It was the generation of Nelson Mandela that steered the door-to-door campaign to solicit the people's vision of a free and democratic South Africa. In response, the people overwhelmingly voted for jobs, free and quality education, proper healthcare, proper infrastructure, water and housing, the return of land and other commanding heights of the economy. The campaign produced a blueprint for the future that came to be known as the Freedom Charter. It was adopted on June 26 1955 in Kliptown.
The Freedom Charter is characterised by quite extensive and numerous demands of the people.
The strategic defeat of apartheid in 1994 transported some of the serious challenges for the ANC government. Chief among these challenges are unemployment, poverty and inequality, and they have negatively impacted on ordinary people. Informed by its historic status as a liberation movement and a disciplined force of the left, the ANC has to adapt to the new material realities.
Some of these challenges are informed by huge and unreasonable compromises of the Codesa negotiations, particularly the property clause in terms of land restitution.
The ANC Polokwane conference resolved to nationalise the mines, banks and other strategic monopoly industries and to transfer the land back to its rightful owners. These resolutions were taken after a thorough and intense political assessment based on the needs and aspirations of the people, and the balance of forces in the country.
It was that the balance of forces were in favour of the progressive forces, willing and committed to pursuing the agenda for radical economic transformation.
Since the Polokwane conference, the radical economic transformation programme has not been successfully implemented as dictated by the Freedom Charter. Twenty-four years down the line, service delivery occurs at a snail's pace. Government lacks the strategy and ability to fast-track service delivery and economic empowerment of the historically disempowered.
The people continue to hammer their beloved organisation and its leaders for answers on the Polokwane radical agenda of transforming society and the economy in particular.
We must also acknowledge that part of our failure to implement radical economic transformation is informed by the lack of sanity in a government led by the ANC. It is therefore imperative to introduce hygiene so that we sanitise the ANC-led government to fight corruption and deliver basic services to our people.
After 24 years of democracy and freedom, our people still demand answers to their unanswered questions from leaders and government on land, the Reserve Bank, mines and other major sectors of the economy. The people are asking whether the radical socioeconomic transformation agenda out of Polokwane was the Langston Hughes dream deferred that would dry up, like a raisin in the sun.
To the people, it appeared that there was no political will or determination on the leadership of the ANC to implement the radical socioeconomic transformation agenda. Their socioeconomic and developmental rights were undermined, and the probability of not being realised was extremely high.
For that reason, the people continue to hammer their beloved organisation and its leaders for answers on the Polokwane radical agenda of transforming society and the economy in particular.
The reality is that radical economic transformation will remain a pipe dream as long as the leadership of the ANC, through government and state institutions, fail to implement conference resolutions. There appears to be reluctance or a lack of political will to give concrete expressions to the Polokwane 2007 radical platform.
The people of South Africa are also sharply asking the question that is explicit in the Freedom Charter on the expropriation of land. They question whether the land reform or redistribution programme is just an academic exercise. They believe the ANC will restore their land and dignity in their lifetime.
It is in memory of Chris Hani and other martyrs of the struggle for liberation, and South Africans in general, that the ANC should never fail in its mission to deepen and widen freedom and democracy.
We should applaud the work done by our government for the intention to amend section 25 of the Constitution. The land must be restored to its rightful owners, particularly the historically disadvantaged people who are African. Land expropriations must, however, occur without violence and disruption to the economy.
We know that this democracy and freedom we are so enjoying didn't come cheaply and with struggles and sacrifices that at times meant the loss of freedom, as in Nelson Mandela, and lives, as in the case of Solomon Mahlangu. As we indulge in freedom and democracy, we must appreciate and applaud the roles and contributions Madiba and his generation made in fighting against the draconian apartheid regime.
As we are confronted by challenges in government, let us remember that Mandela said if the ANC government treats us like the apartheid government did, our people must not hesitate to punish it. His idea was based on the Freedom Charter, which is the People's Charter.
Mandela's profoundly prophetic words would be echoed by Chris Hani, who had the love of the people in his heart. Some months before his death, Hani said that after the attainment of democracy and freedom, the ANC must live up to the provisions of the Freedom Charter. He once said that "if the ANC fails to serve the people, then freedom and democracy will not be worthwhile for ordinary South Africans".
Ordinary people would be leaderless and the country rudderless. They will be without hope and therefore resort to desperate measures for redress. They will follow false prophets who will replace our absentee leadership and lead the people astray. Most importantly, the ANC would have forgotten and abandoned the people.
Under these circumstances, the ANC would lose its historical status as the spear and shield of the people for over the century that advanced and defended their national and social interests. Finally, a victorious enemy of the people will bring the ordinary people under a new form of "subjugation and exploitation".
It is in memory of Chris Hani and other martyrs of the struggle for liberation and South Africans in general that the ANC should never fail in its mission to deepen and widen freedom and democracy.
The ANC has a revolutionary obligation to serve the people. Its future solely depends on the Freedom Charter. The Freedom Charter is the future, the future is the Freedom Charter.
Che Selane is the provincial secretary of the Limpopo ANC Youth League. He writes in his personal capacity.