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How #blackhairmatters links to the legacy of Mandela and the Freedom Charter

Cape Town – 1 September 2016

As the South African democracy matures and settles into a sense of political and social comfort,more and more we have to look back to the past for answers.During the #FeesMustFall uprising during October 2015,students that were born after the dawn of democracy,suddenly became acutely aware of the political promises that were made to their parents and grandparents,during the struggle to overthrow the evil apartheid regime.

With this awareness,came many references to the legacy of Nelson Mandela as well as the provisions of the Freedom Charter.The charter as envisioned and endorsed by the people of South Africa,at Kliptown in 1955,brought about for the first time, a broad call for the acceptance of all races into the political,social and economic narrative of South Africa as a whole.

It would have been considered a heresy for any of the conservative and Calvinist Afrikaaner members of the Apartheid cabinet to come to parliament in an Indonesian,batik silk shirt.Yet,that is exactly what late President Nelson Mandela did,at the dress rehearsal of the opening of South Africa’s first democratically elected parliament.The silk shirts soon became a fashion statement,and fondly became known as “Madiba Shirts”.This statement by Madiba,started a new trend of transformation for long established and entrenched Western and European slanted social norms.The EFF,in their revolutionary zeal,have now taken it one-step further with overalls and gumboots.

As South Africans more and more find and centre themselves in their African identity,outdated Eurocentric social norms will start falling by the wayside.The Freedom Charter,has as its basis,an ideology of uniting South Africans in their diversity.With the advent of democracy in 1995,many of the principles and policies enshrined in the Freedom Charter,were used as the blueprint of our democratic constitution.In Thabo Mbeki’s speech , at the launch of our new constitution which was appropriately titled “I’m an African” ,he made a reference to all cultures and people that make up the rainbow nation.

Yet,that African identity,has not found its way into the policies of many of our companies,organisations and educational institutions.Policies and even codes of conduct at many schools,are still framed through a Eurocentic ideology of what is deemed to be appropriate.By all accounts it has taken school going children,like those at San Souci and Pretoria Girls High,to awaken us to the idea that those policies are merely used as a way of maintaining institutionalised racism and deep seated bigotry.

The Freedom Charter starts with “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;”

Ask yourself if the code of conduct at your child’s school considers the fact that South Africa belongs to ALL who live within it.

By Wesley Fester

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