AfriForum deputy CEO Ernst Roets. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency(ANA)

Johannesburg - AfriForum Deputy CEO Ernst Roets says people considering as arrogant the fact that he posted the apartheid flag on Twitter after a court banned it were basing his actions on their own motives.

Speaking to The Star on Thursday, Roets said he had posted the flag "purely for academic reasons" then asked for an explanation and terms which fall within the ambit of the judgment regarding its use.

Roets posted the flag with the question: “Did I just commit hate speech?”

He said the reaction to his posing of the question only resulted in him being attack and the question wasn’t answered.

Many South African were enraged at him posting the flag such as @zangazulugirl who said: "You have shown a middle finger to a whole nation that was traumatized by the government that the flag represent and still forgave you and gave you a right to co-exist in a country that stripped them of their humanity. Tread carefully."

However, an unbothered Roets told The Star that the negative reaction to him posting the flag was what he had expected.

“They want to ban ideas that they are unconformable with. They want to ensure that people are micro managed in terms of their speech,” he said.

"This is not about an academic issue; it’s not about freedom of speech. This is an attempt censorship and banning,” he said.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation had approached the court asking that it declares the display of the flag as illegal. It also said the court should impose sanctions on those who display it freely in public a saying there is only one flag that represents South Africa and that is the post-1994 flag.  

AfriForum had opposed the Foundation's application and cited freedom of speech 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. It used freedom of expression in its defence. 

However, in his judgment at the South Gauteng on Wednesday, Judge Phineas Mojapelo said the display of the apartheid flag does harm and should be considered as hate speech, unfair discrimination and harassment. 

He said no good could come from gratuitously displaying the old flag and those who do so and not display the new democratic flag, choose oppression over liberating symbols

“The display of the impugned flag must be confined to genuine artistic, academic or journalistic expression in the public interest; any act beyond that may be brought to this court for the displayer to prove that the display was (not offensive),” Mojapelo said.

Defending his action, Roets said he posted the "purely for academic reasons:.

“I’m a lawyer currently doing my doctorate in constitutional law, I asked an academic question,” said Roets.

The Star