We, the people

We, the people of South Africa, declare,
for all our country and the world to hear,
that this land of beauty and rugged places
will grant equality to its rainbow of races.
We pledge that all will enjoy the same rights;
that all shall be equal before the law and its might;
that the doors of learning and culture shall stand wide
for the sharing of knowledge and rekindling of pride.
We pledge to our children, our aged, those in poor health
that all will share in our country’s great wealth.
There will be no hunger and all will have homes.
There’ll be friendship and warmth so none stand alone.
We’ll have freedom of worship and freedom of expression
with welfare and safety and no need of repression.
There’ll be work for all and wages well paid
with a strong economy and vibrant trade.
No laws and cruel passes will keep cultures apart,
for our people will unite, in peace, with one heart.


The South African Constitution took effect in February 1997 and this year marks its fifteenth anniversary. The core principles of the Constitution were drawn from the Freedom Charter.

In 1952, during the Defiance Campaign, Z.K. Matthews of the African National Congress had the idea of writing a freedom charter for the democratic South Africa of the future.

People were asked to contribute what they thought such a freedom charter should contain and thousands of ideas were sent in, some just on scraps of paper. From these the Freedom Charter was written.

In 1955 the final Charter was approved by thousands of people of all races who gathered at Kliptown near Johannesburg. A year later the apartheid government tried to prove that the Freedom Charter was treacherous. More than 150 people, including Nelson Mandela, were arrested and tried in the famous Treason Trial. The court failed to prove that the Freedom Charter was treacherous, but later banned it anyway. It remained banned until 1990.

South Africa’s Freedom Charter verse
© Patricia Schonstein Pinnock
From Saturday in Africa – Living history through poetry
African Sun Press ISBN 1-874915-05-09

South Africa’s Freedom Charter verse
Available as a fridge magnet from African Sun Press Afpress@iafrica.com              

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