A fascinating item for anyone interested in South Africas recent history, is a copy of the ANC Freedom Charter of 1955 which is estimated to sell at Bonhams
South African Art Sale on March 24th in London for £20,000-£30,000.
Nelson Mandela recalled in his autobiography: "The Freedom Charter captured the hopes and dreams of the people and acted as a blueprint for the liberation struggle and the future of the nation."
The document is notable for its demand for and commitment to a non-racial South Africa, and this has remained the platform of the ANC.
The new 'Constitution of South Africa' included in its text many of the demands called for in the Freedom Charter. In this way the Freedom Charter can be seen as a foundation for the current South African Constitution.
Because of the huge historical significance of this document it will be sold without a South African export licence, ensuring that it remains within the Republic of South Africa. It will be sold alongside 230 works of South African artists including Irma Stern, Maggie Laubser, Jacob Pierneef, Gerard Sekoto, William Kentridge, Maud Sumner and Cecil Scotness.
The Freedom Charter was the statement of core principles of the South African Congress Alliance, which consisted of the African National Congress, the National Indian Congress, the South African Congress of Democrats, the Coloured People's Congress and the South African Trades Unions Congress. It is characterized by its opening demand; "The People Shall Govern!"
In 1955, the ANC sent out fifty thousand 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. Demands such as "Land to be given to all landless people", "Living wages and shorter hours of work", "Free and compulsory education, irrespective of colour, race or nationality" were synthesized into the final document by the ANC leaders.
The Charter was officially adopted on June 26, 1955 at a Congress of the People in Kliptown. The meeting was attended by roughly three thousand delegates but was broken up by police on the second day, although by then the charter had been read in full. The crowd had shouted its approval of each section with cries of 'Afrika!' and 'Mayibuye!'
Nelson Mandela only escaped the police by disguising himself as a milkman, as his movements and interactions were restricted by banning orders at the time.
The charter calls for democracy and human rights, land reform, labour rights, and nationalization. After the congress was denounced as treason, the South African government banned the ANC and arrested 156 activists, including Mandela who was imprisoned in 1962. However, the charter continued to circulate in the revolutionary underground and inspired a new generation of young militants in the 1980s
On February 11 1990, Mandela was finally freed and the ANC came to power soon afterwards in May 1994. The new 'Constitution of South Africa' included in its text many of the demands called for in the Freedom Charter. In this way the Freedom Charter can be seen as a blue-print for the current South African Constitution.