South African court restricts display of apartheid-era flag

A screengrab of Judge Phineas Mojapelo delivering judgment in the Equality Court related to the apartheid flag on 21 August 2019

"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.

"Judge Phineas Mojapelo of South Africa's Equality Court delivered the ruling to restrict the use of the orange, white and blue flag of the former white minority regime", NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports.

Hatang said the foundation would be reaching out to AfriForum for further discussions and debates on how a united South Africa could be built.

He said Judge Phineas Mojapelo's judgment was dedicated to struggle icon Ahmed Kathrada, who would have turned 90 on August 21.

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 application was brought by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which asked the court to declare the display of the flag illegal and to impose sanctions on those who display it freely in public. We should not poison the future with the gratuitous display of the flag.

A dispute arose between the foundation and lobby group AfriForum concerning the display of the old flag, which was abolished on April 27, 1994.

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

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The Nelson Mandela Foundation and Human Rights Commission took the case to court, asking that the gratuitous display of the flag be stopped.

The parliamentary committee on sports, arts and culture said the ruling should signal the end of any nostalgia for apartheid-era South Africa.

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 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".

Roets added that the organisation believed that the problem the Nelson Mandela Foundation sought to resolve would not be solved by "preventing people from expressing their views if they still hold certain views". This will now be classed as hate speech, and incur serious legal penalties will be incurred by offenders.

Afriforum's Ernst Roets said his organization is not convinced that displaying the flag amounts to hate speech.

"When we interpret freedom of expression, we must do so through the lens of dignity and equality".

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