Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe has defended expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, who this week was barred by the police from addressing a mineworkers rally in Marikana. The deputy president says South Africa's Bill of Rights guarantees everyone a right to express him or herself without fear or favour.
Motlanthe was answering questions at the University of Stellenbosch during the inaugural Oscar and Rose Mpetha Memorial Lecture.
Opposition parties and civil rights movements have expressed shock at the police action.
Motlanthe says although he was not aware of the instructions that were given to the police to stop Malema, the public is justified to feel aggrieved that he was stopped from exercising his democratic right.
“The understanding that inspired the constitution is that whereas I may not agree with what you say, but I should be able to respect and guarantee your right to say it," says Motlanthe.
Motlanthe also used the opportunity to assure all concerned parties that the government is still going to engage them with regard to e-tolling in Gauteng. Yesterday, the Constitutional Court had set aside an interim order halting e-tolls.
Cosatu has threatened mass action, while others expressed disappointment. Motlanthe has said the ruling is not the end of the road.
"Our understanding and agreement is that we will go back to those stakeholders, now that this matter has been clarified by the courts, to engage them (stakeholders) so that we agree. There's a buy-in on what should happen. We think that's the best way to deal with this issue."
The deputy president is leading the government's Task Team which is tasked with dealing with this matter.