Cape Town – On the eve of Human Rights Day, a video has gone viral on social media showing the apartheid-era anthem Die Stem being sung at a national event in Belgium.
Minority rights group AfriForum shared the video on its Twitter page.
It was taken during the 82nd Flemish National Zangfeest (singing festival) in the Antwerp Lotto Arena in the Flemish region of Belgium at the weekend.
The old anthem can be heard sung in full voice from what a local newspaper said where thousands of Flemish people, including the Antwerp mayor and “Flemish-minded politicians”.
The politicians mentioned in this article were reportedly from right-wing Flemish nationalist groups.
The Zangfeest has been around since 1933 and Die Stem was performed at the festival for the first time in 1939.
“Singing Die Stem is a highlight. Most people know the words and we will never omit them from our program. The singing of the anthem is above politics, it is purely cultural and historical ties that we have with South Africa,” folk song movement Algemeen Nederlands Zangverbond (ANZ), chairperson Hugo Portier said in 2001.
Attempts to reach ANZ for comment were unsuccessful Tuesday.
“Die Stem has been part of the Zangfeest for many years, sung as the beautiful art song that it is, in a language closely related to Flemish. Not for any political reason we know.
"This is proof of an older, more mature democracy than South Africa, where mutual recognition and respect are very active and where there is room for a wide variety of symbols from the past,” AfriForum deputy chief executive Alana Bailey said.
“The Flemish government has not been contacted by the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) or its representative in Belgium.
"The event is hosted by a private organisation and therefore the Flemish government has no control over the content and cannot comment on the matter,” general representative of the Government of Flanders - Southern Africa Dr Geraldine Reymenants said.
Nelson Mandela Foundation spokesperson Luzuko Koti said they received reports of the old anthem being sung and the old flag being used on a regular basis.
“We must exercise caution when approached with such things and as much as we would like to comment, we will have to refrain at this time.”
Attempts to get comment from Dirco were unsuccessful by deadline.