Court restricts displays of apartheid-era flag
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.
Judge Phineas Mojapelo said the ruling was not a complete ban, saying that the use of the flag is protected by law for artistic, academic, journalistic or other purposes deemed in the public interest.
The judge criticised those who continued to wave the apartheid-era flag.
“Those who display the old flag choose deliberately to not only display the old flag, but also consciously and deliberately choose to not display the new, multiracial flag,” said Mojapelo. “They choose oppression over liberation.”
He said those who publicly display the flag should not be arrested, but should face deterrents such as fines or terms of community service.
The orange, white and blue flag of South Africa’s previous white-minority regime, which enforced the system of racial discrimination known as apartheid, was replaced by a new flag when the country achieved majority-rule democracy in 1994.
However, some conservatives and right-wing groups continued to display the apartheid-era flag, notably at political gatherings or sometimes during rugby matches.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation, the custodian of former President Nelson Mandela’s archives and legacy, asked the court to rule that the display of the old flag constitutes hate speech and discrimination based on race.
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.
South Africa’s human rights commission joined the application, arguing that those waving the old flag felt nostalgia for the apartheid days.
The move to ban the old flag was opposed by Afriforum, a group representing the South Africa’s white Afrikaner minority, which argued that the ban would infringe freedom of speech and expression.
The ruling was hailed as a “national victory,” by Dakota Legoete, the spokesman for South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress. He said the ruling as similar to the banning of the Nazi swastika in Germany.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation welcomed the ruling.
“The judge was clear that we have to work together with others, including Afriforum, to do what the Constitution says we must do,” Mandela Foundation CEO Sello Hatang said at the courthouse immediately following the ruling. “We must be a nation that celebrates our diversity instead of fighting over our differences.”