The right to speak out
FORMER President Thabo Mbeki's return from self-imposed exile at the weekend is very welcome.
Mbeki had ostracised himself from domestic politics following his forced resignation from the Presidency in 2008
Since then, he decided not to comment on domestic political matters - at least not in public.
He had been focusing on international matters, including resolving the conflict in Sudan.
To a certain extent, the rationale for staying out of domestic politics made sense. It's better to give your successor space to govern without interference.
Mbeki also didn't want to rule from the grave - although he was suspected of plotting to do the opposite when he sought re-election in Polokwane.
But self-imposed exile from your own country for whose freedom you have worked tirelessly does not make sense.
Mbeki had been in forced exile for too long during the struggle against apartheid. To endure another form of exile under a democracy was unnecessary and wrong.
Though a lot went terribly wrong while Mbeki was at the helm, it does not, however, mean he should not comment on contemporary affairs.
Significantly, during the Oliver Tambo lecture at the University of Fort Hare, where he made a comeback, Mbeki conceded some of the errors the ANC committed during his time as leader, for example, failure to groom a new generation of competent and selfless leaders.
As a result of this failure, South Africa is faced with the kind of political problems Mbeki highlighted in his lecture: "dangerous and unacceptable situation of directionless and unguided national drift".
Regardless of whether people agree with his views, it is important that he has expressed them. He is entitled to them.
It is untenable that former president FW de Klerk - the last apartheid leader - comments on a wide range of domestic issues while Mbeki keeps silent even when he could see the dangers faced by the country.
The freedom of expression for which Mbeki and his comrades, including President Jacob Zuma, fought and which is enshrined in the constitution applies to all.
Some South Africans have decided to keep quiet when they see things going wrong.
No sooner do these wrongs result in fatal consequences, than they retort: "We knew this would happen." But speaking after the fact is as good as shutting up - there is no point.
Those who still have the ability to distinguish between wrong and right must speak out.
It is not only a democratic right, but a duty of all citizens who love their country.