SOUTH Africa has struck the right balance within the constitution with regards to limits placed on freedom‚ but must remain cautious to ensure that any restrictions are made reasonably‚ veteran human rights lawyer George Bizos said on Wednesday.
South Africa‚ along with countries such as Germany and the UK‚ has wisely placed restrictions on freedoms‚ such as provisions against racism or hate speech‚ he said‚ speaking to former Supreme Court Justice Mervyn King after having received the Free Market Foundation’s Luminary award in Johannesburg.
Mr Bizos said even countries that professed to offer absolute freedom of speech‚ such as the US‚ placed some limitations.
This was evident during the suppression of communism during the early part of the previous century‚ he said.
He is the fifth recipient of the Luminary award‚ which celebrates those who personify the ideals of the foundation.
The award ceremony was accompanied by the presentation of a paper by Mr Bizos titled The Nature of Freedom: An Unfinished Journey.
In the paper‚ he cites South Africa’s constitution and the abolishment of oppressive laws as the two major achievements in the past 20 years of democracy.
Also‚ there are fewer people living in poverty‚ more households with running water and electricity‚ and modest yet steady economic growth.
However‚ widening inequality‚ labour instability and a poor healthcare system cannot be blamed on the constitution‚ he said.
“In relation to corruption‚ we have a strong and independent press‚ judiciary and legal profession as well as an increasing number of whistle-blowers despite the weakness of the National Prosecuting Authority‚” the paper reads.
“Regardless‚ only a small percentage of criminals reasonably believe they will get caught.”
Mr Bizos‚ a noted anti-apartheid activist‚ acted as legal counsel in numerous political trials‚ including the treason trial of former president Nelson Mandela.
Other recipients of the Luminary award this year include economics professor Yuri Maltsev‚ a former adviser of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev‚ for his tireless dedication to analysis; amd Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba for life-long integrity.
Pauline Dixon‚ senior lecturer and director of research for international development and education at Newcastle University‚ England‚ was awarded for her research and projects aimed at improving education for the poor.
The fourth award went to Sam Motsuenyane‚ a life-long advocate for the advancement and development of black business who is also the former South African ambassador to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. © BDlive 2014