall be restored to the people; 

 The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks, and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole; 

 All other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the well-being of the people; 

 All people shall have equal rights to trade where they choose, to manufacture, and to enter all trades, crafts, and professions. 

The Land Shall Be Shared Among Those Who Work It!

Restrictions of land ownership on a racial basis shall be ended, and all the land redivided amongst those who work it, to banish famine and land hunger; 

 The state shall help the peasants with implements, seed, tractors, and dams to save the soil and assist the tillers; 

 Freedom of movement shall be guaranteed to all who work on the land; 

 All shall have the right to occupy land wherever they choose; 

 People shall not be robbed of their cattle, and forced labor and farm prisons shall be abolished. 

All Shall Be Equal Before The Law!

No one shall be imprisoned, deported, or restricted without a fair trial; 

 No one shall be condemned by the order of any Government official; 

 The courts shall be representative of all the people; 

 Imprisonment shall be only for serious crimes against the people, and shall aim at re-education, not vengeance; 

 The police force and army shall be open to all on an equal basis and shall be the helpers and protectors of the people; 

 All laws which discriminate on grounds of race, color, or belief shall be repealed. 

All Shall Enjoy Equal Human Rights!

The law shall guarantee to all their right to speak, to organize, to meet together, to publish, to preach, to worship, and to educate their children; 

 The privacy of the house from police raids shall be protected by law; 

 All shall be free to travel without restriction from countryside to town, from province to province, and from South Africa abroad; 

 Pass Laws, permits, and all other laws restricting these freedoms shall be abolished. 

There Shall Be Work And Security!

All who work shall be free to form trade unions, to elect their officers, and to make wage agreements with their employers; 

 The state shall recognize the right and duty of all to work, and to draw full unemployment benefits; 

 Men and women of all races shall receive equal pay for equal work; 

 There shall be a forty-hour working week, a national minimum wage, paid annual leave, and sick leave for all workers, and maternity leave on full pay for all working mothers; 

 Miners, domestic workers, farmworkers, and civil servants shall have the same rights as all others who work; 

 Child labor, compound labor, the tot system, and contract labor shall be abolished. 

The Doors of Learning And Culture Shall Be Opened!

The government shall discover, develop and encourage national talent for the enhancement of our cultural life; 

 All the cultural treasures of mankind shall be open to all, by a free exchange of books, ideas, and contact with other lands; 

 The aim of education shall be to teach the youth to love their people and their culture, to honor human brotherhood, liberty, and peace; 

 Education shall be free, compulsory, universal, and equal for all children; 

 Higher education and technical training shall be opened to all by means of state allowances and scholarships awarded on the basis of merit; 

 Adult illiteracy shall be ended by a mass state education plan; 

 Teachers shall have all the rights of other citizens; 

 The color bar in cultural life, in sport, and in education shall be abolished. 

There Shall Be Houses, Security, And Comfort!

All people shall have the right to live where they choose, to be decently housed, and to bring up their families in comfort and security; 

 Unused housing space to be made available to the people; 

 Rent and prices shall be lowered, food plentiful and no one shall go hungry; 

 A preventive health scheme shall be run by the state; 

 Free medical care and hospitalization shall be provided for all, with special care for mothers and young children; 

 Slums shall be demolished, and new suburbs built where all have transport, roads, lighting, playing fields, creches, and social centers; 

 The aged, the orphans, the disabled, and the sick shall be cared for by the state; 

 Rest, leisure and recreation shall be the right of all; 

 Fenced locations and ghettoes shall be abolished, and laws that break up families shall be repealed. 

There Shall Be Peace and Friendship!

South Africa shall be a fully independent state, which respects the rights and sovereignty of all nations; 

 South Africa shall strive to maintain world peace and the settlement of all international disputes by negotiation-not war; 

 Peace and friendship amongst all our people shall be secured by upholding the equal rights, opportunities, and status of all; 

 The people of the protectorates-Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland-shall be free to decide for themselves their own future; 

 The right of all the peoples of Africa to independence and self-government shall be recognized and shall be the basis of close cooperation. 

Let all who love their people and their country now say, as we say here: 


After about a decade of multi-faceted resistance to white minority rule, and in the wake of the Defiance Campaign of 1952, the work to create the Freedom Charter was in part a response to an increasingly repressive government that was bent on stamping out extra-parliamentary dissent. In 1955, the ANC sent out 50,000 volunteers into townships and the countryside to collect "freedom demands" from the people of South Africa. This system was designed to give all South Africans equal rights.

The Charter was officially adopted at a gathering of about 3,000 people in Kliptown, Soweto. The meeting was broken up by police on the second day, although the Charter had been read in full by then. When the ANC finally came to power after democratic elections in 1994, the new Constitution of South Africa included many of the demands of the Freedom Charter. It addressed directly nearly all the demands for equality of race and language. Still, it did not refer to the nationalization of industry or redistribution of land outlined in the charter.

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