The fact that the ANC will hold a workshop this Saturday to discuss the criminalisation of slander can mean only one thing: that the ANC intends to reintroduce measures to criminalise insults to the President.
The DA will vigorously fend off any attempts to reintroduce such a draconian doctrine that we contend is inconsistent with our constitutional right to freedom of speech.
The move is symptomatic of a bigger paranoia within the ANC of attempting to shut down freedom of speech and to close down democratic debate and openness. Parliamentary rules, such as the over-reliance on the sub judice rule, often mean that there is more freedom of speech outside Parliament than within it, while the introduction of the “white shirts” signifies a chilling return to Apartheid kragdadigheid.
The reintroduction of such a measure would pose serious constitutional problems, and conflict with section 16(2) of the Constitution. To reintroduce such a ludicrous doctrine further demonstrates just how ANC acolytes like SACP General-Secretary, Blade Nzimande, have no regard for the principles on which our constitutional democracy is founded.
Prior to 1984, it was a criminal offence to slander the President, and while defamation remains a crime, our Constitution provides for freedom of speech as is consistent with an open democracy.
Being a public figure comes at a price and public figures like President Jacob Zuma and his cohorts must develop a thick skin and learn to take criticism on the chin. There are a number of laws and judgements which confirm that public figures should be able to be criticised, within the boundaries of the ordinary laws of defamation.
Politicians who take the decision to put themselves in the public terrain must be able to take regular criticism – and even insults – in their stride. After all, no-one asked them to take the job.