The Freedom Charter: The people shall govern


In post-1990 South Africa, we were sold dreams and then those dreams were stolen from us. The Freedom Charter is an arguably accurate reflection of the past twenty-four years of democracy in South Africa. A struggle that was once in the name of freedom, advocating for the people to govern themselves, has been reduced to a struggle to survive in a ‘neoliberal democracy’ and the illusion of choice, independence and prosperity.

“We, the People of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people.”

The Freedom Charter is a beautifully composed stage production, with every element carefully thought out and brought to life by a cast of talented young individuals. Every detail of the production, from the costume changes to the change in score from one scene to the next, provides significant insight into how the characters feel and their social circumstances which influence their understanding (or lack thereof) of the role of the freedom charter in the new rainbow nation.

“We are no longer talking about the people shall govern, it is all about this democracy.”

The Freedom Charter provokes serious thought about the socio-economic state of the country as well as both the successes and failures of our democracy while initiating a relevant dialogue necessary in a political period marked by service delivery protests, burgeoning racism and a captured state. Both the hypocrisies and beauty of life in modern South Africa is highlighted, making it an accurate representation of the South African experience.

The production emphasizes the rights promised to all citizens and how these rights are being violated by various inequalities and injustices. Furthermore, it describes how racial and cultural divisions are a consequence of unbalanced economic power and class injustice.

Through a vibrant combination of music, dance and theatre, the production invites the audience on a journey through the ages, highlighting significant moments in South Africa’s democracy. Each scene portrays the disintegration of an item listed on the charter, portraying its ideal and just initial conception and the slow decline into social injustices. The actors seemingly effortless portray a multitude of different South African experiences as the scenes progress through the different stages of the democracy.

The Freedom Charter

The Freedom Charter was the African National Congress and allies’ manifesto that focussed on the people governing. It was adopted at the Congress of the People in the coloured township of Kliptown, on 26 June 1955.

The Freedom Charter is performed by the Reliable Knowledge Theatre Club and features Keitumetse Fuleni, Christopher Jantjie and Masego Sehole. It was written and directed by Tshidiso Sehole. The music is performed by Dada.

Catch their next performance at the N.G.Kerk Hall on 01 July at 21:00

by Thandiwe Matyobeni