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Economic Freedom Fighters and Another v Minister of Justice and Correctional Services and Another (CCT201/19) [2020] ZACC 25

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Economic Freedom Fighters and Another v Minister of Justice and Correctional Services and Another (CCT201/19) [2020] ZACC 25

27th November 2020

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[1] It is no exaggeration to characterise the right to freedom of expression as the lifeblood of a genuine constitutional democracy that keeps it fairly vibrant, stable and peaceful.  When citizens are very angry or frustrated, it serves as the virtual exhaust pipe through which even the most venomous of toxicities within may be let out to help them calm down, heal, focus and move on.  More importantly, free expression is an indispensable facilitator of a vigorous and necessary exchange of ideas and accountability.

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[2] Expression of thought or belief and own worldview or ideology was for many years extensively and severely circumscribed in this country.  It was visited, institutionally and otherwise, with the worst conceivable punishment or dehumanising consequences.  The tragic and untimely death of Steve Biko as a result of his bold decision to talk frankly and write as he liked, about the unjust system and its laws, underscores the point.  This right thus has to be treasured, celebrated, promoted and even restrained with a deeper sense of purpose and appreciation of what it represents in a genuine constitutional democracy, considering our highly intolerant and suppressive past.

[3] That said, no constitutional right is absolute or ranks higher than all others in this country.  In our enjoyment of these rights, a greater sense of responsibility is demanded particularly of those who are thought-leaders whose utterances could be acted upon without much reflection, by reason of the esteem in which they are held and the influence they command.  After all, leaders from all walks of life ought to bear heavier responsibilities than all others, to help preserve our ubuntu, justice and equality-based heritage and actualise our shared aspirations.

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