Opponents engage in battle over public displays of the old SA flag

By MARY JANE MPHAHLELE Time of article published Apr 30, 2019

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DURBAN - The Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) has launched its bid to outlaw gratuitous displays of the old South African flag, arguing that it was created for a divided country.

Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, for the foundation, said continued use of the flag showed disregard for a democratic South Africa.

He accused AfriForum, which is opposing the application brought by the NMF in the Equality Court, of creating a platform for the display of the flag.

“On the one hand they are telling the court they’re part of a civilised society and don’t want to offend any feelings. And on the other hand, they’re telling the court next time you see this flag, just sit down and reflect on how far your country has gone.”

The foundation said the flag and its display serve no journalistic, academic or artistic purpose in the public interest.

The foundation wants the court to declare gratuitous displays of the flag as hate speech, unfair discrimination and harassment based on race.

Joined in the application as friends of the court was the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and Johannesburg Pride, representing the LGBT community.

Advocate Wim Trengove SC, for the SAHRC, said public displays of the flag represented nostalgia for the old South Africa.

“What they say is ‘we yearn for the good old South Africa, when we lived in a state which entrenched white superiority over black people, where white people were celebrated and black people were humiliated’,” said Trengove.

“Nobody is here to try to stop racists from displaying the flag in their private homes; the dispute here is against the public display of such a flag in the faces of black people to say to them ‘we wish for a South Africa that oppressed you’.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa has also slammed those who pledge allegiance to the old flag. He charged that it undermined the country’s unity efforts.

AfriForum’s lawyer, Mark Oppenheimer, said: “We acknowledge that the flag has the potential to be offensive and cause emotional distress. AfriForum has no love for the flag.

“Freedom, however, matters as principle. We are not here to defend the flag, but the right to freedom of expression.

“The difficulty with banning this flag is that it will create a precedent, which could have devastating effects for free speech and the display of other flags. This slippery slope is inevitable,” said Oppenheimer. 

 Additional reporting by African News Agency (ANA). 


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