Note to editors: The following is an extract from a speech delivered by the provincial spokesperson for Economic Affairs, Adv. Boitumelo Babuseng, in the Human Rights Day debate held during a sitting of the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature in Pella today.
Ours is still not the free, fair society envisioned in the Constitution. The Democratic Alliance believes that, through our individual and collective efforts and enabled by a capable state, the South African people hold the power to make our country a shining beacon for Africa and the world.
And we begin by ensuring that we exercise our rights responsibly. The responsible exercise of freedom has been the only true engine of progress throughout history. Each of the inalienable rights enshrined in our Constitution carries with it an obligation to conduct ourselves in a certain manner. When we talk about our human rights, we talk about hard-won freedoms which must be safeguarded closely.
I cannot exercise my rights by infringing on your rights.
I cannot use my right to assemble or my right to strike as an excuse to loot, steal from vendors, smash windows or destroy property. And we practice what we preach. Nobody needed to call the riot police when more than twenty thousand members of the Democratic Alliance marched for jobs in Johannesburg earlier this year!
I cannot use my freedom of expression to attack your dignity, insult your person or use racial slurs. It is captured beautifully in section
16 of the Constitution that the right to freedom of expression does not extend to propaganda for war, incitement of imminent violence or the advocacy or hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion.
The right to express thoughts and ideas is too precious to be used as an excuse for bigotry and racism.
The majority of our people know this – that freedom of expression is not a Get Out Of Jail Free card for racism.
I want to remind this august House of a judgement delivered last year by the Equality Court in Upington, one which ordered a public apology to be made for an act of hate speech against the Khoisan community. I am aware that an appeal has been lodged and I am not interested in engaging on the merits of the matter.
My point is simply this – that nobody can consider themselves above the law and nobody can consider themselves exempt from the requirement to respect the rights of others. And those who would make accusations of racism would do well to consider carefully the actions of those they align themselves with.
The ANC Youth League in the province recently marched to the Office of the Premier to demand jobs before marching to the provincial office of the Democratic Alliance to hand over a memorandum about the fight against racism. I think someone got their directions wrong – they should have marched to the premier to demand an end to racism and to the DA to learn about job creation!
As leaders of the Northern Cape, our obligation is to work for the realisation of human rights – and to do so responsibly.
Adv Boitumelo Babuseng, MPL
DA Provincial Spokesperson for Economic Affairs
082 302 2117 / 079 874 6179
076 551 0312