JOHANNESBURG – A South African court on Wednesday ruled that displaying the country’s apartheid-era flag in public constituted hate speech that discriminated against black people and violated equality laws.
The case relates to a 2017 demonstration against attacks and killings of farmers where the so-called ‘Apartheid Flag” was displayed. The protest was led by predominantly white, Afrikaner nationalist groups.
After public anger at the display of the flag, the Nelson Mandela Foundation applied for an order declaring “gratuitous display” of the flag as hate speech, unfair discrimination and harassment based on race.
“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… (and also) unfair discrimination on the basis of race .. and harassment,” said Judge Phineas Mojapelo.
Two Afrikaans lobby groups, AfriForum and the Federation for Afrikaans Cultural Societies, had argued that banning the flag would encroach on freedom of expression.
We welcome the judgement handed down by the Equality Court which ruled that the gratuitous display of the #ApartheidFlag constitutes prohibited hate speech, unfair discrimination & harassment; in the spirit of the preamble of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. pic.twitter.com/eeEpw0YMBv
— Min. Nathi Mthethwa (@NathiMthethwaSA) August 21, 2019
The Germans, who benefited from racist Nazi government, burned the Nazi flag 3 months after the collapse of Nazi regime. In SA, the black state: made up of leaders who were oppressed during apartheid is still deciding whether we should burn the #ApartheidFlag some 25 years later.
— Tumelo Mapaa (@DjNewSouthAfric) August 21, 2019
— Prof Thuli Madonsela (@ThuliMadonsela3) August 21, 2019
[Read] The African National Congress (ANC) welcomes the judgement of the Equality Court declaring the display of the old apartheid South African flag as hate speech and unfair discrimination.#ApartheidFlag pic.twitter.com/ceLUXIfCJx
— Gauteng ANC (@GautengANC) August 21, 2019
We’re being idiots as a country. So displaying the #ApartheidFlag is hate speech but singing Die Stem (in front of the whole world) is okay and we must do it with pride? 🤷♂️ pic.twitter.com/gvlUidVcUo
— Mo (@Sbuda_MoLife) August 21, 2019
— David Aladegbaiye Patricks (@Nativeworx) August 21, 2019
The ‘Apartheid Flag’ comprises horizontal blue, white and orange bands with three small flags – of Britain, the Orange Free State and the South African Republic – in the middle.
It was replaced with South Africa’s current multi-colour ‘Rainbow Flag’ – in 1994 with the end of apartheid.
In his ruling, Mojapelo said the order did not ban display of the flag outright, but confined it to artistic and journalistic displays, whose merits could be challenged in court.
The ‘Apartheid Flag’ actually pre-dates the formal promulgation of apartheid laws in 1948 by the then-ruling National Party, having been adopted in 1928.
The adoption of South Africa’s new flag was followed by the adoption of a constitution with laws dealing explicitly with the racism and discrimination that had characterised the country for centuries.
But 25 years after segregation and white minority rule under apartheid was officially ended through a negotiated settlement, South Africa is still grappling with racial tensions that, with the growing use of social media, have become more visible.
In 2018, a white woman, Vicky Momberg, was sentenced to three years in prison after a video of her using a racial slur 48 times was widely circulated on social media.