By Sam Ditshego
This article seeks to address Minister of International Relations Lindiwe Sisulu’s advisor, Thami ka Plaatjie’s gallimaufry of ideologies and theories, his downright mendacious statements and vacuous arguments on the Freedom Charter, the land question and the history of South Africa’s struggle for liberation that were published in the Sunday Independent of July 1, 2018 under the headline, “Expropriation fits Freedom Charter”.
Thami ka Plaatjie
As former Secretary General of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania, Thami ka Plaatjie knows the shambles the ANC was after it was infiltrated by the SACP and Congress of Democrats (COD) members before and after the adoption of the Freedom Charter. He should not try to rewrite history. For example, he writes, “On that day in 1955 more than 3000 converged on the dusty plain in Kliptown just outside Soweto. From January of that year, volunteers had been sent to all corners of the country to solicit public opinions about the possible future envisaged for South Africa.
“The volunteers covered villages and homesteads, churches, institutions of learning, tribal gatherings and trains to solicit the views of the public.
“South Africa had never held such a historic gathering of people of all race groups”.
Ka Plaatjie knows the truth about what the Africanists described as the Kliptown Charter. He is well aware of what PAC founding President Robert Sobukwe said about the Freedom Charter. He must have read Peter Raboroko’s excellent exposition on the Kliptown Charter titled ‘The Africanist Case’ and he surely knows that the Freedom Charter was not drafted by the Congress of the People. The fact that Ka Plaatjie is employed by the ANC government cannot alter the fact that the Freedom Charter is a gigantic fraud.
Speaking about the Freedom Charter, Sobukwe said, “We objected to the whole thing. (Peter) Raboroko wrote an excellent rebuttal to it, emphasising the impossibility of whites and Africans being considered “brothers” in South Africa. We knew that every white person – no matter how sympathetic he was to us – benefited from the South African set-up, and enjoyed privileges based only on colour. Whites would say to us, “What can I do? Give up my salary? My house?” And what could we say to them? We had no answer for them, but we knew they could never be seen apart from the material situation.
“The Freedom Charter said something ridiculous about how the land has been taken from us – we blacks and whites together. But how could they try to avoid the issue of whose land had been taken by whom? They were trying to gloss it over.
“Sometimes when I discussed these problems with Benjie [Pogrund] and Patrick Duncan [anti-Communist white sympathisers] we tried to come up with another word, some new term that would crystallise the idea of non-racialism as opposed to multiracialism. We could never think of a good word, other than ‘non-racialism’ itself. We hated the word “multiracialism.”
“We knew that the Freedom Charter wasn’t actually drafted at the Congress of the People. It had been drafted by ‘Slovo and his circle.’ People just arrived there and found the thing already printed up”.
In fact, according to recent research and information that has since come to light, there was no time to peruse the Kliptown Charter. After it was drafted by Bernstein it was then sent for printing. It is simply not true, as Ka Plaatjie claims, that:
“From January of that year, volunteers had been sent to all corners of the country to solicit public opinions about the possible future envisaged for South Africa. The volunteers covered villages and homesteads, churches, institutions of learning, tribal gatherings and trains to solicit the views of the public. South Africa had never held such a historic gathering of people of all race groups”.
Sobukwe and the PAC believed that the Freedom Charter was drafted by Joe Slovo and his circle. It has now emerged that Rusty Bernstein of the SACP and COD single-handedly drafted the Freedom Charter.
One wonders if Ka Plaatjie thinks the people of South Africa should disregard what Sobukwe, Raboroko and Zeph Mothopeng said about the Kliptown Charter and believe purveyors of the Kliptown Charter such as him and the ANC leaders from whom he has imbibed the propaganda that he is now regurgitating.
Ka Plaatjie is cognisant of the fact that the Kliptown Charter is irreconcilable with the situation of the African people yet he asks if it is sacrosanct or needs to be revisited or reappraised. He then answered himself that it does not need revisitation and went on to say the only revisitation “is our feeble resolve to move with speed to implement all of its provisions”.
“The problem of the synthesis of opposites cannot be resolved by the wave of the magic wand. It is only after all these sets of antithetical categories have been duly reconciled that we can reach those final categories—equals, countrymen and brothers— which betray no instability. Such ultimate reconciliation is possible only in Africanism, the final synthesis of these categories which the Africanist manifesto defines as ”the social force which upholds the material and spiritual interests of the individual,” Peter Raboroko on the irreconcilable differences between Charterism and Africanism.
The Kliptown Charter should not have supplanted the 1949 Programme of Action adopted at an ANC congress in the first place. The Charterists were shown the pitfalls and traps towards which white members of the SACP and COD were leading them but ignored the warnings. Ka Plaatjie uses the language of Africanism in order to promote Charterism. He wrote, “Whites came as dispossessors and set out, through colonial and imperial tutelage, to rob Africans of their land. Most colonial wars were wars of land dispossession, as vast tracks of land became alienated from Africans after every defeat”.
If you ask anybody who has read the basic documents of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania, the information quoted in the preceding paragraph is contained therein. In fact, I recently quoted the same information in the submission on expropriation of land without compensation which the PAC in Gauteng requested me to write.
“To them master and slave—the exploiter and the exploited, the oppressor and the oppressed, the degrader and the degraded —-are all equals. To them indigenous African nationals and immigrant European foreign nationals—the dispossessed and their dispossessors, the victims and their robbers—are all countrymen. For them the progressive and the reactionary—the African subject and his foreign overlord, the African nationalist and the colonialist or white supremacist, the liberationist and the collaborationist—are all brothers,” Raboroko on the Kliptown Charter.
Ka Plaatjie is aware of the above cited warning the founders of the PAC sounded to the ANC of 1958. The founders of the PAC were the same people who formed the ANCYL in 1944. Raboroko himself convened the meeting in 1943 that led to the founding of the ANCYL. This is what Raboroko wrote about that meeting, “The ANC Youth League was born at a meeting held at the Domestic and Cultural Workers’ Club Hall in Diagonal Street, Johannesburg, in October, 1943; a meeting convened and presided over by the present writer. Soon afterwards, the League released a manifesto and adopted a basic policy which declared its aims and objects to be, inter alia:
“To rally and unite the African youth into one national front on the basis of African nationalism. To give force, direction and vigour to the struggle of the African people for freedom”.
The basic policy of the PAC taken from the ANCYL states, “To unite and to rally the African people into one national front on the basis of African nationalism. To fight for the overthrow of white domination and for the implementation and maintenance of the right of self-determination for the African people. To work and strive for the establishment and the maintenance of an Africanist socialist democracy, recognizing the primacy of the material and spiritual interests of the individual. To advance the concept of the Federation of Southern Africa and of Pan Africanism”.
This is exactly the reason the PAC refers to itself as heirs to the ANC of 1912 not the Freedom Charter ANC of 1958. On expropriation without compensation, the PAC founding documents address themselves to repossession of land usurped by white people. Moreover, legally expropriation refers to taking possession of property belonging to its owner or owners. Therefore, in the South African context the word is a misnomer since white people don’t own our land they usurped it.
Thami ka Plaatjie’s gallimaufry of ideologies and theories, his downright mendacious statements and vacuous arguments on the Freedom Charter, the land question and the history of South Africa’s struggle for liberation is not going to help him and the ANC but expose them for the impostors they are and their intellectual dishonesty.
Sam Distshego is a researcher