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On-line version ISSN 2309-8392
Print version ISSN 0018-229X


SUTTNER, Raymond. The Freedom Charter @ 60: Rethinking its democratic qualities. Historia [online]. 2015, vol.60, n.2, pp.1-23. ISSN 2309-8392.

The Freedom Charter is revisited as a democratic document with specific qualities deriving from the South African history of oppression. The object is not to advance the document as having obviously worthy qualities or for any partisan purpose. The aim is to unpack the meanings of its democratic qualities, found in the repeated reference to "the people" and especially in the clause entitled "The People Shall Govern!" The paper recognises that this clause may have been equated with universal suffrage at the time of its adoption in 1955, but the experiences in the 1980s "popular power" period amplified its meaning to incorporate the notion of popular, direct democracy. This coincides with the original meaning of the word "democracy", as propounded by Aristotle. At the same time it is argued that popular democracy is not necessarily incompatible with representative democracy, especially if one breathes an emancipatory meaning into the notion of"representation".

Keywords : Freedom Charter; the people"; representation; popular; 1950s; 1980s; emancipation.

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