FORMER cabinet minister Kader Asmal's choice to bat for the multinational corporations who are defending a lawsuit by apartheid victims' organisation Khulumani, which accuses the companies of aiding and abetting apartheid, has predictably elicited a lot of emotions.
For many, the idea of a former anti-apartheid activist and a member of the very first democratic government, coming across as being on the opposite side of apartheid victims sticks in the craw.
At face value, Asmal's support should come as a shock. Apartheid was an unmitigated human wrong. Anything that sounds like its defence will necessarily make a lot of people unhappy, to put it mildly.
But something more positive could still emerge from Asmal's rather odd and certainly controversial decision. From his attitude we could learn that no argument, regardless of who is presenting it, is exempt from scrutiny and engagement.
We are already suffering from a deficit of critical engagement. Name calling and finding refuge in tradition, culture, race and other arguments intended to marginalise debate opponents is slowly becoming a norm.
In a free country Asmal, and any other person who holds a view that goes against currently accepted wisdom, must be allowed to have their say.
Khulumani, and the rest of us who believe the corporations have a case to answer for their role in sustaining the great white lie, will be no better than yesterday's oppressors if we think that only views that are similar to our own deserve to be aired and defended publicly.