Asmal defends right to freedom of speech

Former minister Kader Asmal said he was exercising his right to freedom of expression when he said the ANC was “militarising” the police.

“I wish to make it clear that I was exercising my constitutionally upheld right to freedom of expression,” said Asmal on Tuesday.

African National Congress spokesperson Jackson Mthembu earlier said Asmal ‘s remarks were “unfortunate”, and that the comments Asmal made at the Cape Town Press Club on Tuesday were shocking and undesirable.

“Amongst other remarks that comrade Kader Asmal made, [relates to] the circumstances that led to the withdrawal of the charges against President Jacob Zuma,” he said.

“He further asserted that comrade Jeff Radebe, who is the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, is “politically illiterate”, and that he hopes that he is not alive when the Deputy Minister of Police, comrade Fikile Mbalula ever becomes the ANC secretary general.”

Mthembu said comments that the ANC was planning to “militarise the police” could not be backed by any facts.

“The ANC has a programme to ensure that our police are better in place to fight crime and criminality in our country. We also remain committed in ensuring that our police themselves do not fall victims to criminals,” Mthembu said.

“Fighting crime and fighting the causes of crime is one of the key priority areas of the ANC-led government.”

Mthembu said Asmal should have used the ANC structures to raise his concerts about these matters, instead of raising them in public platforms.

Asmal responded: “Since I believe very strongly that freedom of the press is vital to the maintenance of democracy, I shall continue to exercise this right, which is protected by our Constitution.”

He said it was ironic that his speech to the press club took place on a day “when 32 years ago the apartheid regime banned black newspapers and 17 organisations connected to the black consciousness movement”.

Asmal said in his speech: “I have this former head of the youth league [Mbalula] who aspires to be secretary general of the ANC. Ha, really, I hope I won’t be alive,” he said.

“He said we must militarise the police. We spent days and days in 1991 to get away from the idea of a militarised police force. Extraordinary.

“This is a kind of craziness all of us have to take into account. It is part of that low-level political decision-making without reference to the Cabinet.”

Mbalula has said he wants the police service transformed into a paramilitary force, with military ranks and discipline.

‘Police must then act ...’
Last month, President Jacob Zuma met police commissioners from all the provinces, where he made a call for police to shoot to kill.

“My thinking is once a criminal takes out their gun the intent is clear ... police must then act to protect themselves and the innocents,” Zuma said at the time.

He added that the duty of police was to protect all people, but when their lives and the lives of innocent people were threatened, they had no choice but to use force.

As the law stands, police officers are allowed to use lethal force only if their lives or those of innocent bystanders are in danger. - Sapa

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