/ 18 October 2007

Sexwale: Freedom of expression is a right

Freedom of expression is a right South Africans should not have to ask for, businessman Tokyo Sexwale told a gathering at the Star’s 120th anniversary celebrations in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

”You have the right, you don’t have to ask for that right … you have won that right by being citizens of this country,” Sexwale told around 100 guests at the Rand Club in Johannesburg.

”Let nobody in this country preach otherwise … the right was won through many years of struggle.”

Sexwale said the right to freedom of expression had its roots in the African National Congress (ANC) Freedom Charter.

”Let us hold the ANC accountable to this founding statement of freedom of expression.

”It is important to remind the ruling party that they are not ruling anybody … you [the ANC] are a servant of the people and not the other way around.”

He said the Constitution South Africans had adopted was inspired by the Freedom Charter and that the media were the conscience of society.

”If we lose you, we lose,” he said.

Sexwale also spoke about name changes and about the controversy that arose when name changes were proposed.

”It is sad to see some people resist name changes,” he said.

If all South Africans agreed that apartheid was ”fundamentally flawed and wrong” then they should also agree that ”those who gave it its genesis cannot be modelled on our streets and our towns”, he said.

Sexwale said names remnant of apartheid leaders must change and that it was ”incumbent on white South Africans” to ensure that these names were removed. He said these apartheid leaders were not heroes and models for South Africa’s children.

Sexwale, wearing a dark suit and a pink tie, captivated the audience during his keynote address at the event.

Star editor Moegsien Williams said tension between the government and the media was necessary in order for the media to fulfil their constitutional role.

Citing ANC policy documents — which emerged from the ANC’s policy conference in June which proposed tighter controls on the media -‒ and a recent Sunday Times report detailing the possible prosecution of the newspaper’s editor Mondli Makhanya as examples, Williams said he did not think these were matters for concern.

”I am not particularly perturbed … ”

He also paid tribute to veteran journalists David and Ethel Hazelhurst and handed over flowers and a gift to the couple.

David Hazelhurst was described by master of ceremonies and radio personality Redi Direko as the ”Mandela of journalism”.

Guests at the function were welcomed on arrival with a display detailing the newspaper’s history since its inception in 1887.

Other guests included senior independent newspaper employees as well as Gauteng minister for safety and security Firoz Cachalia.

Guests were entertained by Thapelo, who sung renditions of Nat King Cole numbers. – Sapa