Lest we forget – Mandela’s reminder of how SA’s Constitution was born

By Alec Hogg

During any period of bewilderment it helps locking onto an anchor from the past. And at a time when South Africans are digesting the agenda behind the heist of 15 computers from the office of the Chief Justice, it’s a good time to remember how SA’s Constitution was acquired.

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela’s autobiographical Long Walk To Freedom reminds us that the Constitution’s forerunner, the Freedom Charter, was created in June 1955 by a Congress of the People at “a multiracial scrap of veld” called Kliptown. Mandela was under a banning order so, alongside Walter Sisulu, observed proceedings from the edge of the crowd.

Madiba wrote: “More than 3,000 delegates braved police intimidation to assemble and approve the final document. Although the overwhelming number of delegates were black, there were more than 300 Indians, 200 Coloureds and 100 Whites.”

He added: “At 3:30 the final approval was to be voted when a brigade of police and Special Branch detectives brandishing sten guns swarmed onto the platform. Another group of constables armed with rifles formed a cordon around the crowd. The people responded magnificently by loudly singing Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika…” Lest we forget.

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