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Cosatu angry over AfriForum’s challenge to banning of apartheid flag

Ernst Roets, AfriForum's head of policy and action, has been at the forefront of the group’s attempts to fight the banning of the apartheid flag. Picture: Itumeleng English / African News Agency (ANA)

Ernst Roets, AfriForum's head of policy and action, has been at the forefront of the group’s attempts to fight the banning of the apartheid flag. Picture: Itumeleng English / African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 18, 2022

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Johannesburg - Trade union federation Cosatu on Monday slammed lobby group AfriForum's bid to overturn the South Gauteng High Court judgment stopping the gratuitous display of the apartheid flag.

AfriForum, last week, challenged retired Gauteng Deputy Judge President Phineas Mojapelo's 2019 ruling stopping the public display of the apartheid (or 1928) flag.

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The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) reserved judgment in the matter after hearing arguments by AfriForum and the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which challenged the organisation's display of the apartheid flag at nationwide protests against farm murders.

In its submissions to the SCA, AfriForum wanted the country's second highest court to determine whether public and private displays of the apartheid flag amounted to hate speech, unfair discrimination and harassment in terms of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (the Equality Act) and did not violate its members and supporters' right to privacy and freedom of expression.

AfriForum, arguing that the right to freedom of expression was unduly limited, also asked the SCA to decide whether or not the rights to dignity, assembly and privacy were implicated and the ramifications of the Equality Court’s order if it was not turned down.

However, Cosatu strongly rebuked AfriForum's challenge as "divisive and provocative".

The country's largest trade union federation urged Parliament to proceed with the passage of the Prevention of Hate Speech and Hate Crimes Bill to set clear boundaries on what is and is not acceptable in a constitutional democracy.

"The Apartheid flag is a symbol of black exploitation and subordination of black people to white supremacy. The federation supports the Constitution and its provisions for the freedom of speech and political association. There is nothing wrong in a robust constitutional democracy for individuals to hold offensive and unusual views," Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said.

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According to Cosatu, Germany does not allow the display of Nazi flags, and the US banned the Confederate flags because they understood that they were offensive symbols to the victims of the Holocaust and slavery.

"South Africa cannot be the exception and tolerate those who seek to celebrate apartheid, which was condemned by the United Nations as a crime against humanity," the federation explained.

It further warned that apartheid was nothing to be trivialised as millions were killed, forcibly removed, had their property expropriated, banished and condemned to lives of poverty and absolute misery just because of the colour of their skin.

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The SCA reserved judgment in the matter last week.

The Saturday Star

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