Court rules display of South Africa's apartheid flag is racist

Cheryl Sanders
August 22, 2019

South Africa's Equality Court on Wednesday restricted the display of the country's old apartheid-era flag, ruling that its gratuitous use amounts to hate speech and racial discrimination.

But the judge ruled against AfriForum's argument, writing that it was "racist" and "discriminatory" and that it demonstrated a clear intention to "be hurtful", to "promote and propagate hatred" and to be "harmful" and "incite harm".

The Equality Court, sitting at the South Gauteng High Court, will on Wednesday deliver its judgment on the possible banning of the old South African flag.

"It is determined that the display of the old national flag of South Africa. constitutes hate speech in terms of 10.1 of the equality act".

But lobby group Afriforum argued otherwise, saying although it condemned the use of the old flag, it should not be declared hate speech.

"For the foundation it is time to acknowledge that the old flag is a symbol of what was a crime against humanity and that its gratuitous public display celebrates that crime and humiliates everyone who fought against it, especially black South Africans". "They choose oppression over liberation".

The flag actually predates the formal promulgation of apartheid laws in 1948 by the then-ruling National Party, having been adopted in 1928.

According to Mojapelo, in its opposition to the application by the foundation to outlaw the apartheid flag, AfriForum argued that "South Africa had moved on".

The foundation filed suit after the flag appeared at protests in late 2017 that decried deadly attacks on white farmers.

Mandela, South Africa's first black president after decades of white-minority rule and who died in 2013, is credited with spearheading the country's peaceful transition to full-rights for all citizens.

The foundation said that "gratuitous displays of the old flag express a desire for black people to be relegated to labor reserves, a pining for the killing, the torture, the abductions, a melancholia for the discrimination, the death squads, the curfews and the horrific atrocities committed under the flag".

The Congress of South African Trade Unions said that "if the Nazi flag and the Confederate flag can be denounced in Germany and America, there is no reason to keep glorifying the apartheid flag".

Afriforum's Ernst Roets said his organization is not convinced that displaying the flag amounts to hate speech. "For it to be hate speech, it has to be coupled with some form of a call to action to inflict harm or something to that effect".

"The flag issue is a manifestation of what is arguably our country's central challenge, namely the resilience of apparatuses of power and privilege that exclude, demean and oppress black South Africans", the foundation's Chief Executive Officer Sello Hatang said in a statement in May.

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