Deputy president David Mabuza welcomed the judgment handed down by Judge Phineas Mojapelo, which classified the gratuitous display of the old flag hate speech. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency(ANA)

Pretoria - Deputy president David Mabuza, as patron of the moral regeneration movement, on Wednesday welcomed the judgment handed down by Judge Phineas Mojapelo, which classified the gratuitous display of the old South African flag hate speech. 

In a statement issued via the presidency, Mabuza said the judgment set the right tone for all South Africans to work towards building the country of their dreams. 

He said the judgment unambiguously communicated that no rights were above others. 

“The project of nation-building by its nature has elements of fragility. Therefore in our efforts to heal the wounds of the past and build a society that is cohesive, we must at all material times be mindful of our actions, especially as they relate to the pain and scars inflicted by the past," said Mabuza.

He said Mojapelo's judgment further reaffirmed the supremacy of the constitution and the centrality of national unity, nation building and social cohesion. 

"It rekindles the vigour with which all South Africans must intensify their commitment to building a united and prosperous South Africa," he said.

Mojapelo had said the display of the apartheid flag did harm and should be considered hate speech, unfair discrimination and harassment.

The judge said the ruling did not translate to a total ban, but said it was a prohibition from displaying the old flag gratuitously. He confirmed its display for artistic and academic reasons.

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. The foundation said there was only one flag that represented South Africa -  the post 1994 flag.   

In reaction, lobby group AfriForum said the judgment was a setback for freedom of speech.

AfriForum opposed the Nelson Mandela Foundation's application, citing freedom of expression, and asked the court not to ban the display of the old flag. The organisation had argued that the Equality Act speaks of hate speech in words and not symbols. 

African News Agency (ANA)