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Who actually wrote the Freedom Charter?

In 1953, Professor ZK Matthews, then leader of the ANC in the Cape, proposed that a Congress of the People be convened to draw up a Freedom Charter.

The Freedom Charter was adopted in 1955 by the Congress of the People – a gathering of more than 2,800 delegates, representing numerous organisations. But, as Professor Raymond Suttner noted, the Congress of the People “was not a single event”. It was a “series of campaigns held in huge rallies, small houses, flats, street or factory meetings, gathering in kraals or on farms”.

Ahead of the gathering, held in June 1955 in Kliptown, a National Action Council received people’s demands for inclusion in the charter.

According to Yusuf Cachalia, journalist Ruth First did the “preliminary sorting and condensing into coherent statements”. Lionel “Rusty” Bernstein wrote that he was tasked with turning “our thousands of bits of paper into a draft Freedom Charter”.

At the time of her death, the Presidency credited anti-apartheid activist Beata Lipman with “collating information during the congress and drafting the original Freedom Charter in her own handwriting”.

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