Apartheid flag ruling: Gratuitous display constitutes hate speech

Nelson Mandela Foundation chief executive Sello Hatang sits in court waiting for judgment

"They choose oppression over liberation".

Given the flag's adoption by a whites-only parliament and its six decades of symbolizing the apartheid era, the court said, "It is thus, not surprisingly, viewed differently even today by mostly white people on the one hand and black people on the other".

The old flag was adopted in 1928, 20 years before the formal promulgation of apartheid laws in 1948.

The suit targeted a group called AfriForum, which is widely seen as representing the views of a conservative white minority of Afrikaners.

The decision came after the Nelson Mandela Foundation Trust petitioned the court over the public display of the flag at a protest against the murders of white farmers in 2017.

Apartheid ended and a new era of democracy was ushered into South Africa with the 1994 election of Nelson Mandela, the nation's first black president.

The old flag, with its orange white and blue horizontal sections, incorporates the British Union Jack, as a nod to the country which used to govern South Africa, and the flags of South Africa's old Transvaal and Orange Free State republics, which fought against the British.

"Gratuitous displays of the old flag express a desire for black people to be relegated to labour 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 foundation said in the statement.


The judge criticized those who continued to wave the apartheid-era flag.

The ruling was hailed as a "national victory", by Dakota Legoete, the spokesman for South Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress.

AfriForum's head of policy and action, Ernst Roets, said after the ruling that his organization disagreed with the judge's interpretation of the Equality Act.

The current South African flag is shown at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria, South Africa, on May 25, at the swearing-in ceremony for President Cyril Ramaphosa.

"It's not in our interests as the Nelson Mandela Foundation to now suddenly find people being imprisoned for that".

Nelson Mandela Foundation CEO Sello Hatang speaks to the press Wednesday on the steps of the Johannesburg High Court.

"We must be a nation that celebrates our diversity instead of fighting over our differences", she said. The organisation said it "affirms our rights not to suffer hate speech, our rights to dignity and to a meaningful freedom of speech". "We cherish freedom of expression and for us displaying the flag is not sufficient ground for hate speech. Therefore in our efforts to heal the wounds of the past and build a society that is cohesive, we must at all material times be mindful of our actions, especially as they relate to the pain and scars inflicted by the past", said Mabuza.

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