Women are seen with South African flag outside Equality Court, sitting at the South Gauteng High Court, which ruled that the gratuitous display of the old apartheid South African flag is hate speech. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency(ANA)
Durban - AN AMERICAN novelist, Allen Drury, wrote a book about South Africa in the 1960s titled A Very Strange Society.

In it, Drury explored the ultimate ethos of a nation that was, for its elite, extremely rich yet beset by so many complex problems.

But the author, we are told, never quite got his head around the ambiguities and contradictions of apartheid South Africa and departed these shores more confused than when he arrived.

Well, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then.

And today, some 50-odd years later, one presumes the ethos of the nation has changed quite dramatically with the passage of time and change in regime.

It certainly has, yet South Africa remains a very strange society.

In fact, we’re often referred to as a country of contradictions.

For instance, we are arguably the richest and most developed country on the African continent, yet the majority continue to live in squalor and poverty.

We openly despise the dishonesty and fraud of the previous regime, yet so many of our new leaders are worshipping at that same altar of corruption today.

We pride ourselves about being a beacon for racial tolerance and reconciliation, but remain a divided society where social cohesion has been put on the back burner.

We talk glibly about attracting foreign investors, yet drive them away when we fail to stop the so-called extortionist “construction mafia” who intimidate developers to secure contracts.

We fought so hard and sacrificed so much to win the right to vote, yet the number of people exercising this right is dropping with every election.

I focus on these contradictions not to depress you, but to raise a simple question about our priorities.

With our economy in such a dismal mess, factional tensions rising, corruption wreaking havoc and unemployment mounting by the day, why all this hullabaloo over an old flag?

I’m talking here about all the fuss being made about the gratuitous display of the old apartheid-era flag, which the Equality Court says constitutes hate speech.

I agree the flag is a reminder of a racist and oppressive regime, but it’s a relic from the past that most South Africans have long relegated to the dustbin of history.

The only people probably waving them these days are those nostalgic dreamers in the kingdom of Oranje and a few diehards at Blue Bulls home games.

I bet the vast majority of South Africans can’t even remember what the old flag looks like anymore.

I certainly don’t. Was it all-white? Did it include the image of a jackboot?

So with the flag issue behind us now, let’s start concentrating on our country’s real priorities and apply our minds to the more substantive manifestations of apartheid we need to address with some urgency.

There are bigger fish to fry.

* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.